Intensity VS volume – Tips for adapting your swimming training

Posted on May 26, 2020 by

The sport of swimming traditionally involves a high volume of total training sessions, particularly when compared with the relatively short duration of a swimming event.

Often swimmers are in the pool 7-9 times a week. As pools around Australia begin to reopen, considerations need to be made on how to best maximise fitness and enhance swimming performance:

1. Increasing the number of swimming training sessions doesn’t necessarily mean a better performance. In fact, research suggests a smaller number with attention on high intensity training sessions may actually improve swimming performance*

2. During these periods of reduced pool availability, 2-3 high intensity training sessions could be appropriate for swimmers looking to maintain their fitness and performance in the pool.

3. Adequate recovery between high intensity training may assist athlete performance, so allowing for recovery when planning training sessions is important. This could mean training on alternate days, with a rest day in between or maintaining low intensity if still swimming.

4. A high intensity training session can be monitored through checking your heart rate (read this information on heart rate monitoring). If you’d describe the session as “very hard” or “maximal” after you’ve completed it – then it’s probably a high intensity training session.

5. An example of a high intensity training session for a swimmer might be anywhere from 8-20 x 50m efforts holding the highest possible average pace throughout all efforts.

  • If you are looking to increase your absolute swimming speed try to swim as fast as possible with good technique, do less total laps and have longer rest between each effort (e.g. 8 x 50m fastest average pace on a 2-4min time cycle).
  • If you want better endurance, reduce the rest between each effort and do more laps (e.g. 20 x 50m on 1min time cycle).
  • Alternating between these two approaches may provide a well-rounded approach to enhance swimming performance.

As always, be sure to seek appropriate medical advice or related health professionals to determine if this program is appropriate for you.

*Nugent FJ, Comyns TM, Burrows E, Warrington GD. Effects of low-volume, high-intensity training on performance in competitive swimmers: a systematic review. J Strength Cond Res. 2017;31(3):837-847.

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