Dryland and Stroke Biomechanics

Take Home Points:

  1. Strength training may have a positive effect on swimming biomechanics.
  2. Individualized dryland programs are necessary, considering the effects of dryland on future biomechanics.
  3. More research on the effects of land strength and dryland are required.

This is an example chapter of Dryland for Swimmers. Order your copy to day for $59.99!
Biomechanics are the largest contributor for swimming success. A possible explanation for this might lie in the nature of swimming; forces being applied against a fluctuate element with the posture of the human body being the most important vector against propulsion. Swimming performance is thus determined by the athletes’ ability to produce forward motion while reducing water friction, or drag (Toussaint 1990; Pate 1984). The possible biomechanical effects (propulsive abilities and drag) from drylandmust also be considered. Unfortunately, many resistance training studies do not compare biomechanics, making the results of each study impossible to extrapolate the biomechanical results of training. 

Four studies observed improvements in stroke mechanics, specifically increased stroke length, (Toussaint 1990; Strass 1986), increased stroke rate (Girold 2006) and decreased stroke depth (Girold 2007) after strength training. None of the included studies investigated whether there was a possible training effect on active or passive drag.

Girold et al. (2006) found that improved swimming performance was positively associated with an increased stroke rate of the last 50m of a 100m freestyle time trial after 3 weeks of in-water resistance training (tethered to an elastic tube). Swimming velocity is the product of stroke rate and stroke length, (Craig 1985) and both factors should be optimized for maximal performance. Although stroke rate has been associated with maximal swimming velocity, (Wakayoshi 1995) stroke length is likely more important (Wakayoshi 1993).

For instance Craig and colleagues (1985) observed that stroke length was the factor that differentiated finalists from non-finalists during the US Olympic trials in 1984, and another study suggested that increased maximal velocity was an effect of increased stroke length (Wakayoshi 1993).

Girold et al. (2006) found decreased stroke depth after both combined resisted- and assisted-sprint swim training (tethered to an elastic tube pulling against or towards swimming direction), and dryland strength training. The researchers found increased stroke rate both in the combined resisted- and assisted-sprint group and in the control group, but not in the strength training group. Although the findings were not fully consistent, the authors concluded that the decreased stroke depth was a consequence of maintained stroke length when stroke rate was increased. However, if body rotation remains stable, decreased stroke depth may reduce the biomechanical momentum of the propulsive muscles, and thus decrease the potential for propulsion.

In the study from Toussaint and Vervoorn, (1990) they observed increased stroke lengths at equal maximal swimming velocities after resistance training on the MAD system. The observed change was suggested to come from increased maximal swimming power, although maximal swimming velocity was unchanged. Similar observations were also made after dryland maximal strength training in the study from Strass, (1986) but not in the studies from Aspenes et al., (2009) Trappe and Pearson, (1994) Tanaka et al. (1999) or Roberts et al. (1991). Faude et al. (2008) compared the effects of low volume training with high-intensity versus high- volume training with low intensity, and observed no differential effects on mean stroke rates in either 100m or 400m maximal freestyle. High volume, low-intensity training is sometimes recommended for improving swimming economy, but none of the studies included in this review support that notion. However, the hypothesis needs more studies before any conclusion can be drawn.

Strength training may have positive effects on stroke characteristics, but so far the evidence is inconclusive. Future RCT studies can probably be designed to study the effect of, or preservation of, stroke characteristics with strength training.

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  1. Girold S, Maurin D, Dugué B, Chatard JC, Millet G. Effects of dry-land vs. resisted- and assisted-sprint exercises on swimming sprint performances. J Strength Cond Res. 2007 May;21(2):599-605
  2. Girold S, Jalab C, Bernard O, Carette P, Kemoun G, Dugué B. Dry-land strength training vs. electrical stimulation in sprint swimming performance. J Strength Cond Res. 2012 Feb;26(2):497-505.
  3. Aspenes S, Kjendlie PL, Hoff J, et al. Combined strength and endurance training in competitive swimmers. J Sports Sci Med 2009 Sept; 8 (3): 357-65.
  4. Aspenes ST, Karlsen T. Exercise-training intervention studies in competitive swimming. Sports Med. 2012 Jun 1;42(6):527-43
  5. Toussaint HM, Vervoorn K. Effects of specific high resistance training in the water on competitive swimmers. Int J Sports Med 1990 Jun; 11 (3): 228-33
  6. Craig Jr AB, Skehan PL, Pawelczyk JA, et al. Velocity, stroke rate, and distance per stroke during elite swimming competition. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1985 Dec; 17 (6): 625-34
  7. Wakayoshi K, Yoshida T, Ikuta Y, et al. Adaptations to six months of aerobic swim training: changes in velocity, stroke rate, stroke length and blood actate. Int J Sports Med 1993 Oct; 14 (7): 368-72
  8. Trappe S, Pearson D. Effects of weight assisted dry-land strength training on swimming performance. J Strength Cond Res 1994 Nov; 8 (4): 209-13.
  9. Tanaka H, Costill DL, Thomas R, et al. Dry-land resistance training for competitive swimming. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1993 Aug; 25 (8): 952-9
  10. Strass D. Effects of maximal strength training on sprint performance of competitive swimmers. In: Ungerechts BE, Wilke K, Reischle K, editors. Vth International Symposium of Biomechanics and Medicine in Swimming; 1986 Jul 27-31. Bielefeld: Human Kinetics Books, 1986: 149-56
  11. Faude O, Meyer T, Scharhag J, et al. Volume vs. intensity in the training of competitive swimmers. Int J Sports Med 2008 Nov; 29 (11): 906-12
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.

