Strength Training Camps Improve a Young Swimmer's Performance

Young athletes can improve performance with strength training camp

high school swimmer doing butterfly
high school swimmer doing butterfly. Getty Images Kelly Sillaste

There is no shortage of camp options for kids of all ages. Depending on what your child’s interests are and your budget is, you can find everything from weekend camps to day activities, and week-long adventures. Are you choosing the right one? When choosing a camp for your swimmer, make sure it is tailored to your swimmer’s needs. Strength training, nutrition, performance, and balance should all be on the agenda when choosing a strength training program for young swimmers.

Meeting the Demands of Youth Sports

Youth sports are often seasonal, which means kids have to take time off when the coaches take time off or the season comes to a close. You know what it’s like when kids are home from school for three months for summer break. Their brains, their attention,and their school-day stamina suffer when school starts back up. The same happens to young athletes.

When young athletes -or any athletes - take time off an extended period of time, training starts all over again. Athletes lose the stamina, the strength, the endurance, and the muscle memory to improve performance. I am not saying kids must never miss practice. The goal isn’t to tire them out; it is to keep them conditioned and ready. Doing so prevents injuries, muscle loss, fatigue, and exhaustion. A few ways to keep kids motivated and conditioned include the issues include swimming camps, weekend camps, off-season teams, youth camps, and strength training programs.

Benefits of Strength Training for Young Athletes

First, it is important to talk about the myth that strength training is not safe for young athletes. The truth is: it is not safe for athletes to compete and train without strength training and the skills it provides young athletes. If you think strength training is “pumping iron” at the gym, excessive weight-bearing workouts, and benching, you have a misguided understanding of strength training.

Strength training is a combination of resistance training and weight-bearing exercises that improve strength and muscle efficiency. Strength training can include everything from push-ups and free weights to body-bearing exercises and resistance bands.

Strength training provides young athletes with many benefits to improve long-term health and performance.

  • Improves recovery time
  • Increases muscle tone and strength
  • Builds strong ligaments and bones
  • Improves bone density
  • Provides youth with lifelong skills for health and fitness

Youth swimmers benefit from strength training because of the physical demands through which their bodies and minds go. Yes, swimming is one of the safest sports for any athlete, but that does not mean it is without its risks.

Demands of Swimming

Consider for a moment the day in the life of a developing swimmer – or any swimmer. Swimmers rarely suffer from concussions and the dangers of contact sports, but they do put their bodies through the wringer. Youth swimmers experience all of the following demands when they train and compete:

  • Early morning training and competitions
  • Hours of rigorous training
  • Mental attention, as well fatigue
  • Resistance against muscles, bones, and ligaments
  • Repetitive overhead movements, which can lead to swimmer’s shoulder and premature disability
  • Excessive energy demands

Swimmers cannot meet the demands of swimming without a well-rounded training plan and advice from a skilled coach or trainer. It is important that parents don’t toss their young swimmers into any camp or program, and definitely don’t do an internet search to create a “workout plan” for young athletes without any professional guidance. Youth swimmers need stable and guided strength-training regimens that meet the demands of performing in the pool. Not every program can provide athletes with that type of expertise and specific attention to the individual sport.

5 Considerations When Choosing a Strength Training Program

When choosing a strength-training program for young athletes – especially young swimmers – consider a few important tips to improve your child’s performance and agility, to protect their health, and to keep them safe in their sport.

1. Is it a well-rounded program?

When choosing a strength training program for your swimmer, remember it is not all about either the swimming or the strength. It is about both, and much more. A well-rounded program should address the needs of the swimmer, from fitness to nutrition. A well-rounded strength training program will address speed and power training, hypertrophy and injury prevention, goal setting and achievement, and balance, in addition to strength training.

2. What type of training do the coaches have?

This is critical. What qualifies the person coaching or training your young athlete to take on such a task? When choosing a strength training program for your child, make sure the person, or people, instructing is qualified, educated and experienced in the field. Don’t drop your child off at any program or camp without first understanding who is teaching and what their background is in the field.

3. Is it safe?

There are many things to consider regarding safety. You have to consider safety of the establishment as well as physical safety That is why the first two points I mentioned are so important. You need to understand what safety measures are in place at the facility as well as the safety training the coaches have received.

Physical safety is possible only if the trainers provide athletes with proper guidance, feedback, support, progressions and supervision. Any swim coach can teach strokes, technique, and starts, but is the same coach qualified to educate swimmers about strength training technique, progressions, weight, and resistance? Probably not. Your best bet is to find someone or a team of people who has both skills.

4. Is it effective?

An effective strength training camp or program will address the needs of the swimmer. For that reason, not all exercises or programs will do. Strength training for swimmers should be evidence based, not a weight-lifting free-for-all. An effective dryland program is training for the water, not lifting for bulk.

5. Is it progressive?

Strength training for youth swimmers must be a progressive program. The goal is strength, improved flexibility, injury prevention, and improved overall performance, but none are possible if the strength training program isn’t progressive and tailored to meet the demands and skill set of individual swimmers. There must be progression of the exercises and continuity of different muscle groups. This helps swimmers build up to a desired goal instead of thrusting them into an unsafe situation.

When you are choosing a strength training program for your young swimmer, as you can see, there is a lot to consider. Hopefully this has made it easier for you. At COR, we know swimmers and we know fitness, which means the programs address all the needs and concerns of swimmers, and we make it fun.

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