Q & A #2 - March 2011

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 second 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.

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to send them my way and I will do my best to give a complete answer to your question the next time I write a Q & A article.

Previous articles in this series:

Q & A #1 – July 2010

Dry-Land Conditioning

[This is a question from a former NCAA/National Team player who is competing at the Masters level, he is around 40 years of age]

Q. I am playing in a tournament in a month. I want to do a strength circuit to help pool conditioning. I have ropes, suspension trainer and Kettlebells up to 28 Kilos. Any ideas?

A. I recommend doing interval training using a work:rest ratio of 1:1. Do 2-3 days/week alternating each session with a different interval length. E.g. day 1: 15s on/off; day 2: 30son/off; day 3: 60s on/off.

1:1 work to rest is very similar to what is experienced in a Water Polo match which is supported by research (Smith, 1998).

Warm up with a series of dynamic joint or flexibility exercises for 10-20 minutes (try these drills).

Perform 1-3 sets of 1-3 reps of Turkish Get Ups (TGU) as your first training exercise. Perform the TGU's after the warm up but before the circuit. TGU's are great for shoulder mobility and stability (read more about TGU's here and how you can start doing them with nothing more then a shoe).

strength training
The TGU demonstrated by Dr. Mark Cheng.
Note: do not try this with weight until you are competent with the Naked Get Up.

Pick 1-3 exercises and rotate through them with one of the recommended intervals (i.e. 15s/15s, 30s/30s, 60s/60s) for a total of 10-30 minutes. Appropriate exercises should be multi-joint and use the entire body in the movement. Respect the a pull:push ratio of at least 2:1 or 3:1.

Example circuit:

  1. Kettlebell Swing for 30s
    rest for 30s

  2. Push Up variation 30s
    rest 30s

  3. Kettlebell Swing for 30s
    rest for 30s

  4. Supine Rows 30s
    rest 30s

    NOTE: all the above exercises can be considered pulling except for the push ups, so this circuit has a pull:push ratio of 3:1.

Repeat the above for 3-8 rounds.

Record how many reps you can do for each exercise which will be one of your gauges of progress.

Finish the session with some External Rotator cuff exercises with suspension trainer (1-3 sets x 8-10 reps).

Design another circuit so you have a Session A and a Session B program and alternate between the 2 with each training session.

Of course a lot of this also has to do with how much you are in the pool but if you are like me and many other Water Polo players, then the last thing you want to do is to swim multiple 100's for extra conditioning.

Another real simple but killer session is to take 2 KB's and go for a walk (i.e. farmers walk/carry). Pick a predetermined route and time yourself. I used to take a 24kg+32kg KB down 5 stories of stairs (I lived on the top floor of my apartment) and around the block and back up again as a quick morning work out. Great for the shoulders and grip and requires a very short warm up. If you have anything left perform 3-5 sets x 20 reps of KB swings.

Cross Training with Wrestling

[This is from a National Team coach who will very likely be competing in the 2012 Olympic games]

Q. First of all I would like to congratulate you for the work you are doing in water polo. I am following with great interest your web sites.

I will be very interested to know your opinion with regards of how beneficial it can be for water polo players to join wrestling training sessions; if so, where do you see the benefit and what kind of wrestling staff?

Is there any history of polo players doing that?

One reserve is related to the quite high risk of injury, especially when polo players don’t know much about wrestling.

Thank you for taking your time to answer to my e-mail, please feel free to add any comments.

A. Playing other sports in general is important in the development of all athletes. The question I ask you is who is the athlete? Youth players I would say sure why not, senior national team or masters athletes I would be more reluctant to have them wrestle due to concerns of injury but it depends what they are actually doing during these wrestling sessions.

Below is a video of a pro basketball team I was training in Europe and we did use a wrestling coach at times for a break from traditional training. It's important that many of these drills would not be very safe if you are not on a well matted (cushioned) floor.

Video link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4cwPiEWm_Ww

I do not know of any teams or programs with a history of using wrestling as a supplement to pool conditioning.

Extra Training for Kids

Q. I am from Serbia. My son, who is 10 years old, practice water polo for almost a year, and before that trained swimming for three years. Water polo trainings are five times a week for two hours, but the exercises on land only once a week and only half an hour. The problem is that he has a little extra fat around the stomach and muscles are weaker on his stomach and legs.

I asked for recommendations for some exercises that could be done in addition to water polo training. I found your site very interesting and I see a lot of examples to practice.

My question is how the ten-year boy do all such exercises and to what degree. How many times a week.

Thanks in advance for your response.

A. Considering the age of your son, I would actually recommend to not do much more then what he already is. He is playing a lot of Water Polo at his age and he will get

stronger just by training the sport and the other training sessions he does with his team. Also, considering the implications of LTAD, he maybe specializing too early.

