The tapering strategy used by many swimmers to optimize competition performance has been defined as "a progressive non-linear reduction of the training load during a variable period of time, in an attempt to reduce the physiological and psychological stress of daily training and optimize sports performance" (Mujika & Padilla 2000). The aim of the taper before the main competitions of the season is to elicit substantial improvements in performance. These performance gains have been variously attributed to increased levels of muscular force and power (Trappe et al. 2000), and improvements in neuromuscular, hematological, and hormonal function, and/or the psychological status of the swimmer (Mujika & Padilla 2000).
The main features of this phase are maintaining an active approach with at least three low- to moderateintensity aerobic swims completed each week, specialized programs to target weaknesses in individual fitness profiles, and dietary control to maintain body composition.
There are few studies that have directly addressed the issue of the most effective program for swimmers to follow during the off-season or in short breaks from training and competition.
There is, however, a significant body of literature that details the Lime course of training adaptations with training and loss of fitness during detraining (Counsilman & Counsilman 1991; Mujika & Padilla 2000). A typical strategy for the off-season involves a marked 50-70% reduction in the frequency, volume, and intensity of training.
The following is an example of the features of periodization that may encompass a typical 14-week swimming preparation fora national championships or major international meet.
As in most training programs the initial phase involves the development or reestablishment of endurance fitness. This serves as the basis for the subsequent development of aerobic and anaerobic capacities and the functional utilization of these capacities. Functional utilization refers to increased swimming speed at a given metabolic load. Apart from the underlying physiological adaptations, improved endurance will lead to an increased ability to cope with fatigue and more rapid recovery from the stresses of speed training and competition. In particular, the aim is to develop the capacity and efficiency of the cardiorespiratory system.
A creative approach to the planning of training sessions is essential to maintain an adequate adaptation stimulus. Once the various cycles are organized within the season or yearly plan, the detailing of individual training sessions can begin.
Some coaches make the mistake of not properly integrating speed and endurance in the training pro- gram. This is particularly evident in the endurance phase where too great an emphasis on the volume of training may impair speed. It is an oversimplification to think that only low to moderate intensity volume work is undertaken in an "endurance" week or phase, and that only speed work is done in a "speed" week. If insufficient speed work is undertaken during the endurance phase, a swimmer may pay the price later on when they are unable to reproduce race or competitive speeds. Conversely, swimmers may become overloaded and prone to fatigue, illness, and injury if they do too much speed work without the benefits of some complementary endurance training. Highly trained swimmers can use endurance training to recover from and prepare for speed training.
Over the pasl 10 years. the factors that contribute ta swimming successlully at top national and international competitions have been analyzed by leading sports scientists such as Dr Bruce Masan of Ihe Australien Instilule of Sport. Competilion analysis breaks down racing into its various components.
Males tend to swim faster than females. Women have higher percentage of body fat than men, whereas men have more muscle weight. This results in women floating better and showing a greater swimming economy, 30 % lower energy cost than men have been reported (McArdle, Katch and Katch 1996).
Swimming power and especially upper body strength have been demonstrated to be crucial to success in sprint swimming. 86% of one's performance in a 25-m front crawl sprint result from the swimmers' strength and the ability to develop power. For the competitive distance swimmer the strength component is less. At 100, 200, and 400m, the contribution of muscular strength drops to 74, 72 and 58%, respectively. During slow, low-intensity swimming most of the muscle force is generated by slow twitch fibers. As the muscle tension requirements increase, the fast twitch fibers are incorporated. In sprint events (50-200m) demanding maximal strength, the second group of fast twitch fibers sets in. The tendency is that swimmers have higher percentage of slow twitch muscle fibers in their shoulders and particularly musculus deltoideus. However, muscle fiber composition appears not to be a deciding factor in successful competition. Swimming is performed almost totally with concentric contractions (Costill, Maglischo and Richardson 1992).
The coach is an important person with his or her ability to observe and make subjective assessments of performance. But there is also a need to have objective measurements, being more valuable in giving some dimension to the result, e.g. time, distance, score (McLatchie 1993). The physiological tests are designed to follow the swimmer's physical capabilities, improvements achieved, and to assist in planning the training program (Costill, Maglischo and Richardson 1992). Total fitness consists of strength, speed, flexibility and endurance, and all of these aspects should be evaluated.
The following points should be considered before assessing fitness:
The initial position in freestyle is on the breast, with both arms stretched to the front and the legs extended to the back.
The arm movement in freestyle is alternating, i.e., while one arm is pulling/pushing, the other arm is recovering. The arm strokes also provide most of the forward movement in freestyle. The move can be separated into three parts, the pull, the push, and the recovery.
From the initial position, the arm sinks slightly lower and the palm of the hand turns 45 degree with the thumb side of the palm towards the bottom. This is called catching the water and is in preparation for the pull. It also gives the muscles a brief rest during swimming. The pull movement follows a semicircle with the elbow higher than the hand and the hand pointing towards the body center and downward. The semicircle ends in front of the chest at the beginning of the ribcage." frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>
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