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Data Source: Zamparo P, Bonifazi M (2013). Bioenergetics of cycling sports activities in water.

Coded for Swimming Science by Cameron Yick

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Is "Swim Specific" Dryland Really "Swim Specific"?

Take Home Points
  1. Many dryland methods touted as swim specific really are not swim specific
  2. Mimicking the swim stroke on land may contribute to overtraining, motor confusion
  3. Dryland can be used to teach basic movement patterns (especially at the individual level), but consider the doses in which it is delivered
Swim specificity is a common justification for many dryland activities. And it makes sense that we might use gym time to impart techniques that may be difficult to teach in the middle of a crowded pool with no ability to verbally coach instructions. This is not unique to swimming, as many coaches try to replicate sporting demands in the gym away from the sometimes chaotic environment of the competitive arena. But is this really a “best practice,” especially at advanced levels?

Swim specificity takes many forms from bands, swim bench, balls, and even improvised contraptions such as the one shown below.

Let’s explore this closely as an example. Now, there may be some elements of this exercise which are “swim specific”: long axis alignment, early vertical forearm, body rotation. However, these elements are mitigated by non-swim specific elements such as fixed dorsiflexed ankles, no head rotation for breathing, and the fact that you are on land.

There may be benefits from using dryland to teach parts of the stroke such as early vertical forearm, pointed ankles, hip internal rotation, as self-awareness can be a major hurdle in the early stages of skill acquisition. But once a swimmer is proficient, does performing mimicry exercises actually aid the stroke in the water?

Bearing a resemblance to the stroke is insufficient justification for mimicry. For example, many coaches attempt to mimic early vertical forearm on land, as it is a difficult skill to communicate in the water for many swimmers. Early vertical forearm is not just early vertical forearm…how each individual’s forearm moves is often predicated upon imperceptible microadjustments. Forcing the shoulders into high repetitions of exercise stressing the shoulders can cause problems, especially with injury risks so high in the sport.

"A lot of emphasis is put on “sport-specific” movements (swim bench, cable crossovers, straight arm pulldowns, etc.). Unfortunately, the transference of these movements is uncertain and likely minimal to the sports of swimming. Every land exercise you create is far from the demands in the pool. Despite visual similarities, every swimmer uses unique yet imperceptible microadjustments in their strokes to optimize balance, force, and deceleration. It is impossible to replicate these movements on land and attempting to be too “sport specific” may lead to confused motor programming." (Mullen 2012)

“The intent is not to produce mimicry of sport during training. Of utmost importance during training is that key dysfunctions are improved. The goal of training is not to teach perfect patterns, but to correct the key fault that is causing trouble.” As to the key fault in swimmers, this may be shoulder range of motion, scapular stability, asymmetries, or pain, among other general physical traits that can be addressed on land. (Lewitt 1999, Liebenson 2014)

Further, is “swim specific” dryland the best use of time? Many choices exist on how to spend dryland time, from general strengthening, recovery, mental practice, plyometrics for starts/turns. With sometimes more than 20 hours in the water, is a few minutes of land based swim mimicry going to create meaningful improvements (if so, I’d suggest you analyze room for improvement in the 20 hours spent in the water.)

A related point is with unstable surface training, which is often presented as “swim specific.” But as noted by Behm (2012)

"Some of the characteristics of IRT exercises that are not conducive to optimal strength or power training for athletes, may be favorable for rehabilitation. The instability‐induced deficits in force compared to traditional stable RT exercises, which dampen the strength training stimuli in trained individuals, can be of sufficient intensity for a recuperating muscle." (Behm 2012)


This is ultimately one area where reasoning and common sense must prevail as classifying “swim specific” versus general would be difficulty for research as a qualitative classification. Also, because there are a finite number of possible movement patterns, there will always be cross over between “swim specific” and general exercises. It is one thing to troubleshoot a particular stroke deficit that you believe is better addressed on land, but it is quite another to fill your dryland workout exercise plate with exercises that merely look similar to swim mechanics.


  1. Mullen, J. Five Considerations When Training Swimmers.
  3. Lewitt, K. Manipulative Therapy in Rehabilitation of the Locomotor System. 3ed. Oxford: Butterworth Heinemann, 1999.
  4. Liebenson, C. Functional Training Handbook. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer, 2014. 

