When analyzing the sport of swimming, you'll notice that there are very few times a swimmer will pass below 90 degrees in a squat-like pattern. When looking at squat patterns in swimming, the most glaring one surfaces when looking at the turn at the wall. The next one is a bit of a hinge/squat combo off of the start.
When you realize that there are not many moments of a full depth squat in swimming, a question can arise?
Should swimmers squat to depth?
This is totally a fair question and definitely deserves discussion. Here's my take on why swimmers should squat to full depth. I'd love to see your feedback on this topic! Definitely comment below and let's keep the conversation going!
For the sake of this post, squatting to depth means anything under a 90 degree squat.
Think about the total athlete!
The biggest point I urge you to think about is that you should strive to develop as a resilient athlete, not just as a swimmer. This includes being able to squat to depth. I think we fall short on seeing what being able to squat to full depth means outside of just the movement itself.
Being able to squat to depth without pain shows that you have the mobility, stability, and body awareness needed to complete a multitude of movements. Your joints have proper range of motion and you are able to show control over your physiology which is of the highest importance in sports performance. Yes, we are talking about one movement. However, the skills that this movement shows extends well past the movement itself.
As an age group athlete, you should strive to improve your athletic base. Think of this as the base of your pyramid. The wider the base, the higher the potential peak with later success.
As a masters athlete, you are often fighting the effects of a desk bound athlete. Striving to be able to squat to depth is a great measure of your body wellness that will extend past your time in the water.
Unless you have some structural damage that hinders your ability to squat, I urge you to assess yourself, figure out where your limitations are, and strive for better.
Let's take a breaststroke athlete for example, breaststroke has a high level of internal rotation. I see a lot of comments of breaststroker knees and the pain associated with this stroke. Squats require more external rotation and can help balance out the abundance of breaststroke. The squats can help you develop stability around the knee and keep the pain at bay.
Not a breaststroker, that's ok. Let's look at your flip turn and start. If you turn and your knees dive in towards each other, you're not maximizing equal and opposite reactions. Keeping the joints stacked and pressing towards your desired direction will help you be more efficient with your force production and direction. Also, knees diving in off of your starts and walls will give you an unpleasant achy feeling eventually.
Also, do you have hopes of swimming in college? Be prepared to squat to depth as part of your strength & conditioning program. Mastering this skillset earlier will save you delays in your training as you transition to the next level.
Think about your point in season.
Do you have a shot at the 2020 Olympics? Awesome, but guess what? We are still a ways out. You should be engaging in quality training but more "general" training at this point in the Olympic cycle. As you get closer to the Olympic year, specificity should definitely increase, but do not jump the gun!
Would 1/4 or 1/2 squats be helpful to dial in the last bit of performance for starts and walls, sure. Should it be the only thing you focus on, NO. Use the specifics when you need them but develop your athletic base first.
There's a reason the basics are the foundation for future success. Progress with a cracked foundation, and your performance will eventually bite the dust.
I love hearing Jason Calanog talk about Caeleb Dressel's training. There's a lot of talk about making him a good athlete and well-rounded swimmer first. The specialization will come later in his career. When I walk around age group clubs in the US, I hear a lot of younger kids already claiming their specialties and refusing to swim other events. Imagine if Caeleb was told he was only going to be a sprint freestyler at a young age and trained as such.. We wouldn't even get to witness the greatness that is occurring.
Play the long game.
Here's where it gets really exciting! Swimming is evolving so rapidly right now. From new dryland methods to advances in technique, the sport is changing by the day.
This is also leading to a larger window of performance for swimmers.
Masters swimming is FAST! Athletes in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60+ are rewriting swimming history as we speak.
Don't cut the corners with your training. For the squat, strive for full depth and use the 1/4 and 1/2 options to get more specific at calculated moments. Take pride in being a full athlete and mastering the beauty of a full depth squat.
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