Every task in life offers things we can do to compliment or build strength.
In other words, I am a swimmer, but there are plenty of ways to cross train and condition for improvement. Several club teams with limited water time have found ways to use their conditioning or what swimmers refer to as ‘dry-land’. The results have been astonishing, where most teams tend to consider time in the water as essential (not to mention traditional), these teams have had remarkable time improvements in their athletes.
Conditioning can offer incredible benefits, but there are some things to avoid. These limitations are in terms of stamina, specificity, and bad technique
1) Stamina – understand that your main exercise takes a toll on your body. Do not add extra in all at one time or even at all. Know your limits in terms of time. A long dry land followed by a long primary exercise takes it’s toll on your stamina. As you wear down your technique falls apart or your form for the dry land – both can lead to over use injuries.
2) Specificity – conditioning needs to target particular muscles or groups of muscles that are underused or easily bypassed in the water. The muscles in the abdomen and back are essential foundations for butterfly or freestyle (or if you aren’t a swimmer, for running or cycling). These do not necessarily grow with your speed in freestyle or any stroke. Conditioning then allows you to work muscles that are useful as a foundation in the water, while it allows continued effort in the water.
3) Specificity part 2 – Don’t forget that when you work on certain muscle groups that you weaken them for in the water use. Long runs on the days you do squats or long swims on the days you work your lats, rule those out early.
3) Bad Form – Look, I’ve been told how incredible and beneficial it is to do power cleans and deadlifts, and sure there probably is some benefit. But screw up one time, and you are out for a few months with an injury. Bad technique in the water, in runs, but most especially with weights. High intensity training requires good technique as well.
5) Weekly Fatigue – Consider the longterm effects of what you are doing before you jump in. Doing arm work outs three times a week can have benefits but caries risk as well. When I first started doing conditioning work I wanted to have the same work out three times a week, but that was a mistake. There would have been more benefit to doing different work outs with some similar elements but different emphases through out the week.
These are just basic philosophical guides to the practice of conditioning, but as most athletes will find. You have to figure out what works and doesn’t work for you. Keep good notes that include information about what you did and how your body recovered and any improvements that you saw.