Written by Allan Phillips is a certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) and owner of Pike Athletics. He is also an ASCA Level II coach and USA Triathlon coach. Allan is a co-author of the Troubleshooting System and was selected by Dr. Mullen as an assistant editor of the Swimming Science Research Review. He is currently pursuing a Doctorate in Physical Therapy at US Army-Baylor University.

Weekly Swimming Round-up

Each week we aggregate recent swimming journals and blog posts relating to
swimming biomechanics, physiology, nutrition, psychology, etc. If you wish to add, please add an article in the comments section.

Journal Round-up

  1. Unsteady hydrodynamic forces acting on a hand and its flow field during sculling motion.
  2. Acute hormonal responses before and after 2 weeks of HIT in well trained junior triathletes.
  3. Train the Brain: Novel Electroencephalography Data Indicate Links between Motor Learning and Brain Adaptations.
  4. Effects of endurance and high-intensity swimming exercise on the redox status of adolescent male and female swimmers.
  5. Association of the MTHFR 1298A>C (rs1801131) polymorphism with speed and strength sports in Russian and Polish athletes.
  6. Comparison of starts and turns of national and regional level swimmers by individualized-distance measurements.

Blog Round-up

    Cammile Adams Discusses Training and Biomechanics

    1) Since your last interview you began training at SwimMac Carolina. What have biggest
    transitions with your in-water training?

    I'm actually still in school. Im in my last semester right now. So being back in Aggieland has been great! I really missed the girls team this summer so it’s been fun being back!

    2) Currently, what are the biggest biomechanical aspects you're working on in your butterfly?

    I’ve been working mainly on getting more out of my kicks and keeping that second kick in my stroke throughout the race. David had me doing some different things this summer and I’m still working on those things back here at school.

    3) What specific training aspects are you working on for your 200 fly (improving take out
    speed, finishing, etc.)?

    I’m working on trying to get a little more front half speed. I’m usually really good back half so just trying to lay in on the line a little earlier has been my focus here lately.

    4) Has your dryland training changed in the past few years, if so how?

    It has quite a bit! Haven’t done a lot outside of the water besides dryland, cardio and weights. This summer I added in some yoga and pilates and really loved both of those. I felt like that really helped my body position in the water and I had a ton of fun doing it!

    5) What about your meet preparation behind the block?

    Meet preparation behind the blocks kind of changes depending on the meet. Some international meets you’re in the ready room for 20 or so minutes before you actually race. So then I try to just stay relaxed…I usually bring my music with me so that helps. I also like to stretch a bit before and just make sure I’m feeling loose. As far as right before the race starts…I usually splash some water in my face and just take in the atmosphere of the meet.

    6) Last time you only took iron supplementation, has this changed at all?

    Hasn’t changed at all.

    7) What are your goals for 2015 and 2016?

    My goals for 2015 and 2016…I’m really excited to have made the Worlds team! So that meet will be my main focus for the summer. Ill be going to SC words here pretty soon in late November so that will be a great time racing short course meters. As far as after that, I just want to continue training in order to put myself in a good place to medal in 2016.

    Daniel Marinho Discusses Finger Position in Swimming

    1. Please introduce yourself to the readers (how you started in the profession, education, credentials, experience, etc.).

    My name is Daniel Marinho, I was a swimmer and a coach for many years. I started my PhD in 2005 regarding the analysis of swimming propulsion using CFD methodology. Since then we have been able to participate in several research projects but also to work in straight cooperation with the swimmers, the clubs, namely with the Portuguese Swimming Federation.

    At this moment I am working at University of Beira Interior and at CIDESD Research Center, in Portugal.

    2. You recently co-authored a paper regarding finger position during swimming. Has there been much research on this subject?

    In the past there has been a great interest under this field, namely with the studies carried-out by Schleihauf. However, recently there has been again an increase interest on the analysis of the best finger position, namely with the use of CFD.

    3. What did your study look at?

    We analyzed the effect of finger spreading and thumb abduction on the hydrodynamic force generated by the hand and forearm during swimming. We would like to understand what could be the best finger position to increase the propelling force.

