Originally Posted by terry
Ian and Bx are correct in saying we encourage people to do strength and resistance training -- but to avoid attempting to make it 'swim-specific.'
In fact, if there is such a thing as "TI-specific" strength training it's to prioritize muscle groups in this order
1) Spinal stabilizers - the muscles that keep the body aligned -- especially when there are different, and often conflicting, forces being applied to each side of the body. These muscles (1) keep the entire bodyline toned and aligned during the stroke; (2) keep the right side aligned while left side is stroking and recovering; and (3) connect propelling actions to the power-producing weight shift.
2) Secondary movers - the small muscles - mainly in the shoulder - that hold the arm in a high-traction position (we call it the Soft Hook position) during the weight shift. These muscles are small and weak and hard to 'educate.'
3) Prime movers - the large, highly visible muscles that young men admire in the mirror between weight-heaving sets. These are waaay more than strong enough to apply the amount of power/pressure the water can handle in any event above the 50m. They're also strong enough to overwhelm the secondary movers if we apply them full-force. The instinctive tendency to overuse them is very strong and--in nearly all cases--must be UNlearned.
Many swim-specific strength programs have these priorities exactly reversed.
Strengthening the muscles involved in the actual movement is very important. One thing I learned from reading all those materials is that we also need to strengthen other muscles, potentially the muscles that aren't directly involved in the movements. Inbalances in these muscle pairs (agonists and antagonists) can create a lot of problems also, leading to instability and injury.
By strengthen, there are again, 3 components - strength, endurance, and neuromuscular. the most interesting of the 3 is actually neuromuscular. by training with heavier weights, but not necessarily with more reps, one starts activating the neuromuscular system to its fullest. in fact, it is the correct chains of muscles across the entire body that must act in perfect concert to achieve flawless motion. if we have any muscles in the chain that are misfiring or not firing, then problems will inevitably occur.
Our sedentary lives can lead to a wasting away of not only muscles, but the nervous system's ability to fire the chain correctly. by sitting in front of our computers and our TVs, we have literally forgotten how to move!
like Terry mentioned, Prime movers are the territory of body builders, but that is not the best way to build strength. we might feel good looking like Arnold, but functionally we need to look more towards involving the whole body with strength programs rather than just isolating our biceps for big guns.