Bidirectional Resistance and Change of Direction in Swimming: “Just swim it back”

In swimming, optimizing performance involves fine-tuning various physical and technical aspects. Among these, bidirectional resistance training and mastering changes of direction during swims are crucial for athletes looking to enhance their abilities and achieve peak performance.

The Significance of Bidirectional Resistance

Bidirectional resistance, a concept commonly associated with swimming against currents or using devices that increase water resistance, significantly impacts a swimmer’s efficiency and energy expenditure. Studies suggest that swimming in bidirectional cyclical flows, like those experienced in natural water bodies with wave surges, can increase the energetic costs for swimmers by up to 50% compared to steady flows. This higher cost is attributed to the added effort of turning to face the changing direction of flow, which can be particularly challenging during competitive events (Luongo et al., 2020).

Change of Direction in Swimming

The ability to efficiently change direction during swimming, especially in short course races, correlates significantly with overall performance. A study involving competitive university swimmers demonstrated that while there is a moderate correlation between speed and the ability to change direction, mastering this technique could distinguish higher-level performers from their peers (Noguchi et al., 2004).

Training Techniques and Considerations

  1. Resisted Swimming Training: Incorporating tools that add resistance can teach stroke mechanics and increase the strength and endurance of swimmers. For example, an 11-week training program with increased resistance resulted in significant improvements in swimming performance, highlighting the effectiveness of such methods in enhancing speed and stroke efficiency without compromising stroke mechanics (Gourgoulis et al., 2017).
  2. Technical Training for Turning: Focusing on the mechanics of turning and transitions can reduce time lost during changes of direction. Training should emphasize the coordination and fluidity of movements involved in turning, with techniques tailored to maximize efficiency during these critical moments of a race.
  3. Optimal Transfer of Dry-Land Gains to Pool Performance: A study on the transferability of dry-land resistance training to in-water conditions found that swim-specific exercises on ergometers are more effective in enhancing swimming speed compared to traditional resistance exercises. This suggests a high rate of transferability which is crucial for competitive performance (Sadowski, Mastalerz, & Gromisz, 2020).

A Focus on Training Innovations

"I just felt there needed to be something better and to tell you the truth, I wish I had this." -David McCagg

Understanding and implementing training strategies focused on bidirectional resistance and efficient change of direction are key for swimmers aiming to improve their performance. By emphasizing these areas in training regimens, swimmers can enhance their energy management, speed, and agility, leading to better outcomes in competitive settings.