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.
This is the first of many articles focused on answering your questions. It will be a collection of questions from the Water Polo Planet Forum, my website www.WaterPoloTraining.net and personal conversations I have with athletes and coaches from around the world.
Q. I am attempting to put together a periodized plan for a water polo team. At the moment I'm a little unsure on how to go about it - do you have any advice?
The following competitions have to be included:
September 2009: European B Championships followed by break
October 2009 – April 2010: Training (7 of the top 14 players play abroad)
14th April – 30th April 2010: European A qualifier preparation (all players involved)
1st – 4th May 2010: European A qualifiers
June 2010: 2 x World League (4 day competition over a weekend), date and time TBC
1st – 11th September 2010: European A qualifiers
15th – 29th October 2010: Commonwealth Games
A. Periodization is a big subject matter and can be complicated if you want it to be.
I view periodization as a written out plan of all the training, testing, competitions, rest periods and so on for an athlete or team. It would also include information on what kind of training you will be doing in each block, how many hours, where, when, ect. It acts as a road map for where you are going.
With what you have given so far you are already half-way there by knowing your competition dates. Put those dates down on a 12 month time line broken into weeks. Now, decide when and how much the players will be given holiday (break) time. Likely places for these breaks would be sometime in the Oct-Apr period but also immediately after some or all of the major competitions.
Now with this completed, add when you would do testing. With all that written down you start to see the year is already broken up into smaller blocks. It may look something like this (see below chart).
Now all you need to do is start to plan each block (grouping of several weeks) between the competitions, breaks and testing.
For example, week 7-13 is early in the season and this may be when you spend more time on general physical preparation, individual skills and some team concepts. Since the athletes are coming off a long break you could further subdivide this block in to two small blocks where you build up the training volume and/or intensity over a 3 week period then have an easy week. Do this 2x and you end up on week 14 which is a testing week. Have some lighter training in the earlier part of the week with the testing at the end.
Again, this is just an example. The great thing about periodization is that it's just a plan to start from. It's not written in stone and as a coach you must be willing to be flexible and change as the season progresses. Things come up like injury, sickness, other competitions and so on. What you plan on doing and what is actually done in the training does not always have to be the same thing. A smart coach will be able to read their athletes status and adjust on the fly.
Q. I have been reading quite a few of your articles on waterpoloplanet.com and your blog and they have been useful. I have been pre-season swimming with a buddy of mine 3 times a week doing around 2.5km and one of those 3 sessions we do butterfly drills to a total of 1000m. These include simple 100's, 50's and other drills such as 75 meters (25 fly 25 under water 25 fly) with around 45 - 60 seconds rest. I spoke to a coach I know who told me that this session was pointless for a water polo player and I just wondered if you could confirm if there is any merit or not in this session, obviously I don't want to be wasting my time but I feel like I have had a solid session after this one.
A. It is certainly better then doing nothing and you are in the pool BUT ... my short answer is that I am not a big fan of butterfly for Water Polo players especially in the volume you are doing. Main reason are concerns for shoulder health. When training in the water I suggest more Water Polo style swim sets and lots of leg work especially when you are only in the water 3x/week. Use this time for your sport specific training and compliment it with other modes of training on land.
Try this swim set as a your main swim set.
10-20 x 50m Free 0n 60-90s
- start each set with 10s of maximum vertical egg beater kick alternating each set with L, R blocking and 2 hands up. No push off wall to start. Go straight from the leg work to the 50m swim. Train with a pace of roughly your best 100m Free divided in half.
Strength Training for Young Teens
Q. What is your stance on water polo strength training for 10-14 year olds? Lifting weights is probably not a good idea. Plyometrics OK? If so ...which kinds? Band work OK? Would a 30 minute dryland program say 2-3 times a week benefit my players or should I emphasize more/better water polo specific condidtiong in the water?
A. 10-14 years old is a great time to start some structured strength training. I always suggest to start with bodyweight exercises (e.g. push ups, chin ups, pull ups, squats, lunges, ...) and depending on the individual athlete some may be ready for added external load but that depends on the quality of their movements and their maturity level.
When you write “plyometrics" if you mean running, skipping and jumping then yes these are appropriate at this age. Performing depth jumps off high boxes or doing any of these with external load is not recommended.
2-3x/week of 30 minutes would be a great place to start, even just 1x/week can have a very positive impact on young athletes new to strength training.
Better training in the pool is always a good idea but you must be careful at this age. Some kids may seem way more advance simply because they have hit puberty earlier then other kids. When I was a young teen there was a kid on my block who was ripping it up on the junior high basketball team. He was just physically bigger and stronger then everyone else. The thing was, by the time he got to high school he couldn't even make the team. Why? He was the same size as he was 2-3 years earlier! He went through puberty early and had an advantage for that time being but things even out in the end when the other kids caught up.
Freshman Goal Keeper
Q. I'm a freshman goalie right now at high school and I stumbled onto some of your articles.
Outside of the pool, I want to improve on my lunges, so I do Goblet Squats with two 15 pound dumbbells at my chest. Now I'm fearing that I'll just bulk up the legs with no eggbeater benefits and that I will slow my jumps as a goalie. Am I on the right track?
Every now and then I stretch my groin in hopes of improving my vertical leap and of course to prevent injury.
Also Michael, how important is upper body strength for goalies? I always thought that having too much muscle/weight will slow my jumps, but then strong arms will deflect balls and throw better passes right?
A. Bulking up will NOT occur over night, so if you really feel like you are getting too big then just stop lifting weights. But I really do not think this will be a problem nor will it have any negative effects on your Water Polo. By the way, although Goblet Squats are a great exercise I would not worry about gaining a lot of muscle mass from 2x15lb dumbbells.
Improving your ROM in the hips and groin is a good idea but you need to do it several times per week. I suggest starting on the exercises in the below videos.
Upper body strength and muscle is important but you certainly do not need the build of a NFL linebacker. Follow a program with a variety of push ups and chin ups for your upper body training. This will build a strong base for your Water Polo training.
Stronger arms will help with throwing a ball but it will more so be the actual training in the water that will have the greatest impact. Have a strong and stable shoulders will allow you to train a lot in the water with a reduced likely hood of sustaining an injury.
Q. What type of abdominal work do you suggest? Weighted, bodyweight? Counter-rotational, extension, static work, etc?
A. The short answer is none.
But, of course you need to be strong through the trunk because the trunk is what will transmit the forces from your legs and ultimately to your arms. The trunk can also be a major source of power leakage if it doesn't work effectively.
That being said, I believe you can build a very strong and healthy trunk by simply doing multi-joint exercises correctly.
Push Ups for example are more just a chest, shoulder, arm exercise and when done properly with appropriate load they do a very good job of training the trunk musculature while at the same time integrating the upper limbs and to some extent the lower limbs in the movement.
If extra "ab" training is needed I lean towards performing static holds in various positions (like a side plank). In the video below is an intermediate level side plank.
The above is also great for training your shoulder stabilizers as is the following exercise which is more random in nature.
I can also be contacted through my website: www.waterpolotraining.net
[Click Mike Reid's name at top of page to learn more about his
strength training & conditioning experiences and his web sites.]