    4. Did your team consider any other methods for monitoring finger position?

    At this moment we were very interested in using CFD to conduct this study, especially to improve our previous studies regarding this field, although we believe the combination of different methods and different studies could be the best solution to improve our knowledge under this field.

    5. How did you ensure the swimmers had the same finger position throughout their trial?

    It is the advantage of CFD analysis. As we are using computational simulations, one can add some input data into the system and to be sure that this input data will remain the same during the analysis. We used 3D models of the swimmers, obtained with a 3D scanner, so after that procedure one can manipulate and insert the desired data into the system and verify what is the result.

    6. What were the practical implications for coaches and swimmers from your study?

    I would state that finger and thumb positioning in swimming is determinant for the propulsive force produced during swimming; indeed, this force is dependent on the direction of the flow over the hand and forearm, which changes across the arm’s stroke. Therefore, coaches should be aware that the most appropriate technique must include changes in the relative positions of the fingers and thumbs during the underwater path.

    However, when referring to finger spreading, it seems fingers should be grouped or even slightly separated to maximize lift and propulsive drag force production for most sweepback and attack angles.

    7. Do you think ideal finger position varies on the swimming stroke?

    Yes, we do. The geometry of the hand circumstantially used by a swimmer, especially the position of the thumb, appears to be dependent on and determined by the predominance of the lift and drag forces in each phase of the propulsive action, aiming to best orient the resultant force and thus the effective propulsive force. Thus, thumb abduction and adduction tend to favor propulsive drag or lift under different conditions. It is interesting to notice this situation in high-level swimmers, who changed the position of the fingers, especially the thumb, during the stroke cycle (for instance, Alexander Popov seemed a good example of that).

    8. How do you recommend teaching finger position from age-group through Olympic level swimmers?

    Coaches should be aware that the most appropriate technique must include changes in the relative positions of the fingers and thumbs during the underwater path and that attention should be paid to the training of swimmers’ specific sensitivity to the hydrodynamic effects of water flow over the propulsive segments.

    In age-group swimmers it is very important to allow the swimmer to test different finger position,
    different hand position, different “sculling” and propelling drills, to allow improve the “feel of the water”. We believe this is the most important part regarding this issue. Later on, they will be ready and prepared to change the finger position, to be aware of the importance of these small changes during the stroke cycle to improve swimming velocity.

    9. Do you think finger position varies much during a stroke cycle or is it static?

    Yes, as stated before, we do believe there are important variations during the stroke cycle, allowing the swimmer to improve the capability of producing propelling force, especially regarding to changes in thumb abduction/adduction.

    10. Who is doing the most interesting research currently in your field? What are they doing?

    There are a lot of good works in swimming research. Fortunately swimming community is very active, as noticed in the last Biomechanics and Medicine in Swimming Conference (Canberra, April 2014). Each year one can observe different research groups with good ideas, using interesting methods to allow a better understanding of swimming performance, thus it is always very difficult to highlight someone or some research group because at this moment it can be appearing an interesting study on a specific field.

    Nevertheless, if you allow me I would like to say that I am very proud to be part of the Portuguese Research Team Network who has been doing very interesting works on swimming research.

    11. What makes your research different from others?

    Basically, one can point out two main things: (i) the use of CFD with realistic models, and the use of different hand/forearm models, and (ii) combining different finger spreading and different thumb positions within the same CFD simulation, which was a step forward in the analysis of swimming propulsion.

    12. Which teachers have most influenced your research?

    A lot of people have been influencing my work, some of them were my teachers and some cooperated with me in different research projects. All of them played an important role on my education process and I have the pleasure to keep working with them in different projects.

    I would refer by a chronological order professor João Paulo Vilas-Boas and Professor Ricardo Fernandes, from the Faculty of Sport in Oporto, who were very important during my undergraduate studies and the ones who integrated me in swimming research projects. Later on Professor António José Silva and Professor Abel Rouboa, from the University of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro and CIDESD Research Centre, for allowing me to be part on the CFD project applied to swimming research and supervised my work during the PhD. I would also indicate my colleague at CIDESD Research Centre Professor Tiago Barbosa and my colleague at University of Beira Interior (where I am working nowadays) Professor Mário Marques for the sharing of new ideas regarding swimming research and training methods.

