Strength Exercises For Swimming #SwimTechTues

Strength Exercises For Swimming #SwimTechTues

 Strength Exercises For Swimming

I often get asked about what strength exercises for swimming – either to avoid injury or to get faster and stronger. Strength training of any sort can be incredibly useful – but it is only a tool. You can do all the strength work in the world, but if you don’t then adapt your technique to make the most of it, then there is no benefit at all. That’s why all the articles you read about gaining good core strength are good – but only if you then focus on strong posture and balance.

[Tweet “Strength work is all good, but worthless if you don’t incorporate into your full technique.”]

There are many many exercises that you can do, so I’ve listed a couple here (with videos) that are my personal favourites and recommendations. The first section is gym based exercises, the second part is if you don’t have access to a gym, or want to be able to do some movements when and wherever you want.

Obviously these are just a guide to some exercises that you can do, form is important to minimise the risk of injury, and ask for guidance around weight that is right for you as well as number of reps or sets.


Gym Strength Exercises For Swimming

If you are doing gym work, two absolute staples as far as I am concerned are deadlifts and squats. Both teach you to brace your core properly and maintain great posture. Both are about much more than just using your legs (although this will help triathletes with their bike and run!) as if you are lifting relatively heavier weight you will be using your lats as well, so they are great all round exercises. Done with both legs at the same time you can build serious strength and power. Done with single leg variations you can improve balance, stability and control.

(Note, this is a sumo deadlift, there is less stress on the lower back. A standard deadlift would work just as well, feet under the hips with arms just outside the legs)

Another alternative to deadlifts are romanian or straight leg deadlifts – this takes the quads out of the equation and focuses purely on the posterior chain (ie hamstrings, glutes and lats)

Pull ups are a good way of really working your upper body – especially your lats. Try and use an overhand grip (palms facing away from you), or a neutral grip (palms facing toward each other) to get the best benefit for swim strength. Not everyone has the strength to do a pull up, so a nice starting point is a hollow body hang; engage your core, pull your shoulders down and back, and just maintain a good solid hold for 10-15s to start with. If that is easy, you can try jumping up to get your chin above the bar and slowly lowering yourself down.

For good core strength and maintaining good body alignment, you could do a Pallof press. But I prefer this option as it gives you a longer extension through the body and makes it more relevant to swimming.

The final gym exercise that I am a fan of is a suitcase carry. Really simple this one: pick up a weight in one hand. Stand up straight, weight hanging by your side. Walk around for a minute. Swap hands and repeat – do two or 3 on either side. The benefit of doing this is twofold: Firstly it forces you to keep your spine and core straight and strong. Secondly it strengthens your forearm muscles which will help for sculling and keeping a strong hold on the water. The added bonus is you’ll never have to make more than one trip from the car with your shopping!

Non Gym Strength Exercises For Swimming

These two you can do with weight, with a stretch cord/thera band, or even without weight to groove the movement and create stability. The shoulders have a lot of small individual muscles controlling them, so ensuring that they are stable is important.

You can’t go too far wrong with a simple press up or plank – BUT MAKE SURE YOUR BACK/NECK IS STRAIGHT! There is no core benefit from doing a plank if your back/ass is sagging down. You should be able to balance a glass of water on your shoulder blades – if only for 10-15s! With a press up, keep your elbows in reasonably tight so you can use your lats as well as your shoulders and chest.

A really nice exercise for core and shoulder mobility is the bear crawl – doesn’t require much space, and you can do with young children to keep them interested in what you are doing too!

Similar to the hollow body hang above, as well as the squats and deadlifts, the hollow body hold teaches you to maintain a strong rigid core and to keep your back flat. Because its at full extension, it’s a great swimming specific exercise.

Maybe try adding one or two of these into your weekly routine. Remember, don’t try and go heavy straight away, or for too many reps! We want to create strength and stability, not soreness or injury!


If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to get in touch; either by email, facebook or leave a comment on here! Remember, you can always get your swimming reviewed in  the endless pool with our video swim analysis packages.

See what’s up next week for our #SwimTechTues tip!

Rock & Roll Swimming – What Is Rotation #SwimTechTues

Rock & Roll Swimming – What Is Rotation #SwimTechTues

Rotation is one of the really important parts of swimming – and also quite misunderstood! Rotating the body (rather than swimming flat on your front) has 4 useful benefits:

1) Increased reach (forward and backwards)

2) Reduced frontal profile (so less resistance)

3) Better ability to get the bigger muscles of your back involved (so more power)

4) Most importantly for many – easier to breath!

