HEAVY TRAINING AND DRYLAND TRAINING DEMANDS ARE NOT RELATED TO IMPROVEMENTS IN SWIMMING PERFORMANCE

Sokolovas, G. (2000). Demographic information. In The Olympic Trials Project (Chapter 1). Colorado Springs, CO: United States Swimming. [On-line. Available at http://www.usa-swimming.org/programs/template.pl?opt=news&pubid=941].

A variety of information (age, age started swimming, age started swimming year-round, average hours spent swimming per week, average dryland training hours per week, average number of workouts per week, average yardage per week, and percentage of improvement from previous year) was elicited from swimmers at the 2000 US Olympic Trials. Of particular interest were variables related to percentage of performance improvement (2000 best time compared to 1999 best time). Ss were divided by gender and classified as sprinters or distance swimmers. Other stroke classifications were provided by the sample sizes were too small to produce meaningful statistics. Univariate linear correlation coefficients between variables were provided.

The following were the factors found to correlate significantly with percentage of performance improvement for each swimmer classification.

  1. Female sprinters (N = 23). The age of starting year-round swimming was positively correlated (r = .442). The number of hours of dryland training per week was negatively correlated (r = .438), suggesting that the more dryland work performed, the less likely is performance improvement.
  2. Female distance swimmers (N = 11). Average yardage per week was positively correlated (r = .528).
  3. Male sprinters (N = 22). Hours spent swimming per week was negatively correlated (r = -.376) as was yardage per week (r = -.365). This suggests that requiring male sprinters to swim excessively will reduce improvement potential.
  4. Male distance swimmers (N = 16). No factors were correlated significantly with improvement. The sizes of the correlation coefficients were markedly small.

Implications. These figures suggest that aspects of the "excessive work ethic" commonly required of swimmers by coaches is detrimental to improvements in sprinters of both genders and only related to one factor (yardage/wk) in female distance swimmers. The demands of time spent swimming and work volume do not seem to be related to improvement in swimmers in general. This is in agreement with previous work by Costill (1986) that showed individuals adapt positively with work volume increases up to a certain level and from there on no further improvements occur.

Coaches should think seriously before requiring a swimmer to train more times per week or increasing the amount of work performed at each workout. Auxiliary training (dryland work) is likely to be detrimental to performance improvement in female sprinters and is unrelated to improvement in distance swimmers and male sprinters. Its value has to be questioned critically.

[Reference: Costill, D. L. (1986) Inside running: Basics of sports physiology. Indianapolis, IN: Benchmark Press.]

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