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Swim Training on Vasa SwimErg vs. Pool: How To Find The Ideal Balance

Here’s how to use the Vasa SwimErg to supplement your time in the pool and why it’s so important to use dryland training.

The relationship between dryland training and pool swimming is best when one complements the other.

Dryland swim training can fill in the gaps when getting to the pool or open water is not logistically possible or even when an injury prevents going in the water.  It’s an ideal supplement to your time in the water, and in some cases it can replace some planned workouts. The ideal situation is to find the right balance for your situation and goals.   Here’s how to do that with the Vasa SwimErg.

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Training with the Vasa SwimErg

There are two main goals of any dryland training program: injury prevention and performance improvement.

While pool training is essential for swimmers, swimming itself can place a good deal of stress on the body. Studies show that overexertion while swimming can cause neurochemical and immunological stress to both muscles and organs.

Repetitive movements can also increase the chances of injuries. In one study of the prevalence of musculoskeletal pain in competitive swimmers, 60% of swimmers reported experiencing at least one injury, with shoulder injuries being the most common.

In terms of performance, it can be difficult to build muscle by swimming alone.

Building muscle requires gravity. As muscles respond to the stressors of heavy objects, microtears in the tissue are repaired, causing muscles to strengthen. In a water environment, reduced gravity and friction make muscle building more difficult.

That’s why it’s so important to build muscle outside of your time in the pool.

Tools like the Vasa SwimErg and the Vasa Trainer are designed for swim-specific movements that mimic strokes you would perform in the water, only with the added benefit of allowing gravity and resistance to build muscle tissue exactly where you need it.

As you pull against the bands, the pulling motion increases strength, particularly for exercises like the high elbow catch.

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It also keeps you from being distracted while you build muscle. You don’t have to worry about breathing patterns or kicking and can focus on building up core and shoulder strength and increasing range of movement instead.

But the benefits of dryland training with a tool like the SwimErg don’t stop there. There are plenty of other reasons to incorporate dryland training into your regular routine.

How Dryland Training Can Improve Swim Performance

Dryland training with weights or resistance bands can improve performance.

In a study on the effects of dryland training on swim performance, researchers found that swimmers who used resistance training (bands or cords) in addition to pool training showed increases in strength of bicep and tricep muscles.

They also found that those who performed weight training and resistance training showed “significant” increases in swimming velocity and that swimmers were able to maintain stroke length while increasing stroke rate.

Resistance training increased performance for those in the study across three sprint freestyle events by an average of 2.3%, when training was performed consistently for at least 12 weeks.

Dryland training can also aid in what’s called “active recovery.”

Rather than resting or stretching, light to moderate exercise (a light swim, or in this case the dryland equivalent of a light to moderate resistance workout) can increase recovery speeds and reduce residual fatigue.

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This makes it an important component to include alongside your time in the water.

Why You Need to Balance Dryland Training with Pool Time

Of course, too much dryland training can actually be detrimental to your performance.

In terms of physical stress, swimming is designed to elongate the body, whereas weight training can shorten muscles if not performed correctly.

If your dryland training tools don’t work to “elongate” you while you train, you could be negatively impacting performance once you do go to the pool.

In an article for Swimming World Magazine, G. John Mullen explains that “out of the water strength does not predict swimming success.”

He adds five necessities for swimmers to remember when balancing time in the water versus time at the gym:

  1. “Stroke technique mandates swimming success” — Whatever you do during dryland training needs to help your performance in the pool, which is why you should always “test” your results in water.
  2. “Similar Movements Impair Motor Programming” — For the most important movements (stroke, etc.), it’s important that your dryland training routines mimic water movements closely. As John puts it, “the nervous system records and remembers specific movements, not muscle actions.” If you can’t get that from your dryland routines, stick to the pool.
  3. “Motor control out of the water helps correct stroke technique” — Variety will help build muscle and prevent injury, while repetitive movements increase risk for injuries. Make sure your swim training and dryland training is varied (within the demands of the sport).
  4. “Out of water limitations never resolve in the water” — If you’re performing poorly on land, you’ll perform poorly in the water. Make sure to focus on proper form and technique no matter where you’re training.
  5. “Injured swimmers don’t swim to their potential” — For both pool training and dryland training, injury prevention is key. Use dryland training to supplement water training in a way that reduces injury risk and builds muscle.

By balancing your time in the gym with your time in the pool, you can increase strength and stability for your body without sacrificing the form needed to perform in the water.

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How to Incorporate Both Pool and Gym Time into Your Training

In terms of balancing time between the pool and the gym, it’s essential to make time for both.

Dryland training can be used supplementally on days where it’s difficult or impossible to get to the pool to train. But it’s important to make it to the pool when you can.

If you’re not using swim-specific training routines or equipment outside of the pool, then getting to the water will be more important than dryland training.

Prioritizing pool time will ensure that your form is not compromised by your weight training routines (triathletes without swim-specific routines, for example, should prioritize pool time).

But if you’re using a tool like the Vasa SwimErg and/or you have a swim-specific training routine, an equal balance of both pool and gym time will work.

Aside from physical time restraints, you should also make sure to prepare physically for each distinct workout.

When swimming, perform any necessary poolside or in-water warm ups to keep muscles limber and active. When dryland training, take time to warm up with a run, stretch or bike ride.

And remember that injury prevention is the most important thing for either training program.

Whether you’re training in the gym or in the water, don’t overexert yourself beyond a healthy point. Find balance in everything you do when you train.

Final Thoughts

Both dryland and water training are essential elements for improving swim performance.

When it comes to balancing between the two, it’s important to find the right training program that matches up with your time needs (physically being able to get to the gym, etc.) as well as your overall goals.

If you don’t typically spend time in the pool and prioritize dryland training, it may be necessary to get to the pool more often. On the other hand, if you’re not dryland training at all, you’ll want to ensure that you’re spending time in the gym.

And keep in mind that how often or how much you do in either won’t be as important as the steps you’re taking to prevent injuries and improve your performance over time.