Volume vs. intensity in the training of competitive swimmers

O. Faude, T. Meyer, J. Scharhag, F. Weins, A. Urhausen and W. Kindermann, International Journal Of Sports Medicine 29, (2008).

Using 10 competitive level swimmers, the authors looked at the mental and physical well-being and performance of two groups, one that underwent high volume training (HVT) and one that underwent high intensity training (HIT) to determine potential benefits of the broad training regimes. Using a profile of mood states and anaerobic threshold tests, the researchers tested the subjects before and after undergoing the 4-week training period.

The authors found that over this 4-week training program, both regimes equally improved the aerobic endurance of the swimmers, and stated explicitly that “the high-training volumes usually used in the training of competitive swimmers are not advantageous compared to a high-intensity training of lower volume.” They go on to state that the decreased time and volume spent on unnecessarily increasing training volume could be better spent in “other relevants training contents.” The point out that because there is such an emphasis on swimming form, that reducing total training volume to focus more on other “performance determining factors” would turn out to be a more effective training strategy (although they did note that, as this was the not the porpoise [sorry, swimming pun] of the study, no conclusions could be drawn).

This study can be extrapolated to shorter running events, suggesting that increased volume for an event as short as the cross country 8k is not the most economic training regime. As the authors imply, more focus should be placed on other performance related items, such as speed, form, and strength. Additionally, as this study only lasted 4 weeks, and as increased volume over time has been shown to cause injury in runners, it is possible that HVT training, in addition to taking up more time than HIT or polarized training, can have higher injury rates.

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