Base Training for Swimming

Take Home Points on Base Training for Swimming:
  1. Different approaches exist for base training
  2. Traditional approaches have focused on building an aerobic base through
  3. Base training should be more individualized than uniform application of high yardage to an entire squad
As swimmers transition from summer training to fall training, many programs move from a
competition focus to base focus.  The term base training is often discussed but often has varied interpretations on the pool deck.  Traditionally, base training has marked a return to less intense and more aerobically based swim training after a summer of racing.  Though some would describe base replenishing the aerobic system after a period of shorter distance focus, optimal dosage is less clear, particularly in determining transfer to shorter events.

One of the most referenced studies in swimming (Costill 1991) found that adding a period of two-a-days for increased mileage in the early portion of a training cycle did not lead to significant short term improvements, but did result in significant improvement after a late season taper.  Was it the traditional base training that led to improvement or some other factors?  Wakayohsi (1993) found that six months of aerobic base training improved 4 x 400m swim test velocity, but its unclear if this training would have effectively transferred to shorter distance racing.  (additionally, this study was only eight male swimmers with no control group).  

Care must also be taken to accommodate swimmers entering base from different starting points.  On a single team you can have swimmers who competed all summer in national and international meets, those who did consistent but not intense training, those who cross trained, and those who barely did anything.  Each type of swimmer will require a different approach, no matter how emotionally invested a coach is in his/her one-size-fits-all program (and no matter how much they want to punish the lazy swimmers who didn’t train during the summer).   This is a key but often overlooked point of base. 

'The longer and more substantial is this basic form of training, the better and longer an athlete will be able to hold a peak performance capability when serious competitions occur. The corollary to this statement is: an athlete's ability to hold a peak performance status is directly proportional to the amount of base (preparatory or background) training that is done." (Rushall 1994)

Now, while most would agree with this statement, the HOW is less clear.  Some interpret this to mean base training should include record setting yardage with ample doses of 400-1000yd repeats.  Others may interpret “longer and substantial” to mean never take a break.  In truth, the varying interpretations of base training reflect the nature of base training as being grounded in as much art as science.  True, it’s possible to measure baseline fitness through time trials, lactate, VO2max, etc but deciding how to improve those parameters and what to do with that information is less well established. 


Though many definitions of base exist, we should all agree that base is about preparing for the next phase of training.  Base can also be seen as having dual purposes, from preparing for future competitions while actively recovering from prior hard training.  This may also support the idea of planned time off in which swimmers focus on non-swimming activities.  

“The basic preparatory phase can include activities drawn from sports which are related to swimming. This phase of training would also include the greatest amount of auxiliary training.  However, because such activities are beneficial for establishing a physiological base, does not mean that they are just as beneficial when highly specialized training is employed. At that time they have the potential to disrupt refined neuromuscular patterns associated with skill.” (Rushall 1994)

Ultimately, base should be seen as simply that: a base.  Determine what the athlete needs for late season success and build the foundation from the base phase.  


  1. Wakayoshi K1, Yoshida TIkuta YMutoh YMiyashita M.  Adaptations to six months of aerobic swim training. Changes in velocity, stroke rate, stroke length and blood lactate.   Int J Sports Med. 1993 Oct;14(7):368-72.
  2. Costill DL1, Thomas RRobergs RAPascoe DLambert CBarr SFink WJ.  Adaptations to swimming training: influence of training volume.  Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1991 Mar;23(3):371-7.
  3. Dr. Brent Rushall.  ANNUAL PLANNING FOR SWIMMING FITNESS.  Adapted from NSWIMMING COACHING SCIENCE BULLETIN: Volume 2 Number 6 - July-August, 1994.
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.

