Neufer, P. D., Costill, D. L., Fielding, R. A., Flynn, M. G., & Kirwan, J. P. (1987). Effects of reduced training on muscular strength and endurance in competitive swimmers. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 19, 486-492.

Following five months of competitive training (9,000+ yards, 6 days per week) which produced a 14.3% increase in VO2 over an entire season, three groups of eight male swimmers performed four weeks of either reduced training (3,000 yards per session) or inactivity (RT0). One group (RT3) did three sessions while another (RT1) did one session per week.

Biokinetic swim bench strength did not change while swim power, as measured in tethered swimming, was reduced significantly in all groups (-13.6% by week 4), over the 4-week detraining period. Blood lactate after a standard 200-yard swim increased 1.8, 3.5, and 5.5 m/mol in RT3, RT1, and RT0 respectively. VO2max was not altered for RT3 but was reduced slightly for RT1. Stroke rate increased for RT1 and decreased for RT3. RT0 was not tested for stroke mechanics.

This study suggests that aerobic capacity was retained in well-trained swimmers with three workouts a week while applied power was reduced. Strength measured on the swim bench was unchanged which suggests that its measurements are not specific to swimming. Swimming power is diminished by the reduction in workout frequency.

The reduction of workload to 30% of the change training load is sufficient to maintain aerobic capacity. That is in accord with known values for maintenance training. The increase in lactic acid values may have been caused by a shift in lactate kinetics, mainly clearance, during recovery. However, it could also mean that there was insufficient stimulation for this capacity even in the RT3 group. The reduction in power in the water and the change in stroke frequencies, particularly in RT1, suggests that the swimmers were losing their "feel" for the water. The RT3 group did not alter its stroke mechanics.

Implication. Since all groups lost a similar amount of power, it is possible that a higher frequency of training is necessary to maintain applied strength in the water. Could power be more short-lived than endurance in terms of its permanence after change training is completed?

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