Below is from the article: From Birth to Master; Play Ground to Podium; Cradle to Grave: Long Term Athletic Development

Early specialization in a late-specialized sport,
like Water Polo, can lead to:

  • One-sided sport-specific preparation;
  • Lack of the basic fundamental movement skills;
  • Overuse injuries;
  • Early burnout;
  • Early retirement from training and competition and often
    withdraw from physical activity.


That being said doing some simple strength exercises like PUSH UPS, CHIN UPS and BODYWEIGHT SQUATS (like the program here) a few times/week would be OK. Focus on technique, not the load and make it FUN and stress free. Although the program I give as an example has specific set and rep schemes, I would not focus on them with a 10 year old, but instead focus on the execution of the movement. This program as written could be used with around the 13 & 14 year old or older athlete.

An alternative method and likely more relevant to an athlete this age would be to play some land sports (example: football, handball, basketball, track and field) to complement his Water Polo training and over all athletic development. Think long term with your son. It is not what happens in the next month or even the next year but instead is he still playing sport when he is 18+ years old because then by that age he will be a very good Water Polo player.

2m/Center Training Program

Q. I'm a Water Polo player from Madrid. Today I saw your website: http://www.waterpolotraining.net/, and I would like to know if you could send me some training for (I don't know how you call that position in english, is the position where the striker play's, according to wikipedia it has various names which are the following: Two-meter offense, hole set, set, hole man, bucket, pit player or pit-man. If you are from the USA your national team "Two-meter offense" is called Thomas Corcoran) going back to my point I would like to know if you could send me a training for that specific position.

I am 15 year's old and my level is quite high because I have achieved to train with the Spanish team from my category, at the moment my team is in the first position of the league therefore I think that my level is quite high.

Thank you and sorry for my English, it isn't my first language.

A. I have a few thoughts on your question regarding training for the 2m/center position.

  1. Train your legs. Example: try holding your position while your mate forcefully pushes and grabs you more then what is allowed in a regular match. Train for 10-30s on with 30-60s off.

  2. Perform flexibility exercises at least 5-6x/week. Flexible hips are critical for producing good power and strength in the various kicks you use in Water Polo. Try doing the drills discussed in this article for 10-20 minutes before each training session.

  3. These exercises are very dynamic and will not only serve to improve your range of motion but are also great as an on-land warm up.
  4. Since you are already training with a club and are in the national team system, I highly recommend that you work with your coaches in Spain to get the most out of your training. Your coaches will know more exactly what kind of extra work you need to do to improve as an athlete.

Additionally, a new series of articles are going up on WaterPoloPlanet.com which I think you will find very useful. Here is the first of a series of articles which will be coming out on the 15th of every month on training the 2m player. The first article is below:

Fundamentals of the Center: Part 1 by Terry Schroeder

This series of articles are written by the USA Mens Head Coach Dr. Terry Schroeder who was a very good center when he played for USA in the 1980's.

I hope you have a great season and please let me know how the exercises go after the first week or so of doing them.

Periodization for Active for Life

Q. I play water polo in the Belgian competition in the lowest division, which is not much :)

I want to learn how I can make my team better. Therefore I'm reading a lot of articles, mostly on www.waterpoloplanet.com and www.waterpolotraining.net. I must say that I find it very interesting!

Now I want to focus on periodization. I already found something on the website but your competition is very different from ours in that way that your competition is divided in several weeks. I saw an example: competition in week 1, 2, 34, 41, 44, 48 and 49, I think with several games in 1 week.

Our competition this year (2010-2011) started in September (week 38) and stopped in April (week 15) with a break in December – January (from week 50 till week 2). Each week we play one game. From April till June we play play-offs and then we have a break till September.

We only have 2 training sessions/week of 2 hours each for a total of 4 hours a week.

Can you help me with pre-season training (July - August), mid-season training (September - December and January - April), rest period (December - January) and after-season (April - June)?

A. Periodization can be confusing but just think of it as a plan to follow. The good news for you is that when training volume is low (2x practices and 1x match/week) you can really do what ever you want in your trainings because there is lots of rest days during the week. Perdiodization becomes more critical at higher levels where athletes can many times be training 2x/day or more and many times be on the edge of over training.

With your team, I would do lots of individual skills (e.g. swimming, passing, shooting, ball handling, ...) and always scrimmage during each practice. I would do this all year round.

I hope this helps you out and have a great rest of the season.


If you have questions you want answered please leave them in the message board category “Physical Training with Mike Reid” or send me an email.

I can also be contacted through my website: www.waterpolotraining.net


Smith HK.  Applied Physiology of Water Polo.  Sports Med 1998 Nov; 26 (5): 317-334

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