Swimmers have been practicing Hypoxic training to increase their lung capacity. This oxygen, reduced training not only increases lung capacity, but also improves their tolerance for oxygen deprivation. The name may sound intimidating. However, the training is simple.
Exercise 1: Do not breathe while swimming a 25 yard freestyle lap. Instead, hold your breath for the first few strokes then slowly exhale during the rest of the lap. The secret lies in the slow exhalation process, wherein the muscles build up oxygen. Repeat the exercise 10 times with a 30 seconds gap between each repetition. Slowly increase the number of repetitions to 20.
Exercise 2: This is the next step. Swim in 25 yard freestyle with varied breathing patterns. Add 1 or 2 strokes to your normal breathing cycle. Repeat the exercise 10 times with a 30 seconds break between repetitions. Slowly increase lactic acid tolerance in your body by increasing the breathing strokes by 8 to 10 strokes.
Exercise 3: Swim underwater while swimming in 25-yard lap. Repeat the exercise 3-4 times with a 60 seconds break between repetitions. Slowly increase the number of laps per day till you can comfortably swim 7 to 8 laps. The breaststroke is the recommended for this exercise.
Exercise 4: A slight variation of the 3rd exercise, try different styles of swimming. Start out with a dolphin kick and then swimming in a streamline position. The rest of the variables remain the same as exercise 3.
Exercise 5: Minimize your kick since the legs and hips consume maximum oxygen while contributing substantially to your speed. Try all the above exercises with slower breathing drills.
Exercise 6: Improve your swimming technique. An untidy technique result in a equals quick loss of breath. Reduce the splash while swimming. Make your technique controlled, smooth and balanced to increase lung capacity.
Exercise 7: Breath control swimming: This is a controlled swimming technique. The swimmer breathes every ‘X’ stroke per lap for example, every 3rd stroke or every 5th stroke. Start off with every 3rd stroke and then build up capacity to reach 10th or 11th stroke. This will take time so do not rush into it.
Exercise 8: Practice by holding your breath underwater. Start with 10 counts and increase till 50 counts.
Exercise 9: Besides the exercises listed above, a few simple exercises like Pilates and meditation are also very helpful in increasing lung capacity.
Exercise 10: Work out at places with a high altitude, since such places will mimic the oxygen conditions similar to being underwater.
Hypoxic training coupled with correct technique and increased lung capacity helps swimmers to build up stamina and sustenance that helps underwater performance. Interestingly, Hypoxic training is not useful for building endurance levels in all athletes including cyclists and swimmers.
However, hypoxic training continues to be a highly debatable practice with not much research or scientific studies. While there are two schools of thoughts regarding the effects of this training on performance, most sports persons have undergone intensive training for endurance. Despite the criticism expressed about the training, it continues to be a favorite with swimmers across the world.