Friday Interview: Liz Sanil Discusses Motor Learning

1) Please introduce yourself to the readers (how you started in the profession,
education, credentials, experience etc.).
I first became interested in kinesiology after a visit to an athletic therapist following a high school wrestling injury. During my undergraduate degree I became particularly interested in motor learning and control. My MSc, Ph.D. and postdoctoral research have focused on practice factors such as practice scheduling and feedback and providing choice to the learner during practice.

2) You have published many articles on motor learning. What are the different theories on motor learning?
Theory plays a large role in my research projects. The predominant formal theory in motor leaning today is Schmidt's schema theory, which addresses movement production and evaluation. This theory borrowed the effective parts of earlier motor learning and psychology theories and built upon them with knowledge about motor control and leaning processes. Schmidt's Schema theory does not however provide us with a complete understanding of motor learning and there are other important theoretical perspectives and hypotheses which can contribute to our understanding of motor learning.  Schmidt and Lee (2011, chapter 13) divide these perspectives into categories including the cognitive perspective which addresses the role of cognitive processes such as planning and evaluation of movement in motor leaning, the hierarchical control perspective which addresses the construction of motor programs, shifting control of a skill from higher to lower-level control processes, and the Bernstein perspective which addresses stages of learning though which degrees of freedom (e.g. joints) are progressively released and reorganized. This perspective also emphasizes the interaction between the sensory-motor system and the environment. Recently, some aspects of motor learning have also been examined from motivational perspectives originating in psychology theory.

3) What is the motor learning research confident about?
Much of the application of motor learning research is dependent upon factors such as the type of task to be learned, the characteristics of the learner (such as age or experience level) and the type of environment in which the skill is learned and performed. New theoretical perspectives and hypotheses are also being examined in attempts to address the shortfalls of current theories. Nonetheless, there are several general concepts we can be reasonably confident about that are applicable to coaching. One very  straightforward concept is termed "law of practice", which states that with all other things being equal, the more practice trials completed, the more learning will occur. Improvements are generally large at the start of practice and decrease in magnitude over time (Schmidt & Lee, 2011, chapter 11). Another example is the concept of stages of learning; several researchers have proposed that learners move through a series of stages in the learning of a motor skill.  While the number of stages and their specific names differ between researchers, it is generally agreed that at the start of practicing a new skill, learners engage in a lot of cognitive activity figuring out appropriate strategies. At this early stage performance is quite variable and many training techniques are most effective, aiding in the development of appropriate strategies. In the next stage learners have already figured out what it is they need to do and now focus more on adjustments to how the skill is performed. In this stage the movements become more consistent and effective through relatively small changes. After quite some time of practice the skill may become relatively automatic, freeing up resources for the learner to use on other tasks (Schmidt & Lee, 2011, chapter 13). Understanding approximately where a particular learner or athlete is in terms of these stages of learning can help a coach choose appropriate training techniques to benefit learning.

The research provides consistent evidence for the effectiveness of many training techniques in relation to factors such as practice scheduling, feedback, focus of attention, models, guidance and part versus whole practice, but in interest of space I won't go into great detail here (See chapters 11 & 12 in Schmidt & Lee, 2011).

4) What are some big unknowns or misconceptions?
Perhaps one of the biggest misconceptions about motorlearning, particularly in sport, is
that performance during practice is indicative of learning that has taken place. Because motor learning is considered a relatively permanent change in performance, due to practice, sometimes the changes that are taking place with learning are not immediately evident. Many strategies that have been shown to benefit learning can be detrimental to performance during a practice session. Dr. Damian Farrow gives a great example of this distinction using an example of swimming training sessions (see pages 372-375 in Skill Acquisition in Sport: Research, Theory and Practice, Hodges, N.J. & Williams A.M. eds.) He distinguishes between performance-based practice sessions and learning-focused practice sessions. Performance-based sessions have a focus on performance outcome measures (e.g. time, stoke rate) and the inclusion of all elements of a race environment (e.g. starting with a dive rather than at the edge of the pool), while learning-focused sessions focus on technical skill production, sometimes including trial and error, with much less emphasis on outcome measures. Even though swimmers may indeed be learning and improving technique during the learning-focused sessions, the changes may not be evident until a later performance -based session.

Another misconception is that learners (athletes) are good at predicting how well they have learned a skill. As discussed above, some training strategies may lead to poorer performance during a practice session even though significant learning has occurred. Conversely, a practice session during which an athlete has shown very good performance, may have resulted in relatively little learning. Often learners who have performed well during a practice session using a less effective training strategy for learning will over-estimate how much they have learned, while those who produced poorer performance using a more effective strategy will under-estimate how much they have learned (e.g. Simon & Bjork, 2001.)

