Ryan Lochte’s strength coach, and the Assistant Director of Strength and Conditioning for University of Florida, Matt DeLancey, started working with the Olympic swimmer as a freshman at the University of Florida in 2003. After Michael Phelps’ dominant performance during the Olympics in Beijing in 2008, Lochte’s focus was gaining a competitive edge on the opposition both physically and mentally. “He wanted to get stronger. He wanted a mental edge over competitors, which is why we did the Strongman training”, DeLancey explains. Strongman refers to a series of contests held throughout the United States which tests muscle power and intensity. “The strongman events have been modified for a swimmer. We took the weights off, and did light to moderate exercises. The emphasis is on getting stronger without putting weight on, which means doing around five repetitions, versus eight to twelve repetitions of an exercise. He got stronger confidence-wise”, expresses DeLancey.
A Day in the Life
In addition to Lochte’s swimming training, he dedicated his off-season to DeLancey’s grueling and tiring strength workouts. “We did a combination of everything. We gave him a variety because at the elite level, it is what you need”, DeLancey explains. Variety also explains how Lochte stays encouraged despite a demanding schedule both in and out of the pool. Recently, his friend and competitor Michael Phelps has become the subject of scrutiny as many question his motivation while training for the 2012 Olympics. “Ryan is fairly consistent, and a highly intrinsically motivated athlete. He has a belief that he wants to be better than he was yesterday,” DeLancey says. Lochte also uses music to get through harsh workouts. DeLancey laughs when asked about Ryan’s music taste while working out. “Rap. Little Wayne and Jay-Z, and whatever is on his iPod.”
The training sessions with DeLancey last between an hour to ninety minutes. He also occasionally workouts out in DeLancey’s garage for 2 ½ hour grueling Sunday sessions. Many athletes complain about the additional gym time required outside of training for the sport, but Lochte seems to relish it. “He loves to be punished,” DeLancey comments.
Ryan Lochte’s offseason training includes one day of a full body workout including plyometrics, which are fast and powerful movements, in addition to strength exercises, such as the box jump, ankling, and a squat variation. They also work the upper body with plyometrics, and finish the day with core exercises, essential for a swimmer. An alternate day is used for untraditional workouts with ropes, and again focus on the core, and rotator cuffs as well. Those harsh and taxing Sunday workouts include a variety of strongman exercises. “We cycle the strength training, and operate on three to four training cycles. We get heavier with weights for three weeks, unload, and go for another four weeks, and unload,” DeLancey explains. The exercises can range from two to five repetitions over six sets, such as two sets of five, two sets, of three, and two sets of two. “For squat variations, we use five sets of five progressions,” says DeLancey. The two manage to keep the routine going despite Lochte’s swimming schedule, and public relation demands. “There are times when he is going to be traveling on a photo sheet or a meet, and we just use these as recovery days,” he explains.
Lochte’s performance at the London Olympics has been tempered by critics. “People are starting to get down on him. He has already done better than the 2008 Olympics. He swam close to his lifetime best in the 200-meter freestyle, and beat expectations in the 4x100 freestyle. His goal was to have a better Olympics, and he is performing better in London than in Beijing.” When asked how Lochte is holding up with the pressure, DeLancey replies, “We’ve been texting. He is feeling good.”
Another controversy in the Olympics has been the performance of the Chinese female swimmer, Ye Shiwen, who dropped five seconds of her personal best time during the 400 meter individual medley, and swam the final 50 meters of freestyle faster than Ryan Lochte, the gold-medalist in this event. DeLancey resists making any negative assertions. “I feel like it is unfair to speculate on an athlete. I wasn’t with her during her four years of training. I can’t comment on her mentality, and what she does in the weight room. There are so many variables. This is a special performance of the Olympics. So much of it is speculation and it is unfair to a 16-year old. If drugs were out of the equation, everyone would be saying wow, this was a fantastic effort,” DeLancey emphasizes.
We asked DeLancey how to start training like Ryan even if your preferred Olympic sport is eating Doritos on the couch while channel surfing. We may not be able to help you with Lochte’s signature diamond-studded grills and brightly-colored high tops, but we can help you workout like him. DeLancey has put together this basic plan, which Lochte used as a freshman with no formal weight-training background.
DeLancey also agrees that variety is as important for the everyday athlete as it is for a professional athlete, but advises pacing yourself. “We focus on the technique, and don’t allow a swimmer to progress without perfect technique,” DeLancey warns.