Applying Mike's Top 10 Physical Training Tips

In this monthly series of articles, Mike will discuss the science and practice of physical training for Water Polo.  Strength, flexibility, Water Polo science, rehab and other areas of interest with respect to the physical development of the Water Polo athlete will be covered.

Last month I outlined my “Top 10 Physical Training Tips”.  In this article, you will see how simple it is to apply these tips to a strength training program.

You can read right here:

But just for a quick recap here is the short version of the top 10 but I suggest you read the whole article since it covers a little bit more then what is below.

  1. Always do more pulling exercises than pushing. Try a 2:1 to even a 3:1 ratio.

  2. Be very careful with to much Barbell Bench Pressing; in my opinion, Bench
    Pressing with dumbbells is much safer for the shoulders.

  3. Push Ups are a great pushing movement for keeping your shoulders healthy.

  4. Be very careful with doing to much stretching to the front of your shoulders.
      Most Water Polo players will be too flexible in the shoulders.  Instead focus on
    the mobility of your thoracic spine. 

  5. Train your legs, good Water Polo players have strong legs, great players have
    crazy strong legs. Regardless of position, leg strength is a huge factor in your
    ability to perform in the water.

  6. Having strong legs is not enough if you do not have the required flexibility.
    To have a good egg beater kick and all the other associated kicking movements
    you must have good flexibility in your lower body, particularly the hips
    (Alexander M & Taylor C.  The Technique of the Eggbeater Kick.  web-based
    publication, 2008).

  7. Use Free weights and stay away from machines.

  8. Water Polo athletes do not get the loading on their body the same way as
    athletes doing land based sports. Since you spend most of your life on land
    and not in the water I think it is very important to think of strength
    training as a tool to become healthy in and out of the pool.

  9. Do not worry about being “sport specific” in the weight room.  Get strong using
    free weights and do your sport specific training in the water.

  10. Technique is always the first thing you need to learn in the weight room, so get
    a qualified coach.

This is what I would call a “Phase I” strength program.  The program is a good place to start for athletes who are new to strength training.  It would be a fairly typical program that could be used for teenagers and up BUT age is not the only factor and this is where a good strength coach can help decide when it is appropriate for the athlete to begin strength training and more importantly how aggressive to be with implementing progressive resistance and more advanced training schemes.

You can download the entire program in PDF format from

Periodization (training plan)

  • Your strength program can be performed 2-3 times per week (e.g. M, W, F).
  • Always perform the warm up before every strength session, it is also beneficial to do it before Water Polo training.
  • This program should be done a minimum of 4 weeks but you can do it longer as long as you are making progress.

Warm Up

Strength Program

  • Perform the first 3 exercises in a circuit with ~1 min rest after each exercise.
  • Use the same load on all three sets and when you can complete 3 x 10 reps with a given load then increase the weight at the next training session.
  • Always record your training in the provided strength training logs.
  • Total time = 25-30 minutes + 15 minute warm up.
  • Go to for videos demo of all the below exercise







A1. Goblet Squat (Single DB Front Squat)

~1 min

Start with body weight



Use a small box to lightly touch.

A2. Chin Ups

~1 min

Start with body weight



Resistance can be reduced by using rubber bands to assist you in pulling yourself up. 

Add load with weights in a back pack.

A3. Push Ups

~1 min

Start with body weight



Add load with weight plates placed on your upper back.

B1. Single DB Shoulder External Rotation

~1 min

Start with 2-3kg




Here are the goods on the above exercises.

A1. Goblet Squat (Single DB Front Squat) – Leg exercise using free weights.  You are moving your legs but are holding the weight in your hands.  What is between your hands and your legs?  Your trunk.  Guess what, squats are a great trunk exercise.

A2. Chin Ups – pulling exercise (remember do more pulling then pushing).

A3. Push Ups – great for your shoulders when done right.  Push ups also work your trunk muscles nicely since you must use them to keep your body in a straight line.  Much better then a barbell bench press.

B1. Single DB Shoulder External Rotation – I consider this another pulling exercise.  You  could substitute a horizontal pulling exercise like supine pull ups for this exercise.

Do you want to design your own program?  Then use this template which I used to design the above program.

Training Template


   A1. Leg Exercise (e.g. Squats, Deadlifts, Lunges)



   A2.  Pulling Exercise #1 (e.g. Chin Ups, Supine Pull Ups)



   A3. Pushing Exercise (e.g. Push Ups, DB Bench Press)



   B1.  Pulling Exercise #2 (something different then your other pulling    exercise; could be an external shoulder rotation exercise)


Make sure that when you add up all the sets x reps for the two pulling exercises that they are at least double of your pushing exercise.

So for example, in this program, you will perform 3 x 10 reps for each of the pulling exercises.

3 x 10 = 30 for 2 exercises which is a total of 60 reps.

The push ups are done for 3 sets of 10 reps which is a total of 30 reps.

Doing the math you will see that 60 is twice as much as 30 which is a 2:1 ratio of pulling to pushing exercises.

Next month: “Do your Swim Workouts makes Sense?”

Do you have any questions or a topic you would like me to write about?  Then please send me an email and I will get right to it. 

You can contact me at

[Click Mike Reid's name at top of page to learn more about his
strength training & conditioning experiences and his web sites.]