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12/29/2013 8:31:52 PM - Brad
Hi Mark,
Im putting together an off season dry land training program for our high school Girls water polo team.
Have you had any experience programing training for water polo? And if so what testing have you used? ex. vertical jump, push ups, etc.
Thanks for your help


I have not had experience with water polo personally. I have worked with swimming and diving and there are some similarities between the sports. There are however some aspects that make pool sports unique. For the sake of this list, I will lump water polo with swimming & diving just for the comparison of other sports.

1.) Pool sports are some of the few sports that are "open chain" dominant. Most field & court sports are closed-chained, specifically with the lower body. This being said, movements should be tailored toward those movements.

2.) Pool sports are almost exclusively concentric in nature (like cycling). For swimming, except for pushing off the wall, there are no eccentric movements. You are never "lowering" the water. you are pushing against fluid resistance in all planes of motion. With water polo, the addition of the ball and the physical nature of the contact in the water would add an eccentric element (think upper back with shooting).

3.) Stability and isometric strength are also not as much of a contributing factor than . There is resistance in all planes for the water, and besides physical contact form other players, stability is assisted by the water.

There are not too many sorts tougher than Water Polo
It is foolish to not realize the physicality of a sport like Water Polo. When looking at the needs of the sport, this should also give you an idea of testing. If I had to formulate a profile and classification.

Water-Polo is a combat sport (watch it from under the water) similar to wrestling.

Water-Polo is an overhead sport (you can't pass, shoot, or block from a low position) similar to baseball or basketball.

Water-Polo is an intermittent sport that spans across all energy systems (I know every sport does), but for this reason, conditioning must be more varied.

So to give you my opinion of what performances tests I would use:

Strength Tests
Remember, strength is the one fitness quality that all others are based upon. It is the glass ceiling. The more strength your athletes posses relative to their bodyweight; the less energy it will take to perform all movements in the pool. Don't under-train and over-condition.

1. Chin-up or Body-weight Rows.
For females, the chin-up may not be a feasible test, depending on their physical readiness. You may want to have a system to use bands or use bodyweight rows. I think the Blast Strap Rows are the best to use but of course I am biased. Just make sure the foot positioning is the same and I would even use a tempo to test them.

2. Squat or Trap Bar Deadlift. Water polo players will need to move every which way when it comes to lower body. Picking one foundational and structural movement that all of your athletes can perform will serve the purpose.

3. Overhead Press. I realize the push-up is easier to incorporate into workouts and the bench press is more common. Trouble is the push-up is hard to test. I am not one to test an exercises due to sport specificity, but the OHP may be the best option logistically as well.

Power Tests

1. Vertical Jump. I realize this is totally different from the pool and some people won't see the correlation, but I feel the vertical jump is the best test to measure lower body power.

2. Med Ball Throw. I just don't know which variation would be best. A backwards scoop throw may be applicable. Throwing a medball forward and overhead for distance is an injury waiting to happen. This is a maybe for me.

Ok, this is where it gets questionable. I guess you could look at the average work to rest ratios and simulate that with a conditioning test. Trouble is with Water Polo, it is more like work to work ratio.

If it were up to me, I would not have a dryland conditioning test. I am not saying I wouldn't perform some kind of dryland conditioning; I just may not test it until you get in the pool.

I hope this helps Brad. Please let me know if there is anything else I can help you with when it comes to training. Best of luck with everything.

When in doubt, get them stronger,
Mark Watts

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