    I can not forget my father (Fernando Marinho), a swimming coach and teacher, who helped me think out of the box regarding swimming training, and my swimming coach professor António Vasconcelos (Tonas) who were always up to date regarding swimming training methods and enjoyed to share his knowledge with the others.

    13. What research or projects are you currently working on or should we look from you in the future?

    We want to continue improving the use of CFD in swimming research, and this should be one of our main focuses in the following years with some PhD students working under this scope and with some projects shared with different Research Centers.

    On the other hand, we are very interested in developing and testing new ideas regarding swimming training methods, especially related to strength training and the effects of the use of different warm up routines in swimming performance. We have at this moment at University of Beira Interior and at CIDESD some PhD and Master degree students working under these topics, so we believe in a new future we can present some interesting results.

    Core Muscle Activation During Swimming

    Take Home Points:

    1. Core muscle activation increases correlations with faster swimming velocities. 
    2. Maximally activating the core during swimming impairs respiration.
    Intra-abdominal pressure changes as a result of synchronous contraction of the abdominal muscles, diaphragm and pelvic floor muscles. Previous work suggests a positive correlation between muscle strength and intra-abdominal pressure. Other work suggests intra-abdominal pressure correlates with walking and running speed. Ogawa showed intra-abdominal pressure increases with swimming velocity during freeestyle from 0.8 - 1.4 m/s (18).

    Moriyama (2014) had 7 competitive male swimmers (~19.9 years; Japanese national university championship level) undergo a intra-abdominal pressure test which involved a 1.6-mm-diameter rectal pressure transducer. Swimmers then swam in a flume at 1.0, 1.2, and 1.4 m/s with IAP being recorded.

    There were significant changes in intra-abdominal pressure at varying velocity, with a positive correlation. However, the intra-abdominal pressure was significantly different in water than on land (16.6 vs. 18.9). Intra-abdominal pressure did not have a significant correlation with stroke rate or stroke length.

    Despite the lack of correlation between intra-abdominal pressure and stroke length or rate, there is a positive correlation between velocity, the most important variable for swimming.

    Keep these items in mind:
    1. These swimmers performed at a moderate speed, far from maximum, potentially nullifying the results.
    2. The swimmers were not tested during fatigue.
    3. There was a small sample size.
    4. This is an observational study, not proving anything.
    The authors conclude: "These findings do not appear to support the effectivenss of trunk training performed by competitive swimmers aimed at increasing intra-abdominal pressure".

    Swimming is unique as pulmonary function limits performance. There are many possibilities for this, some being the resistrcited oxygen, mechanical pressure against the chest, prone position, and many more. Whatever the case, total lung capacity and forced expiratory volume is greater in swimmers than other athletes.

    Thirteen participants(M=8, F=5; ~22-60 years) perform two conditions, relaxed breathing while sitting and breathing with the abdominal and erector spinae muscles tensed in the seated position. During these tests ventialry function was assessed.

    There was a significant difference between vital capacity, maximum voluntary ventilation, forced vital capacity over 1 second, and resting oxygen consumption between both conditions.

    Overall, contracting muscles to streamline abdominal posture had negative effects on pulmonary function and caused a negative effect on pulmonary function. Therefore, abdominal musculature should not be contracted during swimming as it likely will impair swimming performance.

    Personally, I feel the opposite, if you have an increase in intra-abdominal pressure as you increase in speed, then the positive correlation suggests the higher intra-abdominal pressure helps swim faster velocities. Sure, intra-abdominal pressure is going to be lower in the water than on land, but this is expected due to the instability of water! However, we still need more evidence on the effects of core training on swimming performance. This author knows of one study suggesting core training improves swimming sprint velocity, but this is far from conclusive.

    Until more research occurs, core training appears helpful for swimmers, especially those going faster speeds.


