Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) 

Stockton ASC fully endorses the ASA’s LTAD process, it is vital that swimmers no matter how talented at an early age follow this path for the reasons below: Please pay particular attention to the ages of the swimmers at each stage. People do develop at different chronological ages so the biological age may be used when categorising the swimmers. 

INTRODUCTION  

Scientific research has identified that it takes at least 10 years, or 10,000 hours for talented athletes to achieve sporting excellence. There are no short cuts! 

There are two ways in which young swimmers can improve their performance: 

  1. Training;
  2. Growth and development.

LTAD is about achieving optimal training, competition and recovery throughout an athlete’s career, particularly in relation to the important growth and development years of young people. If a long term approach to training is not adopted there is likely to be a plateau in performance, when growth and development slows significantly. Which for some swimmers may result in their performances getting worse. At this point the short-term training approach cannot be reversed. This often leads to drop out before a swimmer has achieved close to their potential. 

 

Stage 1 – FUNdamental!

AGE:          Female 5 to 8 years / Male 6 to 9 years

The FUNdamental stage should be structured and fun! The emphasis is on developing basic movement literacy and fundamental movement skills. The skills to be developed are the ABCs (Agility, Balance, Coordination, Speed), RJT (Running, Jumping, Throwing), KGBs (Kinaesthetics, Gliding, Buoyancy, Striking with the body) and CKs (Catching, Kicking, Striking with an implement). In order to develop basic movement literacy successfully participation in as many sports as possible should be encouraged. 

Speed, power and endurance should be developed using FUN and games. In addition, children should be introduced to the simple rules and ethics of sports. No Periodisation should take place, but there should be well-structured programmes with proper progressions that are monitored regularly.

 

Stage 2 – SwimSkills: Building technique!

AGE:          Female 8 to 11 years / Male 9 to 12 years

During this stage young swimmers should learn how to train and develop the skills of a specific sport. There may be participation in complementary sports i.e. those sports, which use similar energy systems and movement patterns. They should also learn the basic technical/tactical skills, and ancillary capacities, including: 

  • Warm up and cool down;
  • Stretching;
  • Hydration and nutrition;
  • Recovery;
  • Relaxation and focusing.

This stage coincides with peak motor co-ordination, therefore there should be an emphasis on skill development. Training should also include the use of ‘own body weight’ exercises; medicine ball and Swiss ball exercises as well as developing suppleness. 

Although the focus is on training, competition should be used to test and refine skills. The recommended training to competition ratio is 75% to 25%. There should be single periodisation.

If a young swimmer misses this stage of development then he/she will never reach their full potential. One of the main reasons athletes plateau during the later stages of their careers is because of an over emphasis on competition instead of optimising training during this very important stage.   

 

Stage 3 – Training To Train: Building the engine!

AGE:          Female 11 to 14 years / Male 12 to 15 years

During the Training to Train stage, there should be an emphasis on aerobic conditioning. This is the stage where there is greater individualisation of fitness and technical training. The focus should still be on training rather than competition and the training should be predominantly of high volume, low intensity workloads. It is important to emphasise that high volume, low intensity training cannot be achieved in a limited time period, and therefore the time commitment to training should increase significantly. As the volume of training increases, there is likely to be a reduction in the number of competitions undertaken. However, there should now be specific targets for each competition undertaken with a view to learning basic tactics and mental preparation. There should be either single or double periodisation of the training year.

During this stage, training should continue to develop suppleness and to include the use of ‘own body weight’ exercises; medicine ball and Swiss ball exercises. However towards the end of this stage, preparations should be made for the development of strength, which for girls occurs at the end of this stage and for boys at the beginning of the next stage. This should include learning correct weight lifting techniques. The ancillary capacities (the knowledge base of how to warm up and warm down; how to stretch and when to stretch; how to optimise nutrition and hydration; mental preparation; regeneration; how and when to taper and peak; pre-competition, competition and post competition routines) should be established. 

Similar to the previous stage, if insufficient time is devoted to this stage or it is missed, and then the young swimmer will never reach their full potential.

 

Stage 4 – Training To Compete: Optimising the engine!

AGE:          Female 14 to 16 years / Male 15 to 18 years

During the training to compete stage there should be a continued emphasis on physical conditioning with the focus on maintaining high volume workloads but with increasing intensity. The number of competitions should be similar to the end of the previous stage but the emphasis should be on developing individual strengths and weaknesses through modelling and nurturing technical and tactical skills based around specific strokes or distances, but not both. As a result, there should be either double or triple periodisation of the training year. In addition, the ancillary capacities should be refined so they are more specific to the individual’s needs. 

During this stage, training should also focus on developing maximum strength gain through the use of weights. This should be coupled with continued work on core body strength and maintaining suppleness.

 

Stage 5 – Training To Win: Maximising the engine!

AGE:          Female 16+ years / Male 18+ years

This is the final stage of athletic preparation. The emphasis should be on specialisation and performance enhancement. All of the athletes’ physical, technical, tactical, mental, and ancillary capacities should now be fully established with the focus shifting to the optimisation of performance. Athletes should be trained to peak for specific competitions and major events. Therefore, all aspects of training should be individualised for specific events. There should be either double, triple or multiple periodisation, depending on the events being trained for. During this stage, training should continue to develop strength, develop core body strength and maintain suppleness.