Rather than simply doing more and more laps, is it possible that the right strength training techniques can improve swim performance?
That's what researchers in the US set out to discover. While it's clear that strength and power are important predictors of swim performance, it has never been established what are the optimal strength training techniques for swimmers.
The researchers studied 10 highly trained male swimmers, who were typically swimming about 5600 metres of intervals daily.
The swimmers continued their regular swimming, but in addition, one group performed a 'regular' weight training regime (consisting of lat pull downs, leg extensions, leg curls, bicep curls, triceps extensions and bent arm flyes), while the others performed weight assisted dips and pull ups three times per week.
While over the 12 weeks there were no differences between the two groups in lean body mass or per cent body fat, the dip and pull up group improved their 25 yard front crawl time by 0.3 seconds, from 11.2 to 10.9 seconds, while the other group showed no improvement.
This might not sound like much, but it is an improvement of 2.5%, which for well-trained competitors is highly significant - it is the difference between a podium finish and an also ran.
Researchers speculated that the results may be due to the similarity between dips and pull ups and typical swimming motions, which means that they are better at improving actual swim performance.