For Olympic swimmers like Katie Ledecky and Haley Anderson, a huge part of their success in the water starts with their strength and conditioning training. Amanda Fleece is a senior coach for the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee and helps swimmers like Anderson train the right muscles to help them win gold. “Changing the Games” is a 10-part video series produced in collaboration with Lyda Hill Philanthropies.
Changing the Games -- Strength and Conditioning for Victory in the Water
KATHRYN TAPPEN reporting:
At the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, she dominated the competition...
ANNOUNCER: Look at Ledecky explode off the wall to take the clear lead!
TAPPEN: ...bringing home gold in the 200, 400, 800 and 4-by-200 freestyle swimming events.
ANNOUNCER: Katie Ledecky with the heart of a champion gets it done!
KATIE LEDECKY (5-Time Olympic Gold Medalist): When you hit it perfectly, you just kind of feel it.
TAPPEN: Katie Ledecky has won more world championship titles than any other female swimmer in history. And the secret to her success begins with her workouts both in and outside the pool.
LEDECKY: I'm actually somebody that really likes the kind of the big practices or the kind of the challenge sets, even if they're very repetitive.
TAPPEN: When medals are won by hundredths of a second, the training goes far beyond strength training and conditioning. It’s a highly customized workout routine engineered precisely to match an athlete's strength potential and muscle coordination.
LEDECKY: I lift three times a week for an hour, kind of typical weight-training. Core strength is super important for any swimmer no matter what stroke you're swimming.
AMANDA FLEECE (U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee): Swimming is a total body sport in movement. Swimmers need a lot of upper body strength, a lot of hip strength, a lot of core strength.
TAPPEN: Amanda Fleece is the senior strength and conditioning coach for the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee.
FLEECE: The most important science for a strength and conditioning coach is human anatomy and human physiology. Understanding what muscles are being used, and how they're being used.
HALEY ANDERSON (Olympic Silver Medalist): It's been amazing working with Amanda Fleece. I've been working with her for a few years now.
TAPPEN: Haley Anderson is an Olympic open water swimmer who won silver in the 2012 Olympic Games in London. She works out with Fleece at the training center following a customized strength and conditioning program.
FLEECE: Today I'm going to be working with Haley Anderson. Every athlete's their own individual person. What strengths do they need? What are their weaknesses? Where do they need to be? Maybe stronger, more powerful in their event? And so we're going to write a strength program around that.
ANDERSON: She's made it so exciting and so fun and she really pumps me up in a fun way.
FLEECE: In swimming, it's a very repetitive movement. So you tend to get overuse of certain movements, and at certain muscles and certain joints. And so it is important to strengthen the large muscles, and the small intricate muscles that surround the joints. For swimming, the major muscles that are utilized in the sport would be the latissimus dorsi, the pectoralis major and pectoralis minor. You have the gluteus maximus, minimus.
TAPPEN: Fleece stresses the importance of strengthening the opposite muscle from the one that is used most frequently. For example, if the biceps muscles are used more often, Fleece would focus on strengthening the triceps muscle. This helps reduce the risk of injury by not overworking the dominant muscle.
FLEECE: We're looking at strengthening the weaker muscles, the muscles that aren't used as much to help stabilize the muscles that are needed in the event. The rhomboids, the traps, the rotator cuffs, the scapular stabilizers, that help keep the shoulder healthy and functioning.
ANDERSON: It's really important to work your muscles in a different way. I do it a lot for sort of pre-hab to help strengthen the muscles I need that are a little weaker that I need to help stay, like, keep my body healthy.
FLEECE: Squeeze those shoulder blades together.
TAPPEN: Because Ledecky and Anderson are constantly working the same muscles in the pool, strengthening other muscles outside the pool will help to prepare for the ultimate challenge.
ANDERSON: Your body can achieve way more than your mind thinks it can, so it's very important to get comfortable being uncomfortable.
LEDECKY: I know that when I hit the water that it’s pretty much going to come naturally.
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