RESEARCH REVIEW - #1, August 2010

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.


In this series of articles I will copy the abstracts of relevant Water Polo research and give a short commentary on each one. Due to copyright laws I am unable to supply the full article. If you wish to have the full article please go to or other appropriate website to obtain a copy. If you are affiliated with an university you will likely be able to obtain many of these articles for free from your library.

McCluskey L, et al. Throwing velocity and jump height in female water polo players: Performance predictors. J Sci Med Sport (2009)

Abstract: Throwing velocity and vertical jumping ability are essential components for shooting and passing in water polo. The purpose of this study was to determine whether there is a relationship between throwing velocity and water jump height in highly skilled female water polo players. Throwing velocity and head height at ball release were measured in twenty-two female players (age 20.41 years (6.16); weight 68.28 kg (8.87)) with two 50 frames per second cameras while shooting at goal. Water jump height was also measured with a modified Yardstick® device. Multiple regression analyses showed that peak lower limb power was the most significant predictor of maximal velocity. Power alone accounted for 62% of the variance in maximum velocity (p < 0.001). Once power was entered into the model none of the other physical characteristics (lean mass, fat mass, land jump height and anthropometry) made a significant contribution to throwing velocity. After controlling for the effect of power, head height at ball release accounted for an additional significant proportion of the variance in maximal velocity (R2 change 7%; p = 0.049). Lower body power was a significant predictor of higher throwing velocity in highly skilled female water polo players. Players with relatively higher underlying levels of lower limb power who are able to generate greater elevation out of the water are able to throw the ball faster.

My Comments: A critical factor of having a big shot is leg power but not just in the water. The athletes with an above average throwing velocity also had a higher on-land vertical jump and were basically just larger athletes. The authors in their closing statement (see full article) state “... multifactorial approach including water based training such as swimming and water polo skills training as well as land based training such as strength training are consistent with achievement of higher overhead throwing velocities. ”So, don't discount your strength training and other on-land activities BUT you still must practice and improve your sports specific skills in the water.


McMaster WC, Long SC, Caiozzo VJ. Isokinetic torque imbalances in the rotator cuff of the elite water polo player. Am J Sports Med Jan-Feb;19(1):72-5 (1991)

Abstract: The specific repetitive activity of water polo, like baseball pitching, emphasizes adduction and internal rotation. This study used the Cybex II to evaluate the isokinetic strength of the rotator cuff in elite water polo players and in a group of control subjects. The water polo players were significantly stronger than the controls. Of greater importance was the confirmation of imbalances in the rotator cuff force couples of adduction/abduction and external/internal rotation. These changes are similar to those reported for pitchers. The adductors in the water polo group had gained in relative strength resulting in an increase in the adduction/abduction ratio to about 2:1. The internal rotators had gained in relative strength resulting in a decrease in the external/internal ratio to about 0.6:1. For both force couples the differences are more apparent at a slow speed. Side-to-side differences were not significant.

My Comments: This and other similar articles are important to remember and think about when designing strength training programs for Water Polo athletes. I believe that the first thing all strength programs need to do is keep the athlete healthy. Look at the sport and do the opposite! It may seem contrary to conventional thought, especially when you think of specificity but there is a cost for only doing sport specific training and that cost is usually pain and injury.

Basically, spend more time on training your pulling muscles and external rotators of the shoulder. This is a key to effective programing for the Water Polo player and is outlined in many of the articles I have written here on Water Polo Planet.

Top Ten Physical Training Tips

Applying Top Ten Physical Training Tips


Bampouras Theodoros & Kelly Marrin. Reliability of the 30-seconds crossbar jumps water polo test in female players. Serb J Sports Sci; 4(2):69-73 (2010)

Abstract: Monitoring performance of sport-specific skills is important for elite athletes. The 30 second cross bar jump test is a commonly used assessment tool in water polo, assessing players’ ability to repeatedly elevate their body out of the water. The study aimed to examine the reliability of this test. Thirteen elite female water polo players performed the test on two separate occasions. Correlation (r = 0.61, 95%CI = 0.26-0.93), coefficient of variation (CV = 11.6%, 95%CI = 7.7-23.6) and limits of agreement (95% limits of agreement = ± 3.3 jumps, 95%CI = 0.6-3.4) found between the two occasions indicated that the test was not sensitive enough for monitoring performance changes in elite female water polo players. Additionally, no correlation of anthropometric characteristics was found with crossbar jumps. It is suggested the 30 seconds crossbar jumps test is not a reliable test and should not be used by water polo coaches for evaluating the ability of players to repeatedly jump out of the water.

My Comments: Having reliable ways of evaluating your athletes is important for several reasons: team selection, validate your training program, feedback for players among others. In Water Polo, it is very easy to evaluate swim speed and conditioning but not much is done with leg power or conditioning. I was hoping this study would give us coaches a good tool to use but unfortunately the authors do not think so. The authors write “Although the crossbar jump test can not be used as a performance monitoring tool, it can still be used as a training aid.”

If this study was performed again using a larger sample size and more then just 2 trials then we would get a better indication whether this is truly a good or bad test.

The quote "Reliability has to do with the quality of measurement. In its everyday sense, reliability is the "consistency" or "repeatability" of your measures" can be found in the following source.