    1. Moriyama S, Ogita F, Huang Z, Kurobe K, Nagira A, Tanaka T, Takahashi H, Hirano Y. Intra-abdominal pressure during swimming. Int J Sports Med. 2014 Feb;35(2):159-63. doi: 10.1055/s-0033-1349136. Epub 2013 Jul 18.
    2. Timothy W. Henrich, T. W., Robert Pankey, and Gregory Soukup. The Unintended Consequences of Tension in the Abdominal & Lumbar Musculature on Swimmers' Ventilatory Metabolic Indices. Volume 22 Spring 2014.

    Dryland for Swimmers

    The Dryland for Swimmers ebook and video database is the most comprehensive dryland program and guide for swimmers. It includes a detailed dryland research analysis, club programming, and individual programming.

    By Dr. G. John Mullen received his Doctorate in Physical Therapy from the University of Southern California and a Bachelor of Science of Health from Purdue University where he swam collegiately. He is the owner of COR, Strength Coach Consultant, Creator of the Swimmer's Shoulder System, and chief editor of the Swimming Science Research Review.

    Ovarian Suppression in Elite Athletes

    Take Home Points:

    1. A regular menstrual cycle is beneficial for swimmers.
    2. A regular menstrual cycle promotes a positive energy balance and higher performance.

    Energy balance (EB) is maintained in swimmers by maintaining adequate energy reserves via energy intake (EI) and exercise energy expenditure (EEE) with training loads. As training intensity and duration increase within a season so do the requirements for resting energy expenditure (REE) and energy availability (EA). Female athletes have been found to be unsuccessful in maintaining EB, leading to nutrition repartitioning within their body leading to energy conservation. Medical symptoms can present in these female athletes including impaired menses, bone, and cardiovascular health. Estradiol (E2), progesterone (P4), and total triiodothyronine (TT3) concentrations have been associated with the above medical findings. The focus of this study was to explore the influences these ovarian hormones have on sports performance in female swimmers.

    To assess the impact of suppressed ovarian hormones secondary to an energy deficit, research assessed 400m times over a 12-week competitive swimming season in junior national caliber athletes. 10 female swimmers (age 15-17 yrs.) participated in the study beginning at the onset of the training season and ending at the final major competition 12 weeks later. The athletes were evaluated every 2 weeks; determining ovarian hormones (E2 and P4), TT3, IGF-1, REE, EEE, EI, EA, body composition, and 400m swim velocity. In addition, a daily diary was kept to track sleep, diet, injury, illness, stressors, and menstrual cycle.

    Ovarian Suprresion

    Athletes classified as ovarian suppressed (OVS) or cyclic menstrual function (CYC) based upon the first two week E2 and P4 levels as well as menstrual status from daily log. Each group had 5 participants who were similar in chronological and gynecological age. Training characteristics was similar between groups, training 13.5 hours a week of pool time with 1.6 hours a week of dryland training. The swimmers preseason times and dietary intake were similar between groups but the CYC group did intake more than their OVS counterparts during the season.

    (CYC) swimmers with normal menstrual cycle after week 12
    • Lower BMI, 20±0.4kgm-2
    • Lower Fat Mass,10.6+3.0kg
    • Decline in times at midseason, 10%
    • Improved performance at week 12, 8.2%
    • Normal (eumenorrheic) menstrual cycles of 18-31d at baseline
      • 26-33d at week 12
    (OVS) swimmers with abnormal menstrual cycle after week 12
    • Suppressed pattern in E2, P4,TT3, and EA
    • Higher BMI, 24±1.0kgm-2
    • Greater fat mass, 14.4+2.3kg
    • Decline in times at midseason, 12%
    • Decline in postseason times, 9.8%
    • Abnormal (oligomenorrheic) menstrual cycle at baseline, 33-46d
    • Abnormal at week 12, >36d

    Ovarian Suppression Decreases Sports Performance

    This study found a decrease in elite athlete sports performance with chronic ovarian suppression secondary to an energy deficit. No swimmers were found to be absent of their menses, amenorrhea. During the study, the OVS group failed to menstruate after the first 2 weeks training. An amenorrhea criterion is cessation of menses for 90d or more, which the length of the study failed to determine.

    What to do with Ovarian Suppression?

