Training for an upcoming triathlon or an open water swim event right now can be extremely challenging given our movement restrictions and the current economic situation, however, if you are smart enough you can train with purpose and continue to progress your aerobic capacity and skill in all disciplines. But and it’s a big but, the hardest sport to make improvements on right now is our open water skills.
We can ride indoors on turbo’s, we can do short intense sprints, and running intervals building our v02 max etc but without getting in the water, how can we possibly improve our swimming abilities? Very easily in fact!!
I often use a metaphor of a car with a handbrake on to client so they can visualise better what I am about to describe. Many people focus on building MORE strength or a HIGHER v02 etc, but just like a supped up V8 engine with its handbrake on, it can’t express its power and a little 1 litre car without the handbrake will win in a race every time. Are you with me?
So, in my experience, swimmers have a few key traits that allow them to fully express their potential which are.
Shoulder mobility. Mobility, often confused with flexibility is range of motion UNDER TENSION, as opposed to flexibility which is passive range. Swimmers are at the top of the food chain along with gymnasts for their impressive levels of shoulder mobility.
Thoracic mobility. Closely linked to the shoulder, like a golfer, swimmers need the ability to rotate their upper bodies and stiff immobile spines are counterproductive to swimming.
Core Strength. In order to support great technique, the core needs to be able to simultaneously sustain the propulsive force coming from the arms and legs. Unlike land sports, swimmers need to generate this power and propulsive force with zero ground contact and must have a strong core as a result.
Straight arm pulling strength. Have you ever noticed the unique shape of competitive swimmers? They look like an inverted triangle with broad pinned back shoulders and a narrow waist. This is an illusion as the swimmers have incredibly wide lats which give them this shape and make their shoulder appear broader than most and their waist slimmer as a result. In order to swim faster and or farther we need to develop strength in our lats and back to allow us create greater propulsion in the water.
Coming back to my monster car with the V8 engine, it doesn’t matter how big your V02 is, it doesn’t matter how strong you are, the best swimmers are the ones who create the least drag in the water and in order to better express your potential in the water and improve your performance massively, you can and should be spending this time working on the four keys above with will make you a better swimmer without getting in the water.
So, I am going to do a four part series and focus on each of these elements individually, starting with the most important for most of the population and that is shoulder mobility.