If you have not tried this before, give it a shot, it is mush harder then it looks. Also, this study was done with the Scottish National Women's Team and they averaged around 21-24 jumps in 30s. What can you do?


Leonidas Petridis, Jana Kubátová, Klio Petridou. A swim-test and echocardiographic results on male junior Water Polo players. Physical Education and Sport Vol. 1, No 10, pp. 1 – 10 (2003)

Abstract: The purpose of this study was to evaluate the results of a swim-test which we repeatedly used for the assessment of the fitness level in Hungarian male junior water-polo players by relating the results to the players' echocardiographic parameters. It could be a point of interest if a relationship between the results of the swim-test and cardiac function were established. 26 male junior elite and 11 Olympic champion water-polo players participated in the swim-tests and the echocardiographic measurements. 25 healthy men served as a non-athletic comparison group. The swim test included the time result of a 30 m maximal intensity swim (Tmax), the mean time of a 6×30 m interval swim (Tmean), the number of heart beats during the 4 minutes of recovery (P4) and the difference between the heart beats during the first and the second half min. of recovery (Delta). Morphological and functional parameters of the heart were measured by echocardiography. The observed variables were related to body size by indices in which the exponents of the numerator and the denominator were matched. The echocardiographic measurements showed clear signs of left ventricular hypertrophy in the water-polo players compared to the non-athletic group. Between the swim-test and the echocardiographic measurements no close correlations were found, though when we correlated the cardiac parameters with swimming velocity (instead of the time results of the swim-test) some correlations became stronger. The results suggest that there was no linear relationship between the swim-test and the cardiac parameters; however, a parallel adaptive improvement of the junior players to non-athletes could be noticed in both measurements as a result of regular training. It appears justifiable that associations should be sought above all in the pace of the respective improvements on a proportional basis. The current swim-test seems to be not precise enough to evaluate the cardiac function of the athletes. The methodological conception in relating a resting parameter (echocardiographic measurements) to maximal dynamic ones (swim-test) needs further investigation.

My Comments: If you want to be the best then you need to observe what the best are doing. This experiment was performed with members of the Hungarian Men's National Team who won gold at the 2000 Olympics and the Hungarian Junior team. Although this particular research is looking at ways to correlate cardiac function with sports specific testing the data included in the full article is valuable to the coach and athlete who are aspiring to become top level international players. “The swim test included the time result of a 30 m maximal intensity swim (Tmax), the mean time of a 6×30 m interval swim (Tmean) ...” The 6x30m swims were performed with 15s rest after each bout of 30m. The swim tests measured two critical aspects for Water Polo, max speed and speed-endurance.

The Hungarian results are below:

  Tmax Tmean
Juniors 16.98s 19.18s
Olympic Champions 15.77s 17.54s

For practical reasons, I would use just a set timed interval like 30s but perform everything else about the test the same way. With a little math you can see that the Olympic champions are going at a speed of approximately 1.9 m/s. So, if you are doing this test but in a 25m pool you can still compare results with the Hungarians by converting your 25m times into m/s.

e.g. 6 x 25m with a Tmean= 14s.

How do you compare this with the Hungarians who swam a test with 30m?

Convert your 25m average time into m/s.

Take the distance swam divided by your time = speed in m/s.

25m / 14s = 1.8 m/s.

The Hungarians swam close to 2 m/s (30m / 15.77s = 1.9 m/s)

Did the Hungarians push off the wall or use a wet start? It does not indicate this in the full article. Since they were using a regulation size pool (30m) I would guess that there was no push off, but I am not sure.


Rechichi C, Dawson B, & Lawrence SR. A multistage shuttle swim test to assess aerobic fitness in competitive water polo players. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport 3 (I):55-64 (2000)

Abstract: A 10m multistage shuttle swim test (MSST) was designed for the assessment of aerobic fitness of competitive water polo players. Test-retest reliability was determined using a sample of 22 female and 22 male trained water polo players. An tntraclass correlation coefficient of 0.99 (p>0.05) was calculated between the two test scores. The technical error of measurement for the test was 2.3 shuttles or 5.0%. The validity of the test was determined using a sample of 13 female and 12 male water polo players. A validation correlation coefficient of 0.88 resulted between the number of shuttles completed during the MSST and VO2max [litres/body surface area/ minute (l*BSAl.min'l)] measured during an incremental tethered swim test to exhaustion. A stepwise multiple regression revealed that VO2max (loBSA~l.min-1) accounted for approximately 78% of the MSST variance. It was concluded that the 10m multistage shuttle swim test is a reliable and valid field test of aerobic fitness for use with trained water polo players.

My Comments: Multiple swims of 10m, all wet starts (no push off a wall) and the athlete treads water in between bouts ... I like this very much for Water Polo. This is all really good so far but I am not sure of actually implementing this test in a potentially noisy busy swimming pool. This swim test is basically an aquatic version of the beep test in which you run 20m at a time, back and forth. The problem I see with this test is that you must have some kind of audio system so that the athletes can hear the beep which singles for them to start the next swim. Although the the researchers concluded that this test is valid and reliable field test I am not convinced of the practicality of using it. I would be interested in knowing if anybody has actually used this with their teams. If you have, please let me know your thoughts and experiences with it.


In future articles I will show you more research and it's implications to Water Polo.

If you have questions you want answered please leave them in the message board category “Physical Training with Mike Reid"

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