Add Swimming to Your Conditioning Arsenal. Here’s why, and how:

“Train smart at all times and do your best to avoid injury. Training Smart is more important than training hard.”

-Georges St. Pierre

No matter how great you think your conditioning is, the water can be extremely humbling. It is unforgiving, but offers big rewards to those who smartly choose to incorporate some pool workouts into their training. This is as true for combat and tactical athletes as for any other sport requiring a high level of aerobic fitness.

As a Combat or Tactical Athlete, you no doubt put yourself through some brutal training. The high intensity training you perform puts a lot of stress on the joints, as well as on the nervous system which is constantly trying to recover from these sessions.

Swimming offers 4 invaluable benefits that will be highly complimentary to your training and performance, all while being low impact on the joints. I’ll also list a few workouts you can incorporate right away to get started.

Improve Strength-Endurance

One of the most beneficial attributes for a combat athlete (or most athletes), is strength-endurance. It’s great to be strong and powerful, but if you cannot continue to express your strength beyond the first round, then it is essentially useless. Swimming offers a constant resistance, as you must continue moving against the resistance of the water or you will go under. Build up to Swimming 1000 meters at a nice slow pace, then work on doing it faster or add distance.

Promote Recovery

Performing low to moderate intensity training can help push the body into a parasympathetic recovery state. Instead of hammering away at your body when you’re already in a recovery-debt, try doing some long, slow distance (LSD) training in the pool. This can be done as one long session (30-45 mins), or in intervals. low intensity cardiovascular training helps the body get rid of waste products created during high intensity training, and pushes blood flow into the joints and muscles. The result is faster recovery between sessions.

Cardio-Respiratory Control

If you’ve never worked out in the water before, the first challenge you’ll encounter is keeping control of your breathing and fatigue level. You cannot breathe under the water, and so cannot take a breath whenever you need to. You need to establish a rhythm and learn to be comfortable with limited breaths. This can have a dramatic effect on your ability, as you may quickly reach exhaustion and panic as you feel you are reaching exhaustion and cannot breathe. Obviously, controlling your breathing and energy output are critical skills for any athlete, none more so than a fighter. Lose your breathing in the ring, and you are in big trouble. Learn to slow down and stay in control, breathe, move, relax… Drive your heart rate down.. You can control your fatigue while still moving. This is known as “Dynamic Energy Control,” and is a mandatory skill for an athlete to possess.

Focus Under Fatigue/Mental Toughness

Swimming will force you to constantly be focused as you must continue to breathe and move under constant exertion. This can be immensely beneficial to an athlete, as you will enhance the ability to control your breathing and energy output without panicking. Training sprints in the pool can enhance this quality even further. You WILL want to stop moving as you accumulate fatigue and your lungs are begging for more air. Being able to overcome this can have a dramatic effect on your lung capacity and your mental toughness under fatigue.

Some Workout Examples/lessons on how to swim

LSD (long-slow-distance) swim – Swim at a low intensity constantly for 20-30 minutes.

LSD swim – Swim 1000 meters at a low intensity, gradually build up to and beyond 1000 meters.

Sprints – Try Swimming some 100 meter sprints, with rest between sprints equal to the duration it took to complete the 100m. (1:1 work/rest). Gradually add more volume to the sessions and work on moving faster.

Mixed Sessions – Do 10-20 pushups outside of the pool, jump in and swim 50 meters, repeat.  Try 3-5 sets of 3 reps of this to start, with 1:1 work to rest ratio.  Gradually increase the volume of the sessions over time.

It’s best to use a mixture of these methods, as swimming likely isn’t your primary sport and you are using it as a low impact recovery/conditioning method.  Once a week would be fine in this scenario.  

Which Stroke should you use?

I personally love the Combat Side Stroke. I learned it by watching videos on youtube, and you can too. You can also use a freestyle stroke. Be patient if it’s new.. You will get it!

Remember. If you’re using swimming as a method of enhancing recovery.. keep the intensity low to moderate for longer durations. If you want some higher intensity conditioning without the added stress to the joints, use sprints and work on decreasing the rest periods between reps.

Hope this was helpful, leave a comment and let me know!

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About SupaStrong 49 Articles
Bioforce Certified Conditioning coach, Trainer. Federal Law Enforcement Agent, Army Reserve Infantryman. Husband, Father, Brother, Son, Friend.

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JohnnyMMA
JohnnyMMA
5 months ago

Swimming is great and has helped me stay lean and conditioned without getting hurt. Liked the article thank you!

SupaStrong
5 months ago
Reply to  JohnnyMMA

Agree! It is a highly underrated form of conditioning

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