Swim Sci

Swim Sci


Radical Changes are in Order for Swimming Strength and Conditioning Coaches!

I often get asked about the quality of strength coaches in swimming. Unfortunately, I typically have poor remarks and considerations, most pronounced at the collegiate level. This is mainly from the fact that many strength coaches forget their work is intended to complement  the conditioning component of swimming, which should occur in the pool. A true strength AND conditioning coach must complement and understand the conditioning aspect which occurs in the pool. Yet, too many strength coaches are unfamiliar with the unique demands of the sport and provide swimmers a land-based approach for improvement. I'm not saying every strength coach must have swam or competed at an elite level in swimming, but they must be willing to learn about these nuances, spend time on deck, and appreciate the conditioning aspect of the sport. Moreover, strength coaches must look outside the box and acknowledge water-based sports and land-based sports have many differences, specifically the biomechanics and the lack of out-of-water strength correlating with in-water strength.

Opposingly, many coaches, with a background in swimming, do not know enough about strength principles resulting in abstract, nonsensical exercises.Too often these coaches administer conditioning techniques with the hopes of strength gains. Unfortunately, this can contribute to overtraining, injuries, and impaired swimming motor control.

Instead, strength and conditioning coaches must understand the conditioning aspect of the sport, learn the common flaws, and common weak, or injury ridden spots in the pool and then apply their strength training philosophies. Swim coaches must learn the principles of strength training or utilize outside resources who understand the aforementioned principles. As Dr. Rushall has said, “[R]adical changes in swimming coaching are in order!”

By Dr. G. John Mullen founder of the Center of Optimal Restoration, head strength coach at Santa Clara Swim Club, creator of the Swimmer's Shoulder System, and chief editor of the Swimming Science Research Review.

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Does Low Bone Mineral Density Aid Flotation and Enhance Swimming Velocity?

Bone mineral density (BMD) in swimmers has been a topic of debate for numerous years. In research, swimming has been correlated with low BMD (Carbuhn 2010; Guadalupe-Grau 2009;  Mudd 2007). These results are not unfathomable, as swimming is partially gravity assisted. However, this health problem likely increases the risk of acute injuries as well as increasing the risk of osteoporosis and fractures later in life. Yet, position statements on this health risks in swimming do not exist. In 2010, Mullen stated: 

"no matter if you are a male or female swimmer you have a higher risk for osteoporosis. These alterations can be deterred with dryland exercise, as training and nutrition have effects on BMD... As one ages, BMD decreases making it even more important for Master's swimmers to use dryland exercises in their weekly routine."

The lack of stance on the subject of BMD in swimmers suggests minimal concern exists with BMD and swimmers, as long-term health is typically not a concern of governing parties. Similarly, this occurs with the United States pertaining to regulations on sugar toxicity, elegantly discussed by Dr. Lustig in 2009. Simply put, since the risks of low BMD don't surmount until years after swimming, regulations are unlikely to exist.

Moreover, having a high BMD likely impairs swimming horizontal velocity, since a high BMD contributes to sinking. If a swimmer has low body fat and a high BMD they are more likely to sink, opposed to float on the water. Floating isn't a prerequisite for elite swimming, but likely aides to the ease of movement. Those with difficulty floating must expend more energy to stay atop the water. This thought may have crossed the minds of those overlooking the health of swimmers, but poised them not to make a position statement on the risks of low BMD, but I have not heard this case defended. This theory was partially discussed by Rushall (2007) as he noted: 

"Asian Indians are lean "sinkers" because they have little fat and a high percentage of bone and muscle in their physical make-up. On the other hand, the Inuit are fat and round, adaptations that minimize heat loss. That combination also makes them float well. Unfortunately, political correctness will not make this disposition disappear. In some situations, it must be considered."

BMD correlates with flotation. Therefore, a low BMD may increase horizontal swimming velocity by making it easier to float. This acute performance benefit may be the reason no position on the risks of low BMD in swimmers. Yet, the long-term health of swimmers must be considered, especially in the aging athlete. Once again, health and sport are not always correlated (Mullen 2013) and if you are an aging swimmer or someone with recurrent musculoskelal injuries, dry-land and nutritional methods to increase BMD are indicated. Make sure you take responsibility for your health, balancing sporting success with lifelong healthiness. 

    1. Rushall, Brent S. "SWIMMING SCIENCE BULLETIN." Swimming Science Bulletin. N.p., 15 Feb. 2007. Web. 12 Feb. 2013. .
    2. Lustig, Robert H. "Sugar: The Bitter Truth." YouTube. YouTube, 30 July 2009. Web. 12 Feb. 2013. .
    3. Mullen, Gary J. "Bone Mineral Density in Swimmers | Swim Sci." Bone Mineral Density in Swimmers. Swimming Science, 21 July 2010. Web. 12 Feb. 2013. .
    4. Mullen, Gary J. "Science of Performance: Are Morning Workouts Worth the Sleep Deprivation? Part I." Swimming World Magazine. N.p., 4 Feb. 2013. Web. 12 Feb. 2013. .
    5. Carbuhn A, Fernandez T, Bragg A, Green J, Crouse S. Sport and training influence bone and body composition in women collegiate athletes. J Strength Cond Res. Jul 2010;24(7):1710-1717.
    6. Guadalupe-Grau A, Fuentes T, Guerra B, Calbet J. Exercise and bone mass in adults.Sports Med. 2009;39(6):439-468.
    7. Mudd L, Fornetti W, Pivarnik J. Bone mineral density in collegiate female athletes: comparisons among sports. J Athl Train. 2007 Jul-Sep 2007;42(3):403-408.
    8. Velez N, Zhang A, Stone B, Perera S, Miller M, Greenspan S. The effect of moderate impact exercise on skeletal integrity in master athletes. Osteoporos Int. Oct 2008;19(10):1457-1464.
    By Dr. G. John Mullen founder of the Center of Optimal Restoration, head strength coach at Santa Clara Swim Club, creator of the Swimmer's Shoulder System, and chief editor of the Swimming Science Research Review.