5) What aspects of motor learning should coaches, particularly swim coaches use?
There are several training strategies, in particular, practice organization, instruction and feedback strategies with evidence from motor learning research, that are helpful for coaches. Distinguishing between performance and learning as discussed above is one aspect  of practice that should be considered by coaches. In general, coaches should also consider variety in practice schedules when deciding upon drills for a particular practice session. A simple application of this would be to space out the practice of a particular skill (e.g. flip-turn) throughout the practice rather than completing several in a row at the beginning of practice. Another consideration for coaches is that too much feedback from external sources, such as a coach, can produce a dependency on that feedback. One way to guard against this dependency is to ask swimmers how they felt they performed before providing feedback. Another way would be to withhold feedback from certain trials or delay the feedback provision until several trials have been performed. Dr. Farrow gives specific examples of changes he has suggested for typical swimming training sessions in the past. (see pages 372-375 in Skill Acquisition in Sport: Research, Theory and Practice, Hodges, N.J. & Williams A.M. eds.)

6) What were the practical implications for coaches and swimmers from your study?
One important thing to note is that our study used what we call a discrete skill (a skill with a definite beginning and end) while the majority of swimming would be considered a continuous skill (a skill with no inherent beginning and end). With this in mind, this study would be most applicable to aspects of swimming such as a dive or flip turn. However, please keep in mind that these swimming-specific skills are more complex and difficult than the simple crokinole-type skill used in our study. In our study one group started with the easiest version of a task and progressed through more difficult versions throughout practice. The other group began with the most difficult version and progressed through easier versions. In most sport situations where an athlete is learning a new skill, the schedule of the first group (easy-to-difficult progression) is the one followed. In our study the second group (difficult-to-easy progression) performed better during practice and on a transfer test. A transfer test measures how well a learner (or athlete) is able to adapt what has been practiced to a new version of a task. In swimming the need for this type of adaptation may arise when an athlete encounters an unfamiliar starting block, or begins a turn from a less-than-ideal location. In our study, the second group started practice with a large amount of error and decreased the amount of error throughout practice as the versions of the task got easier and as the learners gained more experience. This suggests that for some tasks (such as our relatively easy discrete task) error at the start of practice isn't necessarily a bad thing. In fact, we suggest that the challenge of a more difficult task at the right time during practice may be what benefits the learner on later transfer tests. In terms of practical implications for coaches, of course, with the safety of the athlete kept in mind, a coach might consider that errors at the beginning of practice are not necessarily detrimental to learning in the long run and may help with adaptation to new situations. Some factors to consider when designing practice schedules are the difficulty of the task itself, the experience of the learner and how important adaptation of the skill is. With further studies examining the role of errors at the beginning of practice for more difficult and/or continuous tasks, more specific recommendations applicable to swimming may come forth.

7) What is the future of motor learning and sports?
Motor learning researchers and coaches have much to offer each other. For example, coaches can help researchers understand the applied nature of skill-learning for his or her sport, while researchers can provide new evidence-based training strategies for coaches to consider. Skill acquisition specialists, knowledgeable about motor learning are currently working together with high-performance sport organizations (e.g. in Australia and New Zealand) to impact the performance of elite athletes.

8) What research projects are you currently working on or should we look from you in the future?
Plans for my future research program focus on practice variables such as scheduling and feedback and taking a look at the wider picture of the practice context as a whole. This work will be based in motor learning and control theory as well as sport and exercise psychology theory.

References and relevant reading
Schmidt, R. A., & Lee T.D. (2011) Motor Control and Learning a Behavioral Emphasis (5th ed.) Champaign, IL, Human Kinetics.
Hodges, N. J. & Williams, A.M. (Eds.).(2012). Skill Acquisition in Sport Research, Theory and Practice (2nd ed.) New York, NY, Routledge.
Simon, D.A., & Bjork, R.A. (2001) Metacognition in Motor Learning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 27, 907-912.
Farrow, D., Baker, J., & MacMahon, C. (Eds.).(2013). Developing Sport Expertise Researchers and Coaches put Theory into Practice (2nd ed.) New York, NY, Routledge.

Dryland for Swimmers

Dr. G. John Mullen, DPT of Swimming World Magazine, USA Swimming and COR
breaks down the research and applies it to dryland for swimmers!

 Stop Wasting Your Time with Poorly Designed Dryland Programs!