    A healthy menstrual cycle is beneficial to swimmers and is influenced by many things including diet, sleep, stress, training or overtraining. This study supports swimmers who can maintain a healthy menstrual cycle will have improved energy balance (EB) and performance compared to their teammates who have an impaired cycle. It is unknown from this study how the volume of training and performance affects yearlong swimmers as this study looked at a 3-month period of training. However, this research supports a coaching strategy that does not promote energy restrictive practices as improved performance can be detrimentally affected by a hormonally suppressed internal environment.

    1. Vanheest JL, Rodgers CD, Mahoney CE, De Souza MJ. Ovarian suppression impairs sport performance in junior elite female swimmers. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2014 Jan;46(1):156-66. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3182a32b72. PubMed PMID: 23846160
    The Swimming Science Research Review educates coaches with ongoing sports science literature. With the influx of online information makes it difficult to stay up-to-date with informative, accurate research studies. The Swimming Science Research Review brings you a comprehensive research articles on swimming, biomechanics, physiology, psychology, and much more!

    This monthly publication keeps busy coaches and swimming enthusiast on top of swimming research to help their programs excel, despite being extremely busy.

    By Dr. G. John Mullen received his Doctorate in Physical Therapy from the University of Southern California and a Bachelor of Science of Health from Purdue University where he swam collegiately. He is the owner of COR, Strength Coach Consultant, Creator of the Swimmer's Shoulder System, and chief editor of the Swimming Science Research Review.

    Victor G. Sarramian Discuses Post-activation Potentiation for Swimmers

    1. Please introduce yourself to the readers (how you started in the profession, education,
    credentials, experience, etc.). (pictures)

    I completed my Sport Science degree at University of Leon (Spain), followed by a Post Graduate Certificate in Education. Soon after finishing my studies I took a job as a swimming coach in a small team.

    In 2005, I moved to London and started working as a PE teacher and swimming instructor. My increasing interest in endurance sports, led me to train a number of athletes in and out of the pool. I realized that I wanted to learn more, in which to improve their performance and my knowledge, a MSc in Strength & Conditioning seemed to be a perfect match for my degree in Sport Science. So that's exactly what I did, I attained my Msc and was delighted when my dissertation was awarded with a distinction and proposed for publication. It has been finally published in one of the most prestigious journals in the field of sports science. (http://goo.gl/CJvoxY)

    I also gained sound knowledge on different subjects such as applied strength training, research methods, and corrective exercise...but mostly, I learned how important it was to manipulate every training variable with evidence-based facts.

    Alongside my studies, I worked at Barnet Copthalls Swimming Club under the supervision, of one of the best coaches in England; I assisted the club with the strength & conditioning programmes. Working with Rhys Gromnley was an invaluable experience, he gave me the opportunity to get involved with the making of national champions. During my time in the squad, I learned that bridging the gap between sport science and day-to-day coaching is a key factor to enhance performance.

    Currently, I deliver S&C sessions for endurance athletes with a strong scientific input. Personal training customers also benefit from my knowledge and experience.

    2. You recently published an article on post-activation potential (PAP) and sprint swimming performance. First, what is PAP?

    Postactivation Potentiation (PAP) is a relatively new phenomenon in sport and exercise science that provides coaches with a new tool to potentially impact sports and exercise performance. PAP can be defined as a condition whereby acute muscle force is increased due to a previous high resistance exercise.

    Popular training methods implemented to seek an acute augmentation in maximal power output have been already benefiting from PAP by utilizing the method of complex training where by a heavy-load exercise is followed by a low-load high velocity or plyometric exercise e.g. barbell back squats followed by box jumps or bench press followed by bench throws.

    The inclusion of a PAP protocol in the warm up has been object of study in a number of researches, having shown enhanced performance in a variety of sports such us rugby (Kilduff et al, 2007), weightlifting (Chiu et al, 2003), football (Mc Bride and Erickson, 2005) and track and field (Linder et al., 2010 ).

    The underlying mechanisms behind PAP are not fully understood yet, but the phosphorylation of the regulatory light myosin chains and the increased recruitment of high threshold motor units have been proposed as the two most coherent underlying PAP mechanism theories .

