Strength and power are essential in swim training, swim competitions and triathlon events, according to sports scientists and swimming coaches. They play crucial roles in improving performance and achieving fast swimming. Strength refers to the ability to exert force against resistance, while power combines strength and speed for fast movements. Adding strength and power to swimming techniques improves performance and overall speed in the water. In freestyle, for instance, strength is important during the pull phase, while power is essential during the catch and pull-through for faster and more efficient arm movement.
Strength in swimming involves muscular strength, core strength, and endurance strength. Muscular strength allows swimmers to generate greater force, while core strength helps maintain proper body alignment and stability. Endurance strength enables swimmers to sustain powerful strokes over longer periods.
Power in swimming is crucial for explosive movements, such as starts, turns, and sprints. It involves muscle power, rate of force development, and reactive power, which allow swimmers to generate quick bursts of force and propulsion.
The Role of Strength in Swimming:
Strength refers to the ability of our muscles to exert force against resistance. In swimming, strength plays a pivotal role in executing powerful strokes, maintaining proper body alignment, and generating propulsion through the water. Key aspects of strength in swimming include:
Muscular Strength: Swimmers with well-developed muscles can generate greater force and maintain it over longer distances.
Core Strength: A strong core helps swimmers achieve optimal body alignment, reducing drag and increasing efficiency.
Endurance Strength: Endurance strength allows swimmers to maintain muscular strength and sustain powerful strokes throughout a race or training session. Endurance strength training involves high-volume workouts, interval training, and long-distance swimming to enhance the muscles' resistance to fatigue.
The Role of Power in Swimming:
While strength forms the foundation, power amplifies swimming performance by enabling swimmers to generate explosive movements and quick bursts of speed. Power is a combination of strength and speed i.e. it’s your capacity to generate real strength at high speed!
Muscle Power: executing explosive movements such as swimming starts, turns, and sprinting. It allows swimmers to generate quick bursts of force, propelling them forward with maximum acceleration.
Rate of Force Development: refers to the ability to produce force rapidly. In swimming, RFD is essential for quick catch and pull-through movements in strokes, enabling swimmers to generate immediate propulsion.
Reactive Power: Reactive power involves the ability to absorb and generate force quickly, making it crucial for starts, turns, and changes of direction in swimming.
Strength vs Power
Finding the right balance between strength and power is important for optimal performance in swimming. Stroke-specific training and periodization help target the specific demands of each stroke and optimize the development of strength and power. Upper body power is crucial for strong and efficient arm strokes, while leg power helps maintain balance, stability, and kick strength. Developing both arm and leg strength is essential for optimal power and efficiency.
Swimmers with a strength and power imbalance may experience challenges in their performance and technique. If there is an excessive focus on strength development without adequate power training, swimmers may struggle with generating explosive movements and quick bursts of speed and have slow stroke rate. Conversely, if there is an emphasis on power development without sufficient strength, swimmers may lack the necessary force production for effective strokes and propulsion. Striking a balance between strength and power training is crucial for swimmers to optimize their performance and achieve a harmonious combination of force, speed, and efficiency in the water. Please discuss this with your Strictly Swimming London coach during your lesson and we can focus on these elements.
Stroke-Specific Training: Different swimming strokes require varying degrees of strength and power. Tailoring training programs to the specific demands of each stroke can help swimmers develop the necessary attributes for success. For example, sprint swimmers may prioritize power development, while distance swimmers may focus more on strength-endurance.
Periodization: involves structuring training cycles to optimize strength and power. These periods vary in intensity, volume, and exercise selection. This periodized approach allows swimmers to build a solid strength foundation and then focus on enhancing power and explosiveness to maximize their swimming performance. These can be trained at different times of a week or a month.
Strength and Power of Arm Pull and Leg Kick
Having strength and power in arm pulls and leg kicks is crucial for swimming performance. Power in the upper body enables swimmers to generate strong and efficient arm strokes, propelling them with force and speed through the water. This propulsion is essential for maintaining a consistent stroke throughout the race. Leg power is important for balance, stability, and powerful kicks, aiding in forward movement and a streamlined body position. Both upper body and leg power are integral for swimmers to excel and achieve optimal performance in the water.
Strength and power during the arm pull allow swimmers to exert force against the water, propelling themselves forward. A strong arm pull maximizes stroke length, generating greater propulsion and speed. Similarly, powerful leg kicks provide additional propulsion and help maintain a streamlined body position. Strong leg muscles enable forceful and efficient kicks, resulting in increased speed and improved performance. Developing strength in both the arms and legs is essential for swimmers to achieve optimal power and efficiency in their strokes and kicks.
Strength and power in Starts and Turns
The benefits of strength and power during swimming starts and turns are significant. Having strong muscles in the core, paraspinal muscles, gluteal muscles, hamstrings, hip flexors, and quadriceps enables swimmers to generate explosive power off the starting block and the wall. This power allows for a quick and efficient push-off, maximizing the initial momentum and enhances further distances pushed from the wall and at greater speed. Additionally, strong and powerful muscles contribute to better body alignment and control during turns, facilitating a smooth transition and faster push-offs the wall for the next lap. Incorporating strength and power training specifically for starts and turns can lead to improved performance and competitive advantage in swimming events. All of the above can be trained during your lessons.
Strength Endurance in Distance Events
Strength endurance plays a pivotal role in distance freestyle events, demanding sustained effort and stamina from swimmers. Strong muscles and endurance enable athletes to maintain an efficient and powerful stroke throughout the race, swimming at a consistent pace and resisting fatigue. The repetitive nature of the stroke requires significant muscular strength in the arms, shoulders, and core to maintain proper form and generate force with each stroke, improving efficiency and speed. Strength endurance also helps swimmers endure the physical and mental challenges of a long-distance race, pushing through discomfort and muscle fatigue to maintain a steady rhythm and performance until the finish line. Developing strength endurance involves a combination of specific strength training exercises, resistance training, core workouts, and regular endurance training in the pool. By focusing on strength and endurance, distance freestyle swimmers can excel in their events, maintaining a powerful stroke and achieving their goals over long distances.
In conclusion, strength and power are crucial elements for fast swimming. Strength provides the foundation, while power amplifies performance. Developing both upper body and leg power, focusing on stroke-specific training and periodization, and incorporating power exercises improve performance. In distance events, strength endurance is essential for maintaining a powerful stroke, resisting fatigue, and achieving success. Technique is one of the most important factors in swimming, and adding strength and power to these movements certainly plays a huge role in becoming a faster swimmer.
Our Strictly Swimming London coaches can tailor your lessons to develop strength and power in your swimming, and equally create a programme to develop your strength endurance in your lessons if you are training towards your first triathlon or even your fiftieth triathlon.
Paul started competing in swimming from the age of 8 and eventually went on to represent his country all over the world. During his time at University, Paul specialised in Aquatics and the Biomechanics of Swimming and produced numerous theses on swimming performance.