US National Men's Team Coach
US Team Won the Silver Medal in the 2008 Olympics
In the past, I have written about the importance of strong legs in the game of water polo. I have even said that the players with the best legs are the best players - whether you are talking about high school, college, club or international. I still believe that this is very true. With less than three months to go prior to the Olympic Games in London, we are doing everything we can to get our team ready. Leg drills are a critical part of our training. Here are three different drills that you can do on your own to build your legs for the next level. I would recommend that each one of you buy a heavy ball (2-3 kg) and a resistance band (medium resistance). The ball and the band can be adjusted for the level and age of the player. Of course, if these are readily available at your school or club you may not have to buy either but in my opinion, you don’t want to be limited to pool times and equipment restrictions. If you have your own it is easier to get into a pool on your own and do some extra leg work. Trust me, this will make a big difference in your game.
Here is the equipment you will need to perform these three drills - A heavy ball (2-3 kg), a resistance band (medium strength) and any pool wall in deep water
I am going to begin with the heavy ball exercises. Before, you begin with the heavy ball, I would make sure that you spend 10 - 15 minutes to properly warm up your legs. Swim a few hundred yards, then do 4 x 50 flutter kick over and breaststroke kick back. Then do 4 x 50 horizontal eggbeater and finish your warm up with 5 minutes of vertical eggbeater with a few jumps over your hips. Now you are ready for the heavy ball. With the heavy ball held over your head do 6 x 100 (broken at each 25 with 10 second rest). Walk forward the first lap, then facing sideways the second lap and sideways the third lap (face the same direction for lap 2 and 3) and finish with forward walking the fourth lap. Try to really make sure that you are on balance as you walk forward and sideways. If you want to make this a little tougher then go hands straight up with the ball over your head on the second half of each lap. Take an extra 30 second rest after each 100.
After the 100’s, do a 50 easy and stretch out your legs to prepare for the next drill with the heavy ball. Here is a great drill with the heavy ball to help your athletes learn to find and keep their balance in the water.
Hold a heavy ball ( 2-3 kg) over your head for 10 -15 seconds and then with a hard breaststroke kick drive yourself forward one meter. As you dive forward hold onto the ball and push the ball out in front of you also. You should now be face down in the water with the ball out in front of you. Immediately recover your balance with a strong core and an eggbeater kick to regain your position and return to the starting position. You are purposely forcing yourself out of balance and working to find your balance as quickly as possible. Repeat this drill pushing the ball out in front at the 2 o’clock, 4 o’clock, behind you at 6 o’clock, behind and to the side at 8 o’clock and then in front and to the side at 10 o’clock, and finish with back straight in front of you at 12 o’clock. Make sure that you begin with 10 - 15 seconds overhead each time and that you begin with a big breaststroke kick and then regain your balance with your core and eggbeater kick. This is great drill for finding your balance in the water and learning to go from an off balance position to a balanced position by using your legs properly. Once again, after completing this drill do 50 - 100 easy horizontal eggbeater to loosen out your legs.
The second exercise or drill involves a resistance band (medium strength). The resistance should keep you at half tank - so if needed you can double up the band to provide the necessary resistance. Before beginning the band work I would recommend the warm up series for your legs. Once you are ready for the bands belt up. Begin with forward resistance at moderate resistance for 5 minutes. You should be at an approximately 45 degree angle with your body - arms in front -legs driving from behind. I like to do this with your hands out of the water so it is just pure leg work. After 5 minutes go easy for one minute to stretch the legs then turn around and repeat for 5 minutes going backwards. Once again, loosen down for a good minute.
Now you are ready for some real work. Exercise #1 Forward eggbeater with the band to moderate resistance hold for 10 seconds then perform a butterfly jump (both arms out of the water with a big butterfly stroke) move out and forward with the stroke and then hold your ground for 10 seconds. Perform a second jump and try to move out even further with more resistance. Hold another ten seconds and perform a third jump - trying to move yourself out even further with more resistance. Finish with 10 seconds holding your ground. Rest 30 seconds and then repeat for a total of 8 x 3 jumps holding after each jump.
Rest for 2 minutes then turn the band around and move out with backwards resistance.
Exercise #2 Backwards eggbeater with moderate resistance - hold for 10 seconds then perform two backstrokes with elbows bent trying to grab water and move to a point of increased resistance. Hold your ground for 10 seconds and perform two more backstrokes to grab water and move to a place of more resistance. Hold ten seconds and perform one more series of two backstrokes to move out even further. Hold for ten seconds and then rest for 30 seconds before repeating. Repeat 8 x 3 double backstrokes.
Rest two minutes and prepare for exercise # 3. Reverse the band again and move out to forward resistance at moderate strength. Hold ten seconds then jump out and forward with first your left and then your right arm. Hold your ground for ten seconds and then jump again out and forward (left and right). Hold and repeat one more time. Rest 30 seconds and then repeat for 8 x 3 double jumps out and forward. Rest for two minutes.
If you have done these exercises properly you should be pretty spent. This is meant to be very difficult. This is a great drill for your legs.
If you still feel that you have a little left in the tank, then I will give you one more very good drill with the bands. Move out with resistance sculling on your side (legs facing out away from the band attachment)- when you reach moderate resistance rotate over your hips and jump out into a shot blocking position. Hold for a few seconds and then return to your side and the beginning sculling position - hold for ten seconds and then rotate over your hips and jump out again into a shot blocking position. Repeat for three jumps. After completing the three jumps rest for 30 seconds and then repeat 8 x 3 jumps. Then rest for 2 minutes. This is a great exercise to improve your range (the distance you can jump out over your hips into a shot block). It is super important for playing defense in a zone or 5 man. Make sure when you do this exercise that you make yourself jump out over your right and then your left hip.
Finally, if you have no heavy ball or resistance band you can always work your legs by using a pool wall in deep water. After warming up your legs begin this drill by pushing against the wall with a strong eggbeater kick (both hands on the wall). Push hard for 10 seconds then push off against the wall and rotate over your hips and jump out into a shot blocking position. Hold for three seconds then jump back over your hips to resistance against the wall. Hold ten seconds and then repeat with a rotation over your hips and a shot blocking jump. Repeat for a total of three jumps. Rest for 30 seconds and then repeat this exercise for 8 x 3 jumps. Once again make sure that you are performing these jumps alternating over your right and then left hip.
After the shot blocking jumps you can do the same drill using the wall for resistance and then jumping out over your hips to a lateral jump (as if you were going to jump back towards the center in zone to steal the ball). Repeat for 3 jumps then rest and repeat 8 x 3. Once again, jump over both hips.
All three of these drills are great for building leg strength and explosiveness. I would only do one of these drills on any particular day. Each drill is very difficult on its own and if performed correctly will work your legs enough for one session. For anyone that is serious about this sport I would suggest finding time in the off season or on an off day to do some extra leg work. Or just stay after practice on occasion and get an extra 20 minutes of leg work in. The rewards go to those that put their investment of time and energy to improve. Once again, if you have any questions or comments please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
See you at the pool.
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