LTAD

A Shorter Guide to Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD)

Introduction

Scientific research has indentified 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:

  • Training
  • Growth & Development

Long term athlete 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.

Reasons for LTAD

There are five clear reasons for introducing a long term athlete development approach:

  • To establish a clear swimmer development pathway
  • To identify gaps in the current swimmer development pathway
  • To realign and integrate the programmes for developing swimmers and swimming in Britain
  • To provide a planning tool, based on scientific research, for coaches and administrators
  • To guide planning for optimal performance

It is anticipated that the principles of LTAD will be used to review existing swimming initiatives led by the governing body and inform any future initiatives. It is hoped that all swimming providers will use LTAD in a similar way. This will enable the swimming community to pull in one direction towards achieving swimming’s goals and targets.

Current Sport System Issues

The following are some general observations of sporting systems around the world (including Britain)

  • Young athletes under-train, over-compete
  • Low training to competition ratios in early years
  • Adult competition superimposed on young athletes
  • Adult training programmes superimposed on young athletes
  • Male programmes superimposed on females
  • Training in early years focuses on outcomes (winning) rather than processes (optimal training)
  • Chronological age influences coaching rather than biological age
  • The ”critical” periods of accelerated adaption are not fully utilised
  • Poor training between 6-16 years of age cannot be fully corrected (athletes will never reach genetic potential)
  • The best coaches are encouraged to work at elite level
  • Coach education tends to skim the growth, development and maturation of young people
  • Coaches, swimmers and parents need to be educated in LTAD principles
  • Administrators and officials need to be educated in LTAD principles

Bill Sweetenham (former British Swimming National Performance Director) summed up the position with the development of British Swimming thus:

Right now we have too many clubs in Great Britain offering too little training time and in most cases too much competition. This leaves many athletes in a twighlight zone of training too much for fun but too little for results. For a senior athlete training under 8 hours a week the benefits are social, fun, participation, team building and health benefits. For those athletes wishing for an international career and who are serious about optimum performance at national level then swimming in a programme with a high performance objective of 18-25 hours is approximately what it will take to achieve these objectives. However, in most countries and in most clubs, the vast majority of athletes train between 8 and 14 hours per week. Changing this twighlight zone should be the major focus of every club and national programme.

Bill Sweetenham 2002

LTAD Framework

Long Term athlete development (LTAD) is a sports development framework that is based on human growth and development. In short, it is about adopting an athlete centred approach to swimming development.

All young people follow the same pattern of growth from infancy through adolescence, but there are significant individual differences in both the timing and magnitude of the changes that take place. It is however important to stress that human growth and development happens without training, however swimming training can enhance all of the changes that take place.

A number of scientists have reported that there are critical periods in the life of a young person in which the effects of training can be maximised. This has led to the notion that young people should be exposed to specific types of training during periods of rapid growth and that the types of training should change with the patterns of growth. These have been used by DR Istvan Balyi to devise a five stage LTAD framework that has been adapted to swimming:

  • FUNdamental – basic movement literacy – Female: 5 to 8 years / Male: 6 to 9 years
  • SwimSkills – building technique – Female 8 to 11 years / Male: 9 to 12 years
  • Training to train – building the engine – Female: 11 to 16 years / Male: 12 to 15 years
  • Training to compete – optimising the engine – Female: 14 to 16 years / Male: 15 to 18 years
  • Training to win – maximising the engine – Female: 16+ years / Male: 18+ years

At SGPC, we are primarily focussed on the third, fourth and fifth stages of LTAD. We do expect that by the time Club swimmers join us and are in Red Squad they will have sound technique and we will be able to focus on their aerobic development enabling us to help them meet their genetic potential for their agegroup. 

 We do however, have some way to go if we are to achieve the ideal training progressions that Swim Wales recommend (for your information, I have attached these progressions to this document see Appendix 1). Progress towards these recommendations is paramount.

In conclusion, there is a tremendous amount of information available on Long term Athlete Development (LTAD) and this guide is only intended to give you some idea of what it means for the club and our swimmers. Should you require any further information or explanation then please contact Rosie or Bron

Appendix 1: Long Term Athlete Development Model

Swim Wales Ideal Training Progressions

Female Age (Years) Male Age (Years) Session Numbers Session Duration (Hours) AM PM W/E Total Hours Per Week
Normal Fast Track Normal Fast Track
5/6 5/6 6/7 6/7 1 1 x 1 hr 0 1 0 1
5/6 5/6 6/7 6/7 2 2 x 1 hr 0 1 1 2
6/7 6/7 7/8 7/8 3 3 x 1 hr 0 2 1 3
7/8 7/8 8/9 8/9 3 2 x 1.5 hrs 1 x 1 hr 0 2 1 4
8/9 8/9 9/10 9/10 4 1 x 2 hrs 3 x 1.5 hrs 0 or 1 2 or 3 1 6.5
9/10 9/10 10/11 10/11 5 2 x 2 hrs 3 x 1.5 hrs 1 3 1 8.5
10/11 10/11 11/12 11/12 6 3 x 2 hrs 3 x 1.5 hrs 1 or 2 2 or 3 1 or 2 10.5
11/12 10/11 12/13 11/12 7 5 x 2 hrs 2 x 1.5 hrs 2 4 1 13
12/13 11/12 13/14 12/13 8 6 x 2 hrs 2 x 1.5 hrs 3 4 1 15
13/14 12/13 14/15 13/14 9 9 x 2 hrs 3 or 4 4 or 5 1 or 2 18
14+ 13+ 15+ 14+ 10 10 x 2 hrs 4 or 5 5 1 or 2 20
Female Age Male Age Sessions Per Week Total Weekly Hours Approx Weekly Volume Approx Metres Per Hour
10 – 11 11 – 12 6 10.5 19000 to 26000 m 1800 to 2400 metres
10 – 12 11 – 13 7 13 26000 to 33000 m 2000 to 2500 metres
11 – 13 12 – 14 8 15 33000 to 43000 m 2200 to 2800 metres
12 – 14 13 – 15 9 18 43000 to 52000 m 2400 to 2900 metres
13 – 15 14 – 16 10 20 52000 to 60000 m 2600 to 3000 metres

Competitive swimming training for swimmers from Gwynedd