 Dryland for Swimmers breaks down dryland and gives you the tools to provide effective, evidence-based dryland programs!

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Ever wonder what to do for dryland and where to start? If so, this product is for you! As a Physical Therapist and Swimming Strength Coach, I work with many swimmers looking for a safe, effective and progressive dryland program. 

This product breaks down the current literature on strength training, injury
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I've used these techniques with Masters swimmers to Olympic athletes, helping each one move easier and more effectively out and in the water. 

As you can imagine, I've seen it all, and after working with such a wide variety of people, I've come away with one big lesson:

No Two People Move the Same... Including You

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Thanks for the great work and all that you do for the world of swimming!"

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-Chris Plumb, Head Coach Carmel Swim Club
“I have been a fan of Dr. Mullen’s work for many years. We have built a friendship based on our shared passion for the sport of swimming, as well as the pursuit of excellence in a healthy, safe and efficient manner.”

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-William Dorenkott, Head Coach Ohio State Women's Swim team

Dryland for Swimmers Maximizes Your Training Results Without Wasting Your Time

What Does the Dryland for Swimmers Include? 

Dryland for Swimmers includes:

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I'm not an "Internet Fitness Writer" I Walk the Walk!

If you've read up until this point, you know my name is Dr. John Mullen. What you really need to know about me is that coaching and training is my life. I'd like to take a second and tell you exactly who I am.

I obtained an undergraduate degree in Health Science, followed by my Doctorate Degree in Physical Therapy, from the top rated Physical Therapy program at the University of Southern California.

I've written over many published articles and have been featured on Swimming World Magazine, Swimmer Magazine, STACK, USA Swimming, and USA Triathlon.

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NOTE: Dryland for Swimmers Guide is a downloadable product. No physical products will be shipped. After you order, you will get INSTANT ACCESS to download the e-book onto your computer. The e-book format is Adobe Acrobat PDF, which can be viewed on Mac or PC. If you have any questions regarding this product please contact me at info@centerofoptimalrestoration.com.

Dryland for Swimmers Guide Frequently Asked Questions

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One time. You buy Dryland for Swimmers, and you get lifetime access. You'll especially find yourself coming back to our video database over and over.
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Some simple tools from around the house and at most a ~$20 foam roll.
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This product can help swimmers of any age!
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While some websites make it hard to find an email address to contact, I put mine right out there: info@traingincor.com. If you have a question, email me, and I'll get it answered.

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Speed of Breathing Predicts 100-m Performance

Take Home Points on Speed of Breathing Predicts 100-m Performance

    1. The faster a national caliber swimmer can exhale air in 1 second is correlated with 100-m performance.

    Everyone is trying to predict athletic performance in youth athletes. Not unlike other
    sports, swimming research has looked at many attributes of youth swimmers, including height, strength, and lean body mass. Dr. Barbosa has lead most of this research and discussed it on this website previously

    Breathing is a unique process in swimming due to it’s hypoxic nature. Swimming practice improves pulmonary function and swimmers show higher lung volumes and pulmonary diffusion capacity compared with both nonathletic and athletic peers from other sports. This has led many to consider inspiratory muscle training. However, the forced inspiratory volume is another important factor as the faster a swimmer can breathe in air, the more air they can hold per breath and limit their breathing which often increases drag and prevents biomechanics. However, few studies have looked the relationship of respiratory capacity and sprint swimming performance.

    Seventeen national competitive swimmers (M=8, F=9; ~16.9 years) with personal records in the 100 m at 56.1 seconds for male and 65.2 seconds for female. All swimmers have been swimming 6 days per week for the past 3 years. 

    After a standard warm-up, each swimmer performed a 100-m all-out trial. Swimmers also had their physiological parameters of lung function measured using a spirometer. The subjects performed maximal inspiration followed by enforced exhalation three times. 

    Anthropometric data was also measured for each swimmer. On top of this, squat jump and countermovement jump were assessed.

    Study Results

    The male swimmers were older, taller, and heavier, with less adipose tissue than the females. Also, the males were faster in the 100-m time trial, had a higher height in squat jump and countermovement jump and nearly all pulmonary functions, except forced expiratory volume in the first second (FIV1)/forced vital capacity (FVC) and forced inspiratory volume (FIV). 

    FIV1 was negatively correlated with 100 m time trial in men and FIV1 and FVC were negatively correlated with time trial in female swimmers.

    Anthropometrics and conditional variables did not show a significant correlation in the swimmers. 


