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23 June 2006

How fit must a diver be?

Divers might not need to race the clock, but their chosen discipline is demanding in many other ways. How fit should you be?

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Divers might not need to race the clock, but their chosen discipline is demanding in many other ways. The countless hours of training demand stamina and endurance, not to mention mental fortitude. Apart from so-called training specificity – in this case performing over and over until it’s flawless – athletes do many other exercises to build their strength.

Typical build
Most divers have the typically mesopmorphic build and the men in particular have the distinctive V-shaped torso that comes from pulling their bodies through the resistance of water. While the divers won’t spend long in front of the judges, the few moments they do require absolute physical and mental prowess, so their training will be just as rigorous as, say, swimmers training for a 100m freestyle event. The athletes’ bodies respond and develop in similar ways.

Technique
Because they’re judged on the grace and precision of their moves, divers not only practice their moves countless times, but analyse their performance with their coaches. Videotaping is a superb way of monitoring performance.

Training programme
Typically, divers would combine the time they actually practise diving with other activities, including gym workouts and plenty of stretching and breathing exercises. While divers won’t concentrate on building lots of muscle mass, the amount of twisting and bending required means that training also focuses on the back and torso.

Cardiovascular fitness
Divers take cardiovascular fitness seriously, even though they don’t compete for hours at a time. Swimming will improve recovery times and reflexes. As with all sports, a trained coach must not only be able to push an athlete to improve, but also to prevent overtraining in overenthusiastic athletes.

Speed drills
The nature of diving means speed drills aren’t really necessary. The athletes will need to ensure that their cardiovascular recovery rates are good.

Resistance training and muscles
Weight training is a way of life for most athletes. Divers will work on pecs, quads, trapesius and lats. While weight machines help isolate muscle groups, working with dumbbells helps develop core strength and even balance.

Nutrition
Like all serious athletes, divers will follow a strict diet low in fat and high in complex carbohydrates.

Mental
The ability to deal with stress and pressure is paramount. The more a routine is followed, the quicker and easier it becomes to do. This is because neural pathways grow broader the more the brain “orders” muscles to carry out a task.

Read more:
Dive training
Diving and your health

 
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