Lifting Thoughts

The team has successfully survived a great training trip down in Ft. Lauderdale and now we are putting this finishing touches are a great winter training block with taper only days away.  I’ve had chances to stalk some results to see how other teams are doing on their trips and their meets right after their tough training.  Some teams have started to fly with great training and others definitely are working hard through a train cycle that has them beat up.  I’ve had some time to think about our training in and out of the pool and compare that to training trips and winter sessions of the past.  What I’ve noticed is that at this time of the year, lifting can have some of the biggest bearing on current performance and performance come conferences.

This year the team has worked out on 4 week lifting cycles, just as we have done in the pool.  The team spends 3 weeks adapting and mastering exercises, follows those 3 weeks of lifting up with lighter plyometric lifting and starts the cycle over from scratch again with all new exercises.  While this lifting has resulted in huge strength gains and constant muscle adaptation, the process has also broken the team down very quickly throughout the year.  Wabash is lucky enough to have full access to weight training during our training trip, so our lifting routine is never compromised by a change of scenery.   Over the past 3 weeks, the team has stepped up their lifting efforts as a group.  The competitive atmosphere has been great as guys keep the intensity high on their gymnastic rings exercises and work for the entire timed interval.  With their free weight training, they have focused on technique, taking pride in how hard perfect form is.  While, core stability, body awareness, endurance, strength, and power are all improving, our ability to recover is dragging behind where I would like it.    Muscles are sorer than normal and our limbs and backs are tighter than most people’s budgets these days.  As much as Yoga and gravity boots can help with these, they certainly aren’t magic pills.  So if lifting is supposed to help, why isn’t the team seeing an immediate impact for the better?

The answer to that question is that we are seeing an impact, but one has to look closely.  The team competed well against Wash U the other day, but at first glance looked sluggish.  But when I go back and re-evaluate the evidence, our stroke counts have decreased, the distance off our walls have increased, the starts are more explosive, and guys are maintaining technique longer.  Continuing to hold stroke, grab water will be key to swimming fast in a month and that is what’s important.  As lifting takes on more of a speed focus in the next couple weeks, energy levels should increases, soreness and tightness should decrease, and the ease of each stroke in a swim will improve.  The lifting should results in some fast, relaxed swimming in a month, but in order to see those results, for better or worse, the guys will need to continue do exhaust their bodies in the weight room and focus on the process of swimming fast.  Swimming fast is not something that can be forced; it must be flow with the energy of the body in a natural rhythm.  So we will focus on the next month of races progressing much like “In the Hall of the Mountain King,” each time we cycle through we will get faster and faster until what was fast is now slow and what seemed to fast at one point is now a natural rhythm.

Steve Barnes is currently the second year head coach of a Wabash College in Wabash, IN. Steve maintains a regular blog, which can be found here.

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