Swim minnows, swim! When I was 8, my mom told me the key to fast swimming was to pretend a shark was chasing me. Since I didn’t want to lose any toes, I kicked and pulled like crazy…and won 99.9% of my races. The top-secret training tip from my mom was enough to make me swim fast at 8, but it surely wasn’t enough to ensure top-notch swimming as I matured as an athlete.
What swimmers do out of the pool is equally as important as in the pool. In high school, my swim coach wrote the dryland workouts which consisted of seated wrist curls, seated biceps curls, one million crunches, and 2 million stretch cord pulls. In college, we were smarter; we did 2 million cable pulls while lying face down on a ‘swim bench.’ In the weight room, the football S&C coach wrote our program, which consisted of things like bench press, leverage leg press machine, and lat pull down machine. I was as strong as any other female athlete and put on 25 lbs my freshman year, but it didn’t translate into the pool.
I also had tennis elbow, ulnar nerve damage, and chronic hip flexor and low back pain. Was it because of a lack of “standing up to train” and purposeful, core-centric exercises? We trained hard in the pool and then exhausted any remaining energy out of the water on random exercises. Swimming superseded everything else. ‘Specialty Coaches’ coached in isolation. Pool sessions were not planned in conjunction with the other facets of functional training, nor were our dryland or weight sessions programed to make us more durable and resilient athletes.
We are better now! The effects of research combined with progressive, collaborative training plans are obvious. Swimming is getting crazy fast. When a blink is the difference between winning a medal or leaving empty-handed, can you imagine how imperative it is for specialty coaches to work together as a connected unit with the same end goal versus training in isolation. Hmmm, sound familiar? Coaches have more information and swimming is charging forward. The exercises I see our elite swimmers post on social media are performed with precision. Every exercise makes sense. Michael Phelps certainly looks cool pulling a sled with TRX straps and doing a TRX Single Arm Power Pull while holding a kettlebell in his free hand, but I’m positive his training plan doesn’t consist of throwing darts in the dark. Every rep is programmed with purpose.
The Suspension Trainer is an effective tool with a definitive purpose in a dryland program. When I train swimmers, I select exercises that bring awareness to alignment and that challenge my athletes to maintain an ‘active plank.’ I want them to feel connected all the way from fingers to toes on land, because it is difficult to feel that in a fluid environment. No active plank, no power!
I have a few favs that I use with swimmers:
1) The TRX Resisted Rotation hones in on good posture while connecting the hips and lats in order to manage rotational forces…think about how hard it is to rotate well from side to stomach in a streamline position coming off turns.
Adjust your Suspension Trainer to Mid length. Stand sideways to anchorpoint amd align right shoulder with anchor point, bring hands to chest. Place right foot forward, left foot slightly to the rear. Grip the handle with your left hand, placing the right hand over the left for additional stability. Maintain a strong plank while rotating towards the anchor point keeping the right foot firmly planted on the ground. Lower your body until your arms are fully extended. Keeping the arms extended and straight, press into the right foot, rotate at the waist and raise your body toward the anchor point. Bring hands back to chest before starting next rep.
2) The TRX Power Pull is a great rotational exercise to teach power transfer from the hips to the pull…think long axis: Free and Back.
Adjust Suspension Trainer ® to Mid Length. Stand Facing towards the Anchorpoint. Working hand beside chest, free hand reaches up TRX main strap toward anchor point, drop shoulders down. In a circular motion, rotate free arm toward the ground while extending working arm, keep hips square. Drive working elbow straight back while rotating free arm up toward anchor point.
3) The TRX Superman is an explosive exercise that requires powerful legs and core, specifically hips and shoulders…think about a start and how hard it is to maintain body line due to the forces upon entry….also think short axis: Fly and Breast.
In a few weeks, we will watch the fastest swimming in the history of the world. Gone are the training plans where coaches solely communicated within their own circles. The Olympic rings are much like the current coaching model: concentric circles whose connection means something bigger than each one in isolation. Our training philosophy has evolved into something stronger and better and the record-breaking performances in the pool are the proof in the pudding. The sharks no longer chase us. We chase them.
Fully Lengthen your Suspension Trainer. Stand facing away from anchor, elbows at side,
hands in front of shoulders, palms out, lean forward and place weight on balls of feet. Drop tailbone toward heels. Drive up, extend arms overhead.
About Kari: As a former US National Team Swimmer and Division I Collegiate Swimming Coach, Kari Woodall has trained and competed at the highest levels, and coached others to do the same. She is a TRX Master Instructor, Certified Level II Firefighter, and fitness entrepreneur in Madison, WI. She incorporates her honed coaching techniques, class programming, and leadership skills into her business model where she uses her in-depth experience to create unique and challenging custom programs and boot camps specifically geared towards first responders, swimmers, and triathletes.