    This is the first study to demonstrate the influence of FIV1 in 100 m performance. FIV1 likely aids performance by allowing the swimmer to inhale air quicker and increase the amount of air they can inhale in a limited time. Swimmers with high FIV1 may need less respiratory frequency, produce less inspiratory muscle fatigue, increasing active limbs blood flow and reducing fatigue in these limbs, and consequently may improve performance.

    It seems inspiratory muscle training would improve swimming velocity, which has been suggested in the recent literature. 

    Practical Implication

    Respiratory capacity should be assessed by swim teams, if looking for predicting performance. Also, coaches must consider using inspriatory muscle training.  


    1. Noriega-Sánchez SA, Legaz-Arrese A, Suarez-Arrones L, Santalla A, Floría P, Munguía-Izquierdo D. FORCED INSPIRATORY VOLUME IN THE FIRST SECOND AS PREDICTOR OF FRONT CRAWLPERFORMANCE IN YOUNG SPRINT SWIMMERS. J Strength Cond Res. 2014 Jul 21. [Epub ahead of print]

    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.

    Adjusting to College Swimming

    Take Home Points on Adjusting to College Swimming

      1. Managing stressors outside the pool is critical for an effective transition between age group and college swimming 
      2. Communication is key as swimmers adapt to new training programs 
      3. Sleep and nutrition are two areas that are common downfalls for swimmers making the transition to college
      The new school year marks a transition for swimmers across the country. An entire
      freshman class is not far from making their college swimming debuts. In this post, we’ll explore key issues in the transition from age group to college swimming.

      Sleep: Sleep has been a major topic on this site. (Sleep Restriction Impairs Performance, Does Extra Sleep Enhance Performance) Though early mornings are not unique to college, swimmers often walk a finer line with an adjustment to college life. The predictable rhythm of days filled with high school class and parental monitoring can give way to varied class schedules and curfew-less nightlife. Sleep also had recent attention in an NCAA report finding that swimmers had the highest use of sleep aids among college athletes. (Swimmers Biggest Users of Sleep Aids in NCAA

      Nutrition: Many programs have resources beyond what is offered in high school (athletic department nutritionists and athlete dining), but as with sleep, the onus is still largely on the swimmer to make good choices independently. (see Swimming Nutritional Program, Peri Workout Nutrition, Dr. Mougios interview, Dr. Rosenbloom interview, Dr Carvalho interview) In the same report cited above, college swimmers (especially females) were shown to have among the highest uses of nutritional supplements compared to other college athletes. 

      Training: Generally, swimmers will choose a program that is compatible with how their bodies historically respond to training. Kids with high yardage, lower intensity backgrounds will be more drawn to similar college programs. Likewise, kids with high intensity backgrounds may favor similar training at the college level. Still, despite recruiting overtures, not every match is perfect, leading some swimmers requiring more time for adjustment in the pool. Communication is key, as some coaches believe their "one-size-fits-all" program is beyond reproach, meaning that any poor performance is the swimmers fault in their eyes! 

      Little fish, big pond. For kids coming from nationally recognized clubs and who have major national and international meet experience, this is less of a shock having been in the water regularly with swimmers better than them. But for those in smaller programs and with more fragile mindsets, it can be a shock. Now, this reaction is perfectly normal and many swimmers do get more comfortable. Unfortunately though, many do not and fail to meet expectations. It is critical to see being surrounded by faster swimmers as an opportunity for growth, not a blow to the ego! 

      Travel: again, probably less adjustment for kids with national and international experience, but the frequency of out of state travel can be a new stressor, even for kids who have international experience. Finding yourself constantly on a bus or plane with school assignments looming is a different type of stress than big international trips during summer vacation. The frequent travel can also compound with other responsibilities, leading to…

      Academics, Social: It might seem odd to lump these two areas together, but both share the common theme of being non-swimming factors with the potential to heavily impact swimming. As with other factors, these too will depend on how the swimmer chooses to react to his/her new environment. History has shown that many swimmers can strike an effective balance, but it does take planning and the right mindset.


      The transition to the collegiate level is an exciting challenge for all. NCAA swimming represents some of the fastest swimming on the planet. Freshmen can establish a foundation for a successful swimming career by entering school with right mindset and by knowing where the most critical challenges reside. 

      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.

      Friday Interview: Dr. Lizzie Hibberd Discusses Swimmer's Shoulder Prevention

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

      Hello all! My name is Lizzie Hibberd and I am currently serving as an Assistant Professor and the Director of the Athletic Training Research Laboratory in the Department of Health Science at The University of Alabama. I received my B.A. and M.A. degrees in Athletic Training from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2008 and 2010) and received a Ph.D. in Human Movement Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2014.

