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Water Polo Fitness

Water Polo is a very physically demanding sport. Water Polo players need to have the exceptional fitness to tread water for extended periods without using their hands, swim in short intense bursts and constantly change direction, palm off opponents, and pass and shoot at goal under fatigue. In an average one hour match, they can swim up to four to five kilometers (2.5 - 3 miles). Thus they need to have exceptional fitness.

Players need to have a very high aerobic fitness, they need to be strong swimmers, capable of fast short bursts of activity, and able to repeat these high intensity activities with minimal rest. Players are also generally very tall and have a long arm reach. See the page about Fitness Testing for Water Polo for more information about what to test for and monitor in water polo players, and our discussion about the Important Fitness Components for Water Polo.

Game Analysis

By analyzing game play for water polo players, a greater understanding of the physical demands of the sport can be made, and therefore appropriate training can be recommended. Tan et al. (2009) studied the movement patterns and physical demands in elite women's water polo matches. The analysis of 33 player's matches via video analysis confirmed that water polo is a high-intensity intermittent sport. Players performed 6.7 ± 3.5 repeated high-intensity activity bouts per match, suggesting the importance of fitness in this area. Players are rarely resting during matches. Total distance swum per match was 699.3 ± 296.8 meters.

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Players performed on average 330 ± 158 discrete movements per match, representing a change in movement every 6.2 seconds. There were 54 ± 25 high-intensity activities per match, or one every 38.4 seconds. There was a difference found between center and perimeter players. Those in the center positions were involved in wrestling more often (4:13 vs. 1:53 min:secs) while perimeter players were involved in sprint swimming more often (2:09 vs. 0:52 min:sec). Overall, exercise intensity decreased as a match progressed, suggesting the likelihood of fatigue during the latter stages of the matches.


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