Swimming or weight training first?
Published: Wednesday | March 4, 2009
Response to reader
Dear Dr Gardner,
What is your view on doing weight and track exercises for an hour and then going to the pool and swimming 30 laps (in a 20-yard pool)? Should the swimming be done first in order to keep the benefit from the weight training?
Thanks for sharing your interesting situation. However, a little more detail would help me to give more specific advice. It would be good to know the objectives of your weight-training programme.
Swimming supports body
However, weight-training programmes are generally used for the development of strength. More specifically, strength-training programmes are used to address health, fitness, maximal strength development, muscular endurance or bodybuilding. Weight-training programmes are developed along the guidelines that will achieve the objectives of specific programmes.
On the other hand, swimming is an excellent form of aerobic exercise that uses almost all of the body's major muscle groups. Compared with other popular activities, the risk of injuries from swimming is low. The aquatic environment helps to support your body by taking the pressure off your bones and joints. Depending on the swimming strokes that you use, it is more difficult to achieve maximum exercise intensity during your track-training or weight-training routine.
Most of the work in swimming is accomplished by the use of the muscles in your upper body. Your weight-training programme guidelines will determine the mode of the programme that should be used to develop the specific requirement such as dynamic strength and static strength. The level of weight resistance is significant. The load or weight to be lifted is of much significance based on your objective of strength or endurance development. For you to stimulate strength development, the resistance you work with should be approximately 80 per cent of your maximum capability. If you were to use less than this you would be improving your endurance instead of your strength.
Sets and recovery time
The sequence of your exercising would be based on your development focus. The number of repetitions that you do for each exercise is an important variable in the objective of your programme. The number of sets you can do is limited by your body's response to the activity. As the number of sets increases, your body's threshold to withstand fatigue and its subsequent recovery time are affected negatively.
To get the best out of your weight-training programme, it should be done either through a total body workout two to three times each week or more frequently if you are using the split-body routine such as upper body one day and the lower body the next day.
After doing a maximum weight workout, rest your muscles for about two to three days to allow enough recovery. If you do not feel that you have recovered fully in that time, it is likely that you are overtraining and not reaping the full benefits of the training programme.
The frequency of your weight-training programme should depend on the amount of resistance, the number of sets you perform in each session and your ability to recover from the previous session.
I think you should do the swimming component of your training routine as the last activity. Swimming is a good therapeutic way to massage the muscles after the rigour of track and weight training.
Dr Kenneth Gardner is an exercise physiologist at Holiday Hills Research Center; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.