When you say polo, most peoples’ thoughts immediately turn to jumping & horses, elongated golf clubs, polite applause and Champagne. However, mention water polo and most people are probably not sure what to expect! Let me tell you, it is the complete opposite of the horse-version!
These athletes are seriously fit! Olympic matches are split into 8 minute quarters - yet with stoppages and fouls, this is more like 12 minutes. That’s 12 minutes where players have to tread water using the egg beater technique (a technique that uses alternate breast stroke leg kicks to keep the player upright). This means that players require: power in their legs for individual kicks, endurance so that they can keep going for 48 minutes and flexibility, to allow them to move around the pool. That is a lot to train for and it doesn’t even take into account the strength and power needed for the part of the game that is above the water!
Training-wise, anything that increases power in the legs is going to be ideal – then combine it with a proper set and rep range to build the muscular endurance that the sport requires. I would recommend something like this:
The squats at the start are designed to increase power; they need to be performed with as much explosive force as you can create. The idea is that you lift as much weight as you can but that you do it with speed. There is no point in grinding out the reps slowly for this; speed is your main aim.
The kettlebell swing is going to help with your endurance - this is a repeated powerful movement, so you are going to start to building up some lactic acid and your muscles are going to be forced to learn how to manage that. This is what will help get you through that final quarter.
The side lunge is an assistance exercise that is going to help reduce the risk of injury when performing the breast stroke kicks. Lateral strength is tested by the rotary movement of the kick and so the side lunge will build strength for this movement.
Above all else for this sport - you are going to have to get in the pool and practice!