      My interest in athletic training began when I was in high school. After injuring my shoulder and relying on the help of athletic trainers for evaluation and rehabilitation, I began working as a student athletic trainer. From my experience as an injured athlete and working as a student athletic trainer, I chose to attend UNC-Chapel Hill and started in the Athletic Training Program. After undergrad, I stayed at UNC and worked as a graduate assistant athletic trainer for UNC’s Swimming and Diving and JV Basketball teams. As soon as I began working with the UNC Swim Team, I realized there was a huge gap in the literature about prevention, assessment, and treatment of swimming related shoulder injuries. In order to improve the quality of care for athletes and advance the profession through evidence-based medicine, I continued my education in the Human Movement Science Program. While in the program, my research focused on injury biomechanics and injury prevention in overhead athletes- primarily swimming and baseball.

      2. You have been the predominant researcher in the US on swimming shoulder injuries. What have been your pieces and interest in the sport?
      My interest in the sport developed when I was working as an athletic trainer with the UNC Swimming Team. This was really my first exposure to the sport, where I understood the demands that were placed on the athlete. The first few months were definitely a huge learning curve for me to really understand the training and the culture of the sport. During this time, I developed such an appreciation for a sport that very few people know anything about. As I was treating athletes and trying to develop injury prevention programs, I discovered that there was a huge gap in the literature related to swimming injuries. From this experience, I decided that I wanted to focus on clinically applicable research to improve the quality of care for swimmers and other overhead athletes and began my research career on injury biomechanics and injury prevention. During this time, I have worked with youth, collegiate, and masters swimmers both in clinical and research capacities.

      3. For your paper regarding the general rehabilitation program and scapular stability (dyskinesia), what did you look at?
      For this paper (Effect of a 6-Week Strengthening Program on Shoulder and Scapular-Stabilizer Strength and Scapular Kinematics in Division I Collegiate Swimmers), we looked at the effect of a shoulder injury prevention program on physical characteristics in collegiate swimmers during the training season. The injury prevention program that we used was adapted from exercises that have been shown to be effective for injury prevention or strengthening scapular stabilizing musculature in baseball players. The characteristics that we looked at as part of this project were glenohumeral range of motion, scapular kinematics, posture, shoulder and scapular stabilizer strength, and pain score.

      4. What were the main results?
      In this project, we found that overall all swimmers moved in to greater forward shoulder posture and altered scapular kinematics that promote impingement regardless of group assignment. The strengthening program that was used in this paper was not robust enough to counteract the demands of the training load during the training season.

      5. How could the rehabilitation programs prescribed be improved?
      From the results of this study, the biggest places for improvement is on the timing of implementation. While most swimmers take a short rest period before their training season, this may be the most beneficial time to complete an injury prevention program. During the training season, the fatigue they experience from high training loads increases their risk for the development of injury. Completing a strengthening program prior to this heavy training would put the athlete in better position to mitigate the demands of the training. During the training season, a maintenance program should be completed with a greater emphasis on stretching.

      Also, the findings of this study highlighted the importance of research specific to swimmers. Many times all overhead athletes are grouped into the same category and programs that are effective for baseball players are automatically applied to swimming. The demands and adaptations are unique to each overhead sport, and research is needed specific to each sport to best help the athlete.

      6. You had another study monitoring shoulder pain via questionnaire in club swimmers. What were the main results of this study?
      In this study (Practice Habits and Attitudes and Behaviors Concerning Shoulder Pain in High School Competitive Club Swimmers), we looked at 13-18 year old competitive swimmers that are training on the top training level at their clubs in order to understand the culture of swimming. We found that these adolescent club swimmers have a high frequency of practices, comparable to collegiate and professional swimmers. They believe that shoulder pain is normal and should be tolerated to complete practice and are regularly taking pain medication in order to manage their pain so that they can complete practice yardage.

      On the plus side, we found an association between the swimmers' attitudes and behaviors, which indicates that interventions that educate the swimmers, coaches and parents may be effective in changing their attitudes and ultimately their behaviors, and potentially changing these cultural norms.

      7. As a PT, these results really upset me. What were your thoughts on the incidence of pain and current practice?
      From working clinically with swimmers, I was not surprised that training with shoulder pain is the cultural norm in competitive swimmers. Currently, the training demands in these youth athletes are tremendous and so far, there is only anecdotal evidence that these training methods are effective. This high volume of training leads to alterations in physical characteristics that predispose swimmers to shoulder pain and injury. In the future, I hope coaches and researchers partner to identify training methods that maximize performance while minimizing injury risk. This will take a lot of collaborative work, but I will be imperative in preventing these injury and making evidence-based practice and injury prevention guidelines.

