There’s one thing that absolutely drives me insane in the swimming world. If you’re a fellow performance coach, swim coach, or swimmer, you know this scene all too well. It is anywhere from 1-3 heats before you or your swimmer is set to race. That swimmer is standing behind the blocks (or worse, sitting), arms crossed, as still as can be. On top of being completely still, chances are that the swimmer is also over- analyzing ever bit of the race that is about to occur. Sound familiar? If not, take a look around at the next swim meet you attend. See how many swimmers stand or sit like statues before it is time to race. It drives me insane!
If you ask swimmers and coaches if a warm up is important, a majority will say yes. Yet, we allow such valuable time behind the blocks to go to waste. Racing in the sport of swimming is a high heart rate, high intensity movement. Do you think practicing our best statue pose behind
the blocks sets us up for success? No Think about the start of a swim practice or even the
start of a run. Do you jump right in to the activity and hit a state of control? Does it take you a few minutes to find your rhythm, heart rate to level, and breathing to hit some consistency?
Chances are you relate more to the second question. Our bodies need a bit of time to ramp up to the intensity of the exercise we are completing. Let’s go back to that swimmer who is standing completely still behind the blocks. Besides a nervous heart rate, do you think the swimmer is warm, breathing and oxygen consumption are up to the requirements of the race, blood flow is at a favorable speed, and the mind and muscles are ready to work together at a high level?
Definitely not! The still nature of the pre-race routine is setting us up for failure. All of the sudden it’s race time. The body goes into a state of alarm due to the drastic change in effort and
intensity. We spend half the race or more just trying to catch up. On top of lacking physical preparation for the race, many swimmers sit and think too deeply about the task at hand. Some swimmers even talk themselves out of a performance before hitting the water. A still body and a rapid mind spells disaster. What if there was a way to prepare the body and quiet the mind before a race?
Swimmers and swim coaches underestimate the power of a pre-race dryland routine. Not only does it prepare the body for a higher level of performance, it can distract the swimmer’s mind of the pre-race negativities. Think about the volumes a swimmer experiences over the course of practices, weeks, months, and seasons. A simple 10-20 minute routine is not going to overly fatigue the swimmer. Instead, it will open up the swimmer to hit his or her stride from the first stroke. The swimmer will be much more prepared for the demands of the race and have much less time to let negative thoughts creep in.
You may be sitting here think that there’s no way you’d ever add external weight to a warm up before a race.
What are your concerns?
I’m not going to ask you to set a new personal best for weight lifted before you step up to race. I’m not going to ask you to do 1000 repetitions. Our goal is to get the body warm, have a heart rate response, and get the mind and muscles firing at a high level. Again, 10-20 minutes is not going to derail a race. Also, think about this. Resistance training requires a higher level of muscle recruitment compared to swimming.
What happens when we prepare the body with some resistance before a race? We are above the threshold needed for swimming performance. What does this mean? Swimming becomes the easy part! Think back to school. When you were over-prepared for an exam, did you have confidence or were you worried. You had all the confidence in the world because you knew you were ready to perform. This is what resistance in a warm up can do for a swimmer.
Again, your body is going to be prepared at a higher level than the demands of the race. How does this stack up against a chance of injury? Much more in your favor to be injury free. We also will not be using anything near maximal loads. This greatly reduces chances of injury.
You may get funny looks before the race. However, the end result will leave the competition scratching their heads asking you for your secret. Are you ready for the plan?
Before you show up at a meet and use this warm up, start doing it before practices. This way you have a comfort level before race day. This warm up is equally as important to do before practice due to the injury prevention piece of the equation. Swimming is a very high repetition sport. Too many repetitions with aches, pains, and lack of preparation will result in time missed due to injury.
Think about other sports. Athletes warm up with a dynamic warm up before starting their sport practice. Why do swimmers just hop in without a warm up? Experiencing a lot of injuries on your team?
This may be a point for evaluation. As for equipment, you’ll need one dumbbell or kettle bell (weight 20-40# based on ability) and one resistance band. The Plan: 40-60 Minutes Before a Race
Complete this portion about 40-60 minutes before a scheduled race. This routine requires minimal space and only two pieces of equipment. The goal is to have a light sweat, warm muscles, and elevated breathing rate after completion. You do not need to hop back in the pool before your race after completion. Complete Two Rounds (time: 8 minutes)
- Standing Wall Angels x 12
- Centipede x 8
- Iron Cross x 12 (6 per leg)
- Single Leg Layout x 12 (6 per leg)
- Bodyweight Squat x 12
- Complete Two Rounds (time: 7 minutes)
- Goblet Squat + DB/KB x 8 (3 second lower, FAST back to stand)
- Shoulder Pull Apart Series + Band x 10 (10 each position)
- Hip Hinge + Weight x 8 (3 second lower, FAST back to stand)
- Inchworms x 40 seconds (continuously move for 40 seconds)
- Complete One Round (time: 3 minutes)
- Squat Jumps x 8 (max height each jump)
- Plank Shoulder Taps x 30 seconds
- Single Arm Band Row x 30 seconds (fast tempo)
Aim to complete each section in the allotted time. You or your athletes do not need to rush through the exercises. The goal is to continuously move with minimal rest between exercises. This will result in a warm body and a solid heart rate response. Time Crunch:
If you’re short on time and can’t do the whole routine, aim to get through the first section as is and then drop the second section down to one round. What about behind the blocks?
The Plan: 5-10 Minutes Before a Race
You’re now standing behind the blocks with the heat before yours about to begin. Standing still will drop of the effects of the previous warm up. Complete the following behind the blocks.
Complete One Round (2 minutes):
- Bodyweight Squat x 12
- Centipede x 8
- Squat Jumps x 5 (max height each jump)
Now go race!
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Bo has spent a majority of his life in the water, mainly through a passion of surfing. His other regular athletic endeavors include the sports of basketball, marathon running, swimming, golf, and soccer. Bo has worked with a multitude of ability levels, from beginners to Olympic trials competitors. His training has led him to roles at the Facebook company headquarters as well as with the United States Department of Defense. Bo has completed a B.S. in Kinesiology and a M.S. in Exercise Science. He is also a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA.
check out his Youtube channel:- https://www.youtube.com/user/