    3. Has there been previous research on PAP and swimmers? If so, what do we know?

    There is paucity of published research on the effects of PAP in competitive swimmers. To the best of my knowledge, the first study to address this topic was conducted by Kilduff et al. (2011). The research reveals that sprint times over 15m were similar after PAP using 3RM backsquats or a traditional warm-up.

    Recently, a group of Spanish researches from the University of Granada published a really interesting paper, they demonstrate that start performance can be enhanced after a warm up with two different PAP stimuli , 3x85% RM of the lunge exercise and 4x YOYO squat.

    Basically, we know that start performance can be enhanced using a PAP protocol and, based on our study, we also know that PAP is as effective as a traditional warm -up in the water, with the potential to increase performance over 50m in some individuals.

    4. There is a lot of research on PAP in other sports, how did you decide on the exercises, loads, and rest you picked for your study?

    The most important factor when choosing the exercises was practicality, we wanted to propose exercises that could be done in a real situation. I cannot imagine any swimming coach taking a squat rack, barbells and plates to a swimming meeting in order to warm-up the sprinters.

    The exercise for the lower body was chosen based on previous research that showed increased power output of the leg extensors after jumping into a box wearing a weighted vest . (Fig 1) The external load of the weighted vest worn to perform the test equalled 10% of their body weight. (Thompsen et al 2007 and Burkett et al 2005). Three squat jumps performed 4, 8 and 12 minutes after the PAP stimulus were performed in order to establish optimal rest periods for power output enhancement for the lower body. For example, if a swimmer achieved the highest jump 12 minutes after the weighted jump to the box , we obviously established 12 minutes as his optimal rest period for the lower body. Simple.

    Fig 1

    Choosing an exercise for the upper body was a bit more complex because all the previous PAP studies focused investigated pushing actions such as bench presses. We thought that a pull-up was a simple exercise that replicated to some extend the underwater pulling motion of front crawl. The 3RM was determined by adding the athlete's body weight to a vest's additional weight that was worn during the 3RM PU test.

    The swimmers completed a medicine-ball-throw test in order to determine optimal time to upper body muscle enhancement following the loaded pull-ups. (Fig 2)

    Fig 2

    5. What your study specifically looked at?

    The primary aim was to compare the effectiveness of the PAP protocols with a traditional warm-up in the water. Secondly, the research examined the effect of the loaded pull-up and the weighted jump to a box as conditioning activities to produce potentiation on sprint swimming.

    6. What were the practical implications for coaches and swimmers from your study?

    There are several implications:

    (1) Postactivation potentiation has the potential to be a useful tool for coaches to warm-up swimmers participating in sprinting events, especially when space and time limitations can impede performance of a warm-up in the water.

    (2) It is imperative to identify the conditioning activities and following rest intervals that trigger potentiation in each swimmer. The combined protocol showed to be a valuable method to boost performance to some extent in some individuals.

    In my opinion, knowing how to interpret the data is key to understand the outcome of a research. Most data is published as average and standard deviation and we look for statistically significant differences, but in the pool we work with individuals. If you look at the data from a pure statistical point of view, you might think 'ok, the results of the PAP protocols are not so impressive', but some swimmers achieved reasonably good improvements that could mean a lot in a championship. Those performances will not be reflected in the results section of a paper because a few remarkable individual performances using PAP may be diluted in the overall results or hindered by those swimmers who performed poorly under a PAP protocol. Knowing that some swimmers may respond positively to PAP, makes it worth trying.

    Another promising fact about this study is that 12 out of the 18 swimmers performed better following one of the three PAP protocols.

    For that reason, the coaches should be encouraged to experiment with different exercises to determine what works best for each swimmer. I know this is hard work but in elite swimming, very small improvement in times are crucial amongst competitors in sprint events.

    (3) Conditioning activities such as the weighted jump to the box described in the present study represent an effective and simple method to warm-up the lower body, the vest's load can be easily adjusted to meet individual needs and can be taken into any swimming pool, as opposed to more voluminous and heavier weight-lifting material.

