Maybe you clicked on this because you’re struggling through a long plateau. How does a TWO YEAR plateau sound? A PR is something to cherish and makes all of the hard work seem worth it. However, the droughts are downright demoralizing at times.
I have to give some love to one of our 1:1 clients, Ansel. Ansel found RITTER Sports Performance a year ago. He was stuck in a miserable plateau. His plateau was going on two years.
As you might expect, a lot of frustration, doubt, and decreased enjoyment were all surfacing. He was working hard and definitely deserving of a PR, but he was having no luck achieving his goals.
Fast forward to today. Ansel has dropped time in multiple meets during his short course and long course season. At one point this summer, he dropped time in FOUR consecutive meets (and 6 of the last 7!)!
What changed? What can you learn from Ansel’s year?
Let’s ignite your PR streak!
Now Ansel was already following a strength training regimen, swam plenty of yardage, and had a solid nutritional approach. This should equal results right?!
How many times have you checked the boxes and thought you should be on the path to a PR? Then you step up to race and you do not quite have the performance you hoped to achieve.
The good news is that this is actually common. What are some steps that can help you right the ship and achieve your next PR?
Sometimes you have to step back to go forward.
The first thing I did was review the strength plan that Ansel was following. It involved a lot of barbell work, heavy lifts, a three week build, and then a power week. Although it all sounded good, there were things missing. We needed to dig deeper.
Why wasn’t the strength translating to better performance in the water?
Ansel completed our on-boarding assessment that we use for 1:1 clients. It all started to make sense.
Ansel was strong but lacked core control. During his first plank test, he could barely hold a plank for a minute. His form started breaking down at the 25 second mark. This was also about the time he noticed a breakdown during his races.
His program was also very sagittal plane dominant.
The sport of swimming is a very repetitive monster. However, the body performs best with a mixture of planar work. This is where resistance training can help complement swim training. Proficiency in all planes of movement helps minimize injuries, maximize coordination, and, prepare you to PERFORM!
I also assessed his ability to move with just his bodyweight. Sometimes a PR is not happening due to your own body getting in the way!
- Could the shoulders move freely through a healthy range of motion?
- Could he squat to depth without pain?
- Could he straighten one leg without assistance?
- Could he balance on one leg?
- Could he do proper push ups?
- Were his pull ups strict or wobbly?
All of these tests provided clues.
Ansel’s first few months were greatly regressed from what he was previously doing. He didn’t touch a barbell for a while.
We focused on increasing active range of motion in the shoulders, mastering the pelvic and spinal stability needed to hold efficient positioning in the water, and he got really good at the basics of movement!
Also, Ansel had to be ATHLETIC! From jumps to side shuffles, Ansel’s programming had focuses of general athleticism.
Swimmers are athletes! Start training like one!
Now, Ansel is using the barbell again. He’s getting stronger by the day. However, taking a step back has propelled his swimming to new heights. By hitting a PR in multiple meets, he is also getting the benefit of confidence!
Check out a few sample exercises below!
Sometimes LESS is MORE.
Here’s where some of you will exit this blog.
After seeing how Ansel was responding to the high volume practices, we knew his plan needed some changes.
Ansel’s dad bravely asked, “Should Ansel swim less?”
In the US, a lot of programs still subscribe to high volume swimming. This does not work for everyone.
We gradually backed Ansel’s yardage down. Then we backed it down even more. Then we decided that he wouldn’t break 2500 yards during the last few weeks headed into Sectionals this summer.
All along, Ansel kept dropping time.
This applies to everyone from age group swimmers to masters level swimmers. QUALITY over QUANTITY!
Some of you are stuck in a rut from swimming too much and not focusing enough on strength, power, technique, and RECOVERY!
Change your thoughts about warm up!
The last little nugget is to change your approach for warming up. Stop swimming to warm up and warm up to swim!
Ansel would do his meet warm up in the water, rest, and then step up to the blocks and race.
We have scrapped this plan for something better suited for a sprinter. Now if you see Ansel pre-race, you might see him jumping, lunging, holding planks, doing push ups, walk outs, and other moves.
He’s priming his body for success! Land based warm ups can provide a potent effect when it is time to race. Time these properly and all the sudden you have an advantage before the race even starts.
When Ansel approached the blocks for his 50 FR at Sectionals, he was SWEATING! This might sound crazy, but muscle loves being warm! Warm=elastic!
The next time you’re stuck in a plateau, take a step back, re-evaluate, and then move forward!
You never know what is waiting for you on the other side! Congrats on your bonus cut, Ansel! Now let’s go get even more!
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