Michael Reid
Latest posts by Michael Reid (see all)

A Strength Training Template for Water Polo: Part II

michaelreid.ca           WaterPoloTraining.net

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 part I of this series of articles, I gave you a template that you could use for your Water Polo athletes strength training program.


To quickly review this is the template:

  1. Lower Body Exercise – usually some kind of squatting movement but could also be deadlifts or lunging exercise (also read: Learning to Squat and Deadlifts are Good!)
  2. Pulling Exercise #1 (Keeping It Simple – the Farmers Walk, Triad Pull Up, Pull Ups, Chin Ups, Seated Rows, Supine Pull Ups)
  3. Push Up Variation (Used and Abused: Push Ups)
  4. Pulling Exercise #2 (could be optional depending on other factors)
  5. External Rotator Cuff Exercise (Rotator Cuff Exercises)

In this article I am going to show you how to use this strength training template in a few different situations.


Younger or inexperienced athletes can see great improvements in strength by only specifically training strength 1x/week. This will mean that the athlete will need to complete all the exercises in the template and perform them for the most part at a fairly high effort level since they have a whole week before they strength train again.

Usually this kind of format will give reason to the coach and athlete to push themselves extra hard. This is by no means a bad thing but excess amount of DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) will likely be experienced by the athlete which in turn can negatively impact the following few days or even week of Water Polo practice. This in turn can decrease compliance of the strength training program if after every weekly session the athlete knows they are going to be in pain and sore. For this reason it is wise for the coach and athlete to ease into a program like this and gradually increase the intensity and/or volume of the program. Being sore after weight training is likely more of an indication that you did too much and has nothing to do with the effectiveness of the actual training. DOMS is simply a byproduct of hard training and by no means should be the goal of a program.

Another pitfall of 1x/week is that strength will not be able to be attained very quickly or for the long term. There is a saying in strength training and it goes like this, “strength is a skill”. So, if it is a skill then wouldn’t you want to train it fairly often?

In the end though, if you can only train 1x/week for what ever reason, then all you need to do is take the template and plug in your exercises. Since this will eventually be a fairly high effort program I suggest to do it on a day when you do not have Water Polo or in a completely different session (for example strength train in the AM with Water Polo in the PM). Every 4 weeks change the loading and volume. An example is below:

Weeks 1-4

Weeks 5-8

Weeks 9-12

3 x 8-10 reps (moderate load with moderate volume)

3-5 x 5 reps (higher load with moderate volume)

1-2 x 20 reps (low load with high volume)


I will give you two options here. Either perform the entire template in each session or split the template so that you do some of it in your first training session and the rest in the other. Some other options is to still do the entire template but have 2 different series of exercises. Examples are below:

Splitting the Template into 2 sessions

Day 1 Day 2
 1. Front Squat  1. Supine Pull Ups
 2. Pull Ups  2. Side Lying External Rotator Cuff
 3. Regular Push Ups

Entire Template on Both Days

Days 1 & 2 for 4 weeks Days 1 & 2 for next 4 weeks
 1. Front Squat  1. Walking Lunges
 2. Pull Ups  2. Chin Ups
 3. Regular Push Ups  3. Push Ups with hands on a Water Polo ball
 4. Supine Pull Ups  4. Seated Row
 5. Side Lying External Rotator Cuff  5. Wall Slides

Entire Template on Both Days but two different Series of Exercises

Day 1 Day 2
 1. Front Squat  1. Walking Lunges
 2. Pull Ups  2. Chin Ups
 3. Regular Push Ups  3. Push Ups with hands on a Water Polo ball
 4. Supine Pull Ups  4. Seated Row
 5. Side Lying External Rotator Cuff  5. Wall Slides

So you do not burn out your athlete it is important to vary you volume and load between each day. For example:

Day 1 Day 2
 Exercises 1-4: 3 x 5 reps  Exercises 1-4: 1 x 20 reps
 Exercise 5: 2 x 10  Exercise 5: 1 x 20 reps

A 2x/week program can also easily be made using these same concepts into a 3x/week program. If it is during in-season training more care must be taken with volume and loading. In a 3x/week program at least one of the days will need to be a light and easy day.

1-2 Exercises Everyday

This is one of my personal favourites and is great because it will not take very long and could be done right before Water Polo practice. Still using the template, pick 1-2 exercises and spend 15-20 minutes before practice training them. For example, if you practised Mon-Fri you could do a very brief strength session before every Water Polo practice.
It could look something like this:

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
 1. Front Squats 5 x 5  1. Seated Row 2 x 20 reps  1. Farmers Walk 1-2 x 400m  1a. Goblet Squats 1 x 20-30 reps  1a. Push Ups 5 x 5
 2. DB External Rotator Cuff 2 x 10 reps  1b. DB External Rotator Cuff 1 x 20 reps  1b. Chin Ups 5 x 5

With all the examples above you can plug in exercises that are relevant to your situation which means what kind of facilities do you have, equipment availability and level/skill of athlete. This also pertains to loading and volume. An inexperienced athlete does not need a lot of stimulus to build strength and some muscle.

I hope this helps you on your quest to becoming a better Water Polo Coach and Athlete. If you have any questions, please post them on the forum.