There are two ways of controlling body rotation – either from your hips or from your shoulders. The problem if you only use your shoulders is that because they are relatively small muscles, and they are controlling what your arms are doing too, it’s very easy for them to tire very quickly. By off loading some of that stress – the control and balance of your stroke – to our core muscles, you can maintain a smoother and stronger stroke for longer


Two of my favourite drills to develop balance and stability are kick based (every triathletes’ favourite) and a really good way of dialling in good posture and body position as well.

The first is side kick – focusing on maintaining good core tension (ie belly button toward your spine, good head position and a straight line from your hip to shoulder to the hand out in front).

The second is rotator kick – aiming to drive all the rotation from your hips, and keeping hips and shoulders in line at all times.

Both of these drills (like most drills) over exaggerate the motion that is needed when you actually swim. The ideal position in the drills is to get to 90 degrees to the water surface, when actually you only want to rotate somewhere around 30-45 degrees. By over exaggerating the motion in your drills, only going part of the way in full stroke should feel easy.

As a result, when I coach, I prefer to use the term ROCK rather than rotate when you swim. When you swim your hips should move the same as when you might skate, kayak or play a golf shot. If you can maintain good body/core tension and just gently rock from the hips, it should allow you the extra reach and easier breathing without causing the body to snake around from side to side.

Have a go and let us know what you think. Try it with a snorkel or doing half a length without breathing. Feel for a rhythm coming from your hips. Aim for that single axis running down the middle of your body.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to get in touch; either by email, facebook or leave a comment on here! Remember, you can always get your swimming reviewed in  the endless pool with our video swim analysis packages.

See what’s up next week for our #SwimTechTues tip!



How Good Is Your Balance #RunFormFriday

How Good Is Your Balance #RunFormFriday

How good is your balance. Does it matter when it comes to running? The definition of running is to have a suspended phase where you have both feet off the ground – and by association, most of your running is only done with one foot in contact with the floor.

When you run, you only have one foot on the ground at any one time.

[bctt tweet=”Good balance and stability on one leg is the key to injury free running” username=”@Tri_coaching”]

A simplified way of looking at running then, is that it is a series of single leg hops from one leg to the other. This then, is why being able to balance and be stable is a really useful skill to master.

Can you stand on one leg? Can you do it without wobbling?! You might not be injury prone (fingers crossed) but if you can’t hold a rock solid single leg balance – without putting your arms out for support – then you may be losing a reasonable amount of power.

Balance on one leg

Being able to keep your hips level while standing still on one leg is a skill to master!

Improving Your Balance

Try this: stand on one leg as in the image above. Concentrate on maintaining good posture – lengthen your neck and stand tall, and squeeze your buttocks to help control your pelvis. If you are balancing on your right leg, try pressing a finger into the side of your glutes to help focus on switching those muscles on. It’s your glutes that will help keep you upright, stop you wobbling and keep your hips level and not dropping down.

If you find this is easy – or you progress to the point where this is, try closing your eyes while you balance or adding in a small knee bend. You only have to introduce a small amount of movement to make balance a challenge again.

As an exercise for helping to strengthen and improve your running, this is a really easy one to fit into your day; you don’t even need to make special time for it. You can try balancing on one foot while you brush your teeth, cook/wash up, or if you are stood waiting in a queue (maybe make sure you are reasonably stable for this last one!). I like to do 2-3 lots of 30 seconds a day on each leg, just maintaining that proprioception and stability. I’ll do one eyes open, one with my eyes closed, and the third just doing slight knee bends.

Finally, if you want something a little more advanced, there are a multitude of different single leg exercises. Here is one of my favourites!

As always, I encourage your comments, experiences, and questions about cadence and technique in the comments section. See what’s up next week for our #RunFormFriday tip! For more in depth understanding on how to put this into practise, get in touch and we’ll see how we can help!


Optimal Freestyle Head Position #SwimTechTues

Last week we looked at how posture really can affect body position, control and the ease at which you swim. This week we just focus on one of those elements – where your optimal head position is.

There are four things that head position will affect in your swimming – freestyle or otherwise.

  1. General body position and balance in the water will change
  2. Breathing can be altered – its far easier to turn your head to the side with a neutral spine
  3. Looking too far forward too much of the time causes tension in the neck and shoulders
  4. If you’re wetsuited, you’re more likely to rub your neck and cause a rash.

As mentioned in previous blogs, every individual is different, and their own optimal head position will be different again – due to flexibility and personal buoyancy. However the majority should have a relatively large similarity in that the spine should remain fairly neutral to some degree, and things should be relaxed!

Head position

Swimming looking down – maintaining