    7. Why do you think PAP for the upper body impaired performance?

    When swimming, the hands do not apply force against a solid base of support and follow curvilinear patterns of movement under the water. Consequently, the kinematic characteristics of the freestyle stroke are extremely hard to replicate out of the water, which may impede the transfer into performance enhancement. The PU, regardless of its pulling nature may differ extensively from the actual motion of the arms under the water. Furthermore, Figueiredo et al. (2013) revealed high activation of the triceps brachii muscle during the upsweep phase of the freestyle stroke. The upsweep is the most propulsive sweep in freestyle swimming and the PU may not be an appropriate exercise to produce high activation of the triceps brachii.

    8. Did any of the swimmers have greater performance in the upper body PAP condition?

    Only one out of 18 swimmers, what makes me think that there is a lot of room for improvement for the combined PAP protocol. Imagine for a moment, that the combined PAP protocol was composed by an improved upper body exercise and the 4 x YoYo Squat for the lower body, which has already shown positive outcomes to enhance performance of the lower body (Cuenca- Fernandez et al, 2014). Maybe we could have a superb protocol that is exceptionally valuable for some sprinters.

    9. Since the regular swimming warm-up and combined warm-up had similar results, how can coaches decide who to prescribed the combined protocol?

    Trial and error, I am afraid. As I mentioned before, it is the coach's task to experiment and get to know his/her swimmers' responses to different stimuli.

    10. Do you think PAP is something that can be done before major meets or just high-intensity practices?

    I would experiment with different PAP protocols in practices and low key events. If it works under those circumstances, I think there is no excuse for not trying.

    Additionally, it can be performed when space and time limitations can impede the performance of a warm-up in the water. It is not unusual to hold a swimming event in facilities without a warm up pool and some swimmers may compete long after they warm-up in the water.

    11. What makes your research different from others?

    (1) Despite the significance of upper body pulling performance on a variety of sports (e.g., swimming, judo), no studies have investigated the outcome of specific conditioning activities to trigger PAP for pulling motions. I believe we have been the first researchers investigating PAP for pulling motions.

    (2) This is also the first study investigating the effects of a combined PAP protocol to enhance upper and lower body performance simultaneously. Previously, all PAP studies focused on upper or lower body separately.

    (3) Finally, we look at performance on a swimming event, the 50m freestyle. Former research studied performance only on swim starts.

    12. Which teachers have most influenced your research?

    The research was my dissertation project for a MSc in Strength and Conditioning (Middlesex University, London) and I was most influenced by the whole environment during the course. From the very beginning I understood that all the knowledge that I was acquiring was based on the latest research, so I knew that I had to back up all my ideas with science and reflect that in my research project. When I presented my first literature review for this project, my tutor (Anthony Turner) suggested that I needed to improve and elaborate my ideas quite a lot. That moment was a real eye-opener, now I look back in time and realize that my original ideas, such us combining an upper and lower body PAP protocol were very innovative but at the same time I realized that I needed to raise the bar to write a decent paper. To be honest, I thought I wasn't going to pass the course and I got a bit obsessed with this research. Probably that obsession helped me to work extremely hard to produce a reasonably good research (at least for a student). I encourage every MSc student to publish their research project if they believe their work is good enough. They may contribute somehow to the development of sport science. Despite being a difficult and time-consuming task, preparing and submitting a research can be emotionally satisfying, and give a student a great sense of accomplishment and a confidence boost.

    13. What are some unanswered questions regarding PAP and swimming performance?

    We still need much more research on the topic. We need to test different PAP stimuli, try protocols over different distances, test PAP stimuli that are specific to different strokes or simply play around with the sets and repetitions of the exercises. A recent meta-analysis on PAP studies showed that performance enhancement was greater following multiple sets of a PAP stimuli than a single set.
    In my opinion we know very little, we only know that PAP has a great potential to became a good tool for coaches to enhance performance.

    14. What research or projects are you currently working on or should we look from you in the future?

    At the moment I am 100% focused on running my company, I deliver S&C programmes for endurance athletes and personal training. I am not involved in any research but in the future I would love to keep working with endurance athletes. There are some topics I am very interested in, such as gluteus maximus strengthening in endurance runners, not only to prevent injury but to increase performance.

    Thanks for the opportunity to discuss about my study and do not hesitate to contact me with your questions, research proposals or comments.

    Victor G Sarramian
    +44 (0) 7809719251