One of the highlights of this Olympics,so far, has been Ryan Lochte's impressive win in the 400m IM, including beating Michael Phelps by four seconds, Saturday. In an interview with NBC's John McEnroe, Lochte revealed his fun, active, and outgoing personality (he designed his own sneakers, skateboards, and surfs). Additionally, he explained his unorthodox (for most swimmers) dry land training.
Lochte started working with strength coach Matt Delancey in Gainesville, Florida. With a combination of strongman training (tire flipping, keg throws, and farmer's walks), traditional barbell work (squats, cleans, and presses), and plyometrics (box hops) Lochte developed his overall strength and power.
Lochte told McEnroe, "I got a lot stronger," when asked about what was different about his current training. Combined with his regular swim training, the added strength, just may have been the difference this Olympics.
Getting stronger can benefit most athletes, even ones that appear well-conditioned. There are a few reasons why this is true.
1.) Specific skill training (in this case, swimming in the pool) can strengthen an athlete to a certain point. But, you need stable-surface strength training to continue to overload muscles and get even stronger. In swimming, the buoyancy of the body in water limits the loads that can be applied to muscles and joints. Many athletes (not just swimmers) are starting to appreciate the need for strength training to supplement their skill training/practice. At HTS, it is common to see very skilled athletes come in who are very weak and have developed lots of compensations for this weakness.
2.) Skill and endurance training is energy-demanding and will cause a loss of muscle mass. Training 20-30 hours per week cost a lot of energy. It is not uncommon to see athletes lose significant body weight (including muscle mass) with intense skill and endurance training. Regular strength training (and lots of food) is necessary to prevent or reverse loss of muscle mass.
3.) Proper strength training can off-set some of the adaptations to repetitive stress of sport skill training (such as swimming strokes). Swimmers are notorious for having extremely mobile (and possibly unstable) shoulder joints. Proper strength training can improve the stability of the shoulder joint, shoulder blade, and torso. At HTS, clients are very familiar with these type of exercises, like: Indian club swings, band T', Y's, scarecrows, rows, turkish get-ups, and pull-ups.
The Olympics is a great platform to give the general public a glimpse into what it takes to become an elite-level athlete. Of course, being born with the right genes is the first and most important variable, though good training is the next most important variable. Everyone (including non-athletes) can benefit from becoming stronger with proper strength training. Most of the general public cannot derive the full benefit of exercise because they are too weak to perform it correctly or at an adequate intensity. At HTS, getting stronger (with appropriate technique and resistance) is a primary goal for all clients; it makes all of your body composition, fitness, performance, and health goals so much easier to attain. Plus, it is fun!