Plyometrics, an intense, high-impact form of exercise, relies on elasticity to build the speed, power and strength of muscular contractions. Exercises include jumps, ball work and box work. The moves can be effective for swimmers who want to improve their speed, acceleration and transition times from the starting block to the water through explosive, powerful movements.
Benefits of Plyometrics for Swimmers
A 2011 study by F.J. Potdevin and associates analyzed the benefits of a two-month plyometric exercise program in young swimmers. Swimmers who completed 20 to 25 minutes of plyometrics focusing on the lower body twice a week had greater improvements in velocity, acceleration and jumping than those who did not do plyometrics as part of their training.
Starting Block Benefits for Swimmers
The National Federation of State High School Associations notes that research indicates plyometrics may improve performance in the pool by up to 15 percent because the exercise increases peak power and allows swimmers to push a greater distance off the starting block. The explosive strength built through plyometrics also enables swimmers to transit more quickly through the water when they enter the pool. This means that swimmers who do plyometrics can more quickly transition off the starting block and into the pool.
A Beginner's Plyometric Workout for Swimming
The National Federation of State High School Associations offers a beginner's plyometric workout for swimmers that starts with two-foot ankle hops, which require the swimmer to hop continuously in place with the feet shoulder-width apart. Next, the routine calls for swimmers to do 60 repetitions of tuck jumps, an intense move that requires the knees to be brought up to the chest while jumping. This routine continues with 60 squat jumps, which require the swimmer to start in a regular squat position, then leap vertically before repeating the move with no break between movements. Next, swimmers do 75 standing jumps over a box or other object. With the feet a little more more than hip-width apart, the swimmer squats slightly before jumping sideways over a box, landing in the squat position. The move should be quickly repeated with no rest between jumps. The routine ends with a set of 90 box jumps, which require the swimmer to jump straight up and land on a box no more than 30 inches high. The swimmer should land softly before jumping back onto the box quickly. Swimmers should start with a box about 12 inches high before moving to a taller, more challenging, box.
Plyometric Ball Exercises for Swimming
Although a workout with a plyometric ball is done on dry land, it works the major muscle groups needed by swimmers for explosive starts and fast finishes, according to Dr. Donald Chu, Ph.D. Using a plyometric ball, or medicine ball, these exercises provide resistance that builds strength. Swimmers should perform these exercises for one minute apiece to improve overall body tone and endurance. Dr. Chu's recommended routine includes crunches (holding the ball on your chest while lying down and raising the ball to your knees), reverse crunches (holding the ball between your legs and bringing your legs toward your shoulders), pullover crunches (holding the ball overhead), trunk twists, Supermans with flutter kicks (lying on your stomach with the ball behind your head), “V” ups, hip rolls, pullover crunches with alternating toe touches and pullovers to a straight leg.
- Donald Chu, Ph.D.: Plyometric Training for Speed Swimmers
- Swimming Science: Plyometrics Improve Athletes
- NFHS Coaching Today: Incorporating Plyometric Training to Improve Your Swimmer's Start
- Binghampton University: Plyometric Exercises - Examples and How to
- PubMed Health: Effects of a 6-week Plyometric Training Program on Performances in Pubescent Swimmers
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