Think ‘athlete’ and there’s a good chance you also think ‘swimmer’. Because in terms of raw physical fitness – coupled with invariably high-def bodies – professional swimmers are in a lane of their own.
27-year-old Ben Proud is no different. A former World Champion in the 50m butterfly, the two-time Olympian has also clinched a European title in the 50m freestyle.
With the powerful physique to prove it, Proud is a sprint specialist whose success is based on explosive starts and serious speed through the water.
But while in-pool work forms the chunk of his training, reaching peak performance also depends on plenty of gym-based conditioning, as he explains…
15 Minutes With Ben Proud
Swimming is one of the few sports that can target every aspect of fitness, strength and mobility. Once you become familiar with the water, you can make small changes to sessions and train completely different aspects of your health – from high-intensity intervals to low-and-slow relaxation. It can be a dynamic form of yoga.
I can be training up to 20 hours a week – a mixture of pool and gym sessions. As a sprinter my focus is on short, sharp exercises with perfect form. On a big week, 15 hours are spent in the pool and around six in the gym.
I’ve always believed consistency and time are your greatest friends. To make a true impact on your body and health, it’s best to have a slow and steady approach, and avoid rushing through a new programme.
My favourite method of training is choosing three to four compound lifts (bench, deadlift, squat) and arranging them over two to three gym sessions a week. They will be done for either 5 sets of 5-8 reps, or 3 sets of 1-3 reps, starting with the higher workload and tapering down as the year goes on. It’s important to mention that I rarely ever work at 100% capacity, as we like to focus on form and avoid major fatigue.
Whenever I’m starting a new cycle of training it typically takes four weeks to get into the swing of things: week one movements feel awkward and weak; week two I start to get familiarised with the exercises; week three I find my body’s natural ranges; and by week four feel confident and ready to push my boundaries.
I love food and fortunately swimming requires a high-calorie diet, so much so that often the battle is providing my body with the right amount of energy to keep up with the workload.
I’ve found a huge amount of value in learning to listen to my body. For example, when I’m craving a pizza I’ll ask myself why: am I needing extra calories? Do I need extra fat in my diet? Is there a nutrient my body is lacking? Often you’ll find that a craving is just your body’s way of asking for what it needs.