Varying Your Workout

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Swimming workouts should be varied between easy days and hard days. For competitive speed, it is good to swim at least four days a week; this will help keep stroke efficiency. Swimming days provide good relief for tight muscles generated by running and weight training.

Swimming has some specialized weight training techniques. The primary issue is that swimmers have full range of motion of their arms during exertion. Muscle contraction is fairly constant over the entire arm motion requiring balanced power throughout. Weight training must complement this fact, or muscle tightness develops that actually works against the swimmer (see Chapter 6).

Pulley pulls are excellent weight training techniques for a swimmer. The classic is the lat pull-down station present in virtually all weight rooms and multi-station machines. A better arrangement is for weights and pulley setups to be individualized for each hand. Pulley pulls are "isotonic" and mimic the constant resistance of water. Weights should be kept on the low side, permitting high speed weightlifting of between 1-1.5 seconds per repetition. Hold slightly at the end of each lift to prevent banging weights and getting thrown out of the weight room.

Swimmers use high reps, never less than 10.

Many dedicated swimmers own an Exergenie, which is a truly simple piece of equipment that permits a realistic workout in freestyle or backstroke. It is a nylon line rigged up through a little cylinder that twists the line and provides resistance. This workout is possible even within the confines of a cramped 688 class (40 - 50 reps) can be done daily because the motion is so much like swimming. Thus, it is a portable weight room for swimmers.

Cross training includes canoeing, rowing, kayaking, and cross country skiing.

All of these involve repetitive arm use in a pattern that is generally complementary to a swimmer's stroke. These sports will impart strength to the shoulder and chest muscles that will help your swimming.

Basic stroke mechanics will prohibit you from increasing your respiratory rate (except during backstroke). Because you can't pant, you will quickly become limited by not getting enough oxygen or not getting rid of carbon dioxide before it starts building up. This is different than in running and is the reason for the universal use of interval training in swim training programs. Runners often go out for long steady runs, but a swimmer who trains this way becomes a slow and inefficient swimmer. While operational SEAL swimming is a long, slow activity, it is best for you to acquire a broad base of swimming skills. This will increase your efficiency during SEAL operational swimming.

This section will discuss three main swimming strokes; crawl stroke (usually called freestyle or "free"), breaststroke, and sidestroke. These particular strokes are the most useful to you as a SEAL. Most swimmers use a variety of strokes in a workout to provide cross training and avoid overuse injuries. Skills must be developed over a long period of time in order for the swimmer to become proficient. Good stroke mechanics are not only necessary to develop speed; injury may occur in swimmers from poor technique. A proper stroke may only be developed by getting feedback from others. This factor makes a buddy system or partner coaching an essential component of your training program. Obtain periodic stroke coaching from a qualified instructor - no matter how good you are.

Water causes a large amount of drag on the swimmer's body, thus streamlining becomes extremely important. The key to swimming fast is reducing drag as much as possible while maximizing propulsive forces. One specific technique includes rolling from side to side to clcar high resistance parts of the swimmer's body for arm recovery. Swimming in salt water is faster than swimming in fresh water bccause of the increased buoyancy of the swimmer, reducing resistance. There arc many other subtle ways to reduce water drag in swimming, and learning them is one of the benefits of getting coaching from a qualified instructor or swimming coach.

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