AUTUMN. A weekly session of precise core work, with some static holds, will be enough. Work with a partner in the gym so you can observe and correct each other’s technique as this is the basis of your form for the rest of the year. This will give the joint and core stability required to safely support the spine for this season’s heavy lifts. Three sets of 2-4 reps will get close to maximal strength in the same exercises as in the late summer. Make sure you take long rests of around 90 seconds between sets to make sure you are not dropping into a muscle mass type regimen.
WINTER. A session or two of yoga can take the place of a lot of the core training demand at this time of year, as it is a nice mixture of precise core work for joint stability and functional flexibility for agility in the water. In the weights room, drop the weights and increase the reps. You should now have an understanding of whether you’re moving with good form or bad, so pay attention as you reach the later reps in each set as it’s common to lose form with fatigue. Use a variety of exercises again to maintain multi-directional movement and to maintain motivation.
SPRING. If you get a short break at the start of the spring, have a rest and stretch in all directions with a few yoga classes to work out the imbalances you will have created in the gym and in the pool. On resuming training, this is the run in to the peak of the season, so take all the attributes you’ve developed in the last few seasons and introduce power training, particularly looking at rotational work like throwing medicine balls and powerful chops with weighted cables. Later in the spring, integrating one hand with the opposite leg, like with one-legged, one-handed medicine ball throws, will speed up nervous system communication, improving coordination and reducing injury risk.
SUMMER. Gym training needs to be reduced to make way for high loads of pool training and racing. Slow shoulder cable rotations will produce strong rotator cuff muscles and resist any late-season injuries. Focussed Pilates-style core work such as single leg raises, laying on foam rollers to further challenge your balance, will stabilise the core against the load of repetitive leg-kicks. A weekly plyometrics and/or medicine ball power session, planned well away from race days, will keep the muscles and tendons primed for the power demands of the starting platform.
LATE SUMMER. As the season starts you want to ensure stability in the water so core strength and coordination are a priority. Prone superman position on the gym ball has great carryover to swimming, introducing instability and demanding core activity by lifting opposite hands and feet off the floor. At the same time muscular strength is required so each stroke is only demanding a small proportion of your potential maximum. Work in the gym with 3 sets of 6-8 reps, concentrating on power-generating muscles with lat pull downs, pull-ups, cable rows, leg raises, and gym ball jack knifes and glute exercises.