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Training without a plan is like showing up at the pool without your Speedo—unwise, shortsighted and potentially embarrassing. Every aquatic athlete needs ambition both in and out of the water. Mark Gangloff, ’04 and ’08 Olympian, answers our questions on how and what to train in the weight room.
STACK: What’s your attitude when approaching practice or lifting?
Mark Gangloff: Definitely take pride in what you’re doing. Come to practice or come to a game with a purpose. If it’s specifically to get better at one thing, make sure you achieve that goal during practice. People need to have objectives for every practice and every game.
STACK: How has your out-of-pool training progressed from high school to college and into the Olympic ranks?
MG: I did weight training in high school, but I don’t think I realized the importance of it until I got to college. I had a pretty close relationship with my college strength coach [Bryan Karkoska, Auburn University]. He taught me a lot about the importance of strength and the way to gain strength.
STACK: At Auburn, what areas were emphasized to help develop you as a swimmer?
MG: Strength that is applicable to swimming in the pool. It does me no good to go in the weight room and bench 300 pounds if I can’t swim [well] in the pool. We really worked on specifically strengthening muscles that I need to use in the water. Since I’m a breaststroker, we worked a lot on my legs—and on explosiveness.
STACK: What exercises or lifts help you increase strength and explosiveness?
MG: A ton of plyometrics. We did some stroke-specific stuff as well. [We also perform] different kinds of squats…back squats, front squats and sumo squats.
STACK: How important is working the core to obtain speed?
MG: If you think about [your body] being a “straight line” in the pool, then the better your abs are, and the less break there is in your body, the better you’re going to be.
STACK: How do you achieve abdominal strength?
MG: Basically, the way we did it [at Auburn] is each person has 30 seconds, and you pick an ab [exercise] and you do 30 seconds of it. Then you move on to the next person, and basically as soon as he calls out the next ab [exercise], you start again. So usually we go 30 on, and then five to 10 seconds off, depending on how long it takes for [your teammates] to decide what [exercise] they want to do.
Below, Gangloff, with help from strength and conditioning coach Chris Ritter of Mecklenburg Aquatic Club, provides two abdominal exercises to add to your core routine.
Supine Lateral Kicks
• Lie on back with hands underneath buttocks, feet together and legs elevated about 6 inches off ground
• Cross legs over in “scissor kick” fashion; right leg will go over left leg
• Continue “scissor kick” by alternating leg that crosses over the top
Sets/Reps: 3×8-12, with 30 seconds rest
Coaching Points: Maintain a tight core throughout the exercise // Push back into the ground // Keep your head in line // Focus on moving legs while keeping the core still
Toe Touches With Dumbbell
• Get in sit-up position with feet together and legs straight up in air
• Hold top end of dumbbell in hands with arms as straight as possible
• Crunch up and reach dumbbell toward feet; return to start position and repeat
Sets/Reps: 3×8-12, with 60 seconds rest
Coaching Points: Start with light DB and then progress when technique is perfect // Avoid using momentum to get up // Do not use DB weight to thrust up, but instead focus on crunching with your core // Keep legs and arms straight throughout exercise // Avoid rocking
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