      8. If a swimmer is having pain in their shoulder in practice, in your opinion, what should the coach do?
      I think the biggest thing that the coach can do is make it known that injury prevention and awareness is a priority. It seems like many of the swimmers that I have previously worked with (across levels) are afraid to tell their coach or don’t even think that it is something they should report because shoulder pain has been normalized in the sport. It would be beneficial for coaches to have education sessions with their athletes, or even better bring in a sports medicine professional, to talk about shoulder pain and injury prevention.

      If an athlete does report true shoulder pain, where they are having pain and altering their stroke mechanics in order to complete the necessary yardage, the coach should remove the athlete from practice for that session, have then kick (not with a kickboard because that is impingement position!), or have them do some type of cardio out of the water. Removing from practice is only one part of the solution, though. The coach should talk with the athlete to determine what bothers them and evaluate how dryland training, weights, or specific swimming drills may be contributing to their pain. Making these alterations would benefit that specific athlete, but also others who are not reporting their pain. It would also be imperative for this athlete to begin a rehab program- which is where a sports medicine professional (physician, athletic trainer, or physical therapist) would be crucial.

      9. Recently, you were part of a study monitoring stroke biomechanics in college swimmers. What did this study look at and find?
      In this study (Prevalence of Freestyle Biomechanical Errors in Elite Competitive Swimmers), we evaluated the prevalence of biomechanical stroke errors in collegiate swimmers using underwater cameras. We focused primarily on freestyle, because of the heavy training load in the freestyle stroke regardless of stroke specialty. Both coaches and an athletic trainer graded each swimmer based on the defined errors. The biomechanical errors that we defined were a dropped elbow during the pull-through phase, a dropped elbow during the recover phase, an eyes-forward head-carrying angle, incorrect hand position during hand entry, incorrect hand entry angle, incorrect pull-through patter, and inadequate body roll. We found a high prevalence of errors in these elite swimmers, with dropped elbow during the pull-through and the recovery phases with the highest prevalence. We also found relationship between dropped elbow during recovery and improper hand entry position and angle and eyes-forward heady carrying angle with incorrect pull-through pattern. This indicates that presence of one of these errors is related to having an additional error.
      10. Did these results surprise you?
      Not really. From previous work that we have done, most youth athletes believe that there is not enough time spent on technique work in practice. I think there is so much emphasis on the number of yards that the quality of the yards is sometimes put aside. Further, the errors that we identified were from a variety of coaching and biomechanical literature, but to our knowledge a comprehensive list of stroke errors related to injury had not previously been created. Finally, some of the coaches the evaluated the videos commented that while they understood why this was biomechanical error, performance-wise it was how they taught the stroke. This is another area of opportunity for biomechanists and coaches to work together to identify ways to maximize performance while minimizing injury risk.

      11. What steps can be made for improving biomechanics in college swimmers?
      In my opinion, the biggest way to improve biomechanics is to put an emphasis on it in age-group swimming. It is hard to change the motor patterns of a collegiate swimmer, who may have been swimming with a certain stroke for 13+ years. However, if you do have an athlete that you want to focus on changing their stroke, I believe video is one of the most important tools for the athlete. Many athletes, and especially swimmers because they rarely get to see their stroke, respond well underwater video where they see the problem in their stroke, as well as have their progress tracked as they make the change. While there are many expensive software and cameras out there for this, things like GoPros and even iPhones with an underwater case may be adequate as a beginning step in film evaluation.

      12. Same question, but with age-group swimmers?
      This is the place where there is the greatest opportunity for installing proper swimming mechanics and making changes! An emphasis on proper stroke regularly during practice, individual work if necessary, video analysis, and modeling of proper strokes is imperative at this age. Ensuring proper mechanics before moving on to high yardage is critical.

      13. What research or projects are you currently working on or should we look from you in the future?
      I recently completed a project tracking youth swimmers over the course of their training season to identify what physical characteristics change during the training season and how this relates to alterations in pain levels and another project tracking postural changes in collegiate swimmer during the season. The findings from this study will help in developing evidence based injury prevention programs.

      My future research agenda includes: validation of an evidence-based injury prevention program, development of a swimming pain and function survey, prospective analysis of risk factors for injury in competitive swimmers, and research on training load and recovery. All of these areas/projects will hopefully help in maximizing performance while minimizing injury risk in competitive swimming!

      Thank you for the opportunity to discuss my research with you! Please feel free to contact me with questions, research ideas, or comments.

      Elizabeth Hibberd, PhD, ATC
      The University of Alabama
      483 Russell Hall
      Box 870311
      Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0311