By John L. Boos, L.M.T., N.S.C.A., C.P.T.
After more than forty years in the strength, health, and fitness field, I have developed my own unique approach to training. My method has harvested much “win win” success. The “win win” is what the athlete gains in ability and confidence, and what I gain from the experience.
Working with athletes, both young and old, I have learned that their workout environment must be kept safe, straightforward, and motivating. Numerous athletic movements (swimming is no exception) can cultivate overuse conditions, as well as excessive fatigue. This must be factored into the equation of the strength training environment. The need to develop more kinesthetically correct movements with safe measurable results stimulates my creative side. I also have to comprehend the dynamics of the athlete’s environment by developing an effective communication with them, as well as an open, trusting forum with the coaches. The chances of then designing a successful exercise program are now greater.
Here is the lesson that I so strongly believe is the safest, and most beneficial – Keep it simple and straightforward. Don’t try to be fancy or too sports specific. I have found that athletes have the ability to take their added overall strength, power and endurance and fold it very effectively into their sports event.
Training the athlete systemically means the difference between winning and losing. Systemic strengthening is a product of training with multi-joint movements. Some exercises are performed with machines, and some with free weights and cables. Progress must be measurable in a controlled, specific manner. I have developed a line of equipment solely for that purpose.
All resistance increases must be micro, rather than macro (smaller increases are safer for soft connective tissue and joint cartilage). The repetition range I use is mid- to mid-high in count, between ten and twenty. The upper body movements are 10-15 reps, the lower body 15-20 reps. The movement protocol is about a 5-second repetition, with the accent on a smooth, slower eccentric (negative) motion. With the sprint swimmer, I sometimes use a drop set (heavy to light) technique to activate both strength (fast twitch muscle fibers) and endurance (slow twitch muscle fibers). With long distance swimmers, I may push the technique to a triple drop set to exhaust the slower twitch fibers a bit more. This pushes the overall reps out a bit higher.
As the athlete improves, there may be some areas that may need to be addressed more specifically. This is where the need for communication with the sports coach is imperative. No one knows how the athlete feels better than the athlete, and no one knows how the athlete is performing better than the coach. Hence, the need for everyone to communicate.
A brief note on post-exercise and training protocol: In-Pool and Out-of-Pool training is greatly improved with recovery enhancement. A properly timed sports recovery massage can induce this very effectively. Everything the coaches and trainers do is meant to be progressive for the athlete, and soft-tissue recovery techniques make a big difference in lowering injury levels and speeding up training recovery time from both tournaments and training activities.
Everyone should be working towards the same goal. It’s one thing to want maximum performance for the athlete and a good reputation for the coach…But never take the emphasis off of safety.