How to Workout like a Rescue Swimmer
Today I want to give you a little structure for developing high returns to your physical conditioning. What I describe below is the style of training I used while training for rescue swimmer school and I believe it’s provides the highest probability of getting candidates through elite military training. In summary, you should aim to develop your overall endurance with a high volume of calisthenics and swimming, a moderate running volume, and low volume strength training (weight training). Of course, this is a nuanced topic, some students will need to implement more weight training than others and some would be better off eliminating strength training all together. It all depends on your body composition and where your strength and weakness are. I went through swimmer school at 6’3 175 pounds. I’ve always had strong legs and a relatively weak upper body. Meaning I had to focus for a few months on upper body weight training to help increase my PT numbers and give me the strength to control my survivor during buddy tows and simulated rescues.
Too much muscle means your body needs more oxygen to do work. This makes underwater laps and any water confidence drills harder for you. It also means you have a higher than optimal density for swimming survivors and treading. If you require a relatively higher level of energy to stay afloat while brick treading or towing your survivor, you are more likely to experience cramping and fatigue. Cramps in your legs while towing a survivor during a test in rescue swimmer school can be the difference between getting your survivor in the basket in the allotted time or failing. I’m not saying it’s impossible for muscular candidates to get through rescue swimmer school. In fact, there are usually 1-2 large frame swimmers who get through every graduating class. I just want to highlight some of the challenges you have to deal with, if you over train in the weight room.
Let me define two concepts before highlighting a training structure. Capacity vs. Utilization training. Capacity training is training with the overall goal being long term athletic performance. This is training that develops your aerobic or strength capacity. This is any workout that you use to increase your fitness level that isn’t specific to what you’re training for. Utilization training are workouts that seek to improve the skillset needed for a specific event. Buddy bricks or any specific test/drill you need to train for and pass in your given school would be an example. 90-95% of all the training you do should be capacity oriented. Your goal is to improve your aerobic and strength capacity at a sustainable pace over the course of months to years. If you are too utilization focused, you risk not having ability the aerobic capacity to endure the long training days, this would manifest in your switching over to anaerobic energy production too early in a workout.
This concept can also be applied to water confidence training. Underwater laps are what I would call capacity training. You will slowly be building up your lung capacity but not worrying about the technical drills i.e. buddy brick, lap tracers, etc. The technical drills are considered utilization training and should not take up too much of any training block.
Here’s an example of a training week I would typically assign a student in the first phase of their training. Or someone who could pass the initial PT test but doesn’t have much training experience.