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    Pacing 101 for Swimmers

    Pacing 101 for swimmers is an easy to follow instructional manual for pacing various swimming races. This manual only involves one strategy, as one pacing strategy is ideal for all swim races in this writer's opinion.

    You may not believe a 50 and 1500-meter distance race has the same pacing strategy, but remember all that matters is who puts their hand on the wall first.

    Dr. Rushall brought to light the view of poor pacing a few years back with his paper on the Future of swimming: “myths and science”. In this must-read resource, he discusses the poor ideas of pacing continually seen on pool decks. Unfortunately, going out fast, trying to hold on, and dying only lead to fatigue and what I call “Groin Kick Syndrome” is still a common strategy.
    Luckily, equal pacing has become more common, most notably at the Olympics, as most great athletes don’t necessarily finish faster into the wall, but they maintain velocity, as others fatigue [To note, the start will increase velocity, which provides a believed 1.5 - 2 second advantage over the other lengths]. This was even discussed by blogger and coach Chris DeSantis in the 200 breast. I believe pacing 101 for swimmers and the new Omega Ramp Blooks were the main reason for improvements over the past two years. These likely aided in world records being approached and broken once again.

    One main reason going out slower and having a more “even” pace is better than flying and dying is due to the use of creatine phosphate (CP). Many are familiar with the supplement creatine, but certain research makes this compound more intriguing than once thought.

    Energy contribution from the CP system is mainly thought to last for 6 – 10 seconds at the beginning of a race, then diminish. However, studies inducing severe fatigue note CP is still present in the body, therefore CP system never shuts down completely.

    Dr. Maglischo brings to light the fast and slow acting role of CP. He notes CP isn't necessarily used rapidly, if the athlete does not go out too fast early in the race. This increases the amount of CP in the body and allows longer ATP production to hold off off fatigue. Now don't get me wrong, CP isn't the only source of fatigue, as Dr. Maglischo notes:

    “research on reducing the rate of creatine phosphate use during exercise, increasing its rate of restoration after exercise, and the effects of supplementation of this substance on performance, should be accelerated. Research on ways that the rates of accumulation of inorganic phosphate and ADP can be reduced, or mediated, within working muscles during exercise should also become a priority. The possibility that training may also increase their rates of removal from working muscle fibers through either active or passive metabolic procedures is also a topic worthy of study. Likewise, new training techniques that may achieve these effects should also be explored … Finally, we should not dismiss the role of lactic acid in muscular fatigue as inconsequential. After all, at the present time, acidosis has not been absolutely discredited as a cause of muscular fatigue
    (Maglischo 2012)”.

    As you see, pacing 101 for swimmers is becoming more common in elite swimmers. Finding a steady pace and maintaining this speed is critical for success, likely from the maintained use of the increasingly important CP.

    CP isn't the only factor in fatigue, but as swimming is not against gravity, uses a cooling medium, and is rhythmic, CP can likely be used even longer than other sports. The next installment of pacing 101 for swimming discusses methods to delay the onset of fatigue.

    By G. John Mullen founder of the Center of Optimal Restoration, head strength coach at Santa Clara Swim Club, creator of the Swimmer's Shoulder System, and chief editor of the Swimming Science Research Review.

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    Swimming Science Research Review

    Do you want to be a better coach? How about a better swimmer? Then quit reading all the headlines online and stay up-to-date with the latest scientific literature! 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. 

    If you are trying to improve your knowledge for the benefit of the sport, but don't have enough time, this product is for you! Subscribe now for only $10/month! June issue release, June 15th. 

    Click here for a preview of the June 2012 edition.

    1. September 2014 Edition Contents - Rehabilitation
    2. August 2014 Edition Contents - Physiology
    3. July 2014 Edition Contents - Dryland
    4. June 2014 Edition Contents - Nutrition
    5. May 2014 Edition Contents - Biomechanics
    6. April 2014 Edition Contents - Motor Learning
    7. March 2014 Edition Contents - Racing
    8. February 2014 Edition Contents - Dryland
    9. January 2014 Edition Contents - Starts
    10. December 2013 Edition Contents - Low Back Pain
    11. November 2013 Edition Contents - PNF and Dynamic Stretching
    12. October 2013 Edition Contents
    13. September 2013 Edition Contents
    14. August 2013 Edition Contents
    15. July 2013 Edition Contents
    16. June 2013 Edition Contents
    17. May 2013 Edition Contents
    18. April 2013 Edition Contents
    19. March 2013 Edition Contents
    20. February 2013 Edition Contents
    21. January 2013 Edition Contents
    22. December 2012 Edition Contents
    23. November 2012 Edition Contents
    24. October 2012 Edition Contents
    25. September 2012 Edition Contents
    26. August 2012 Edition Contents
    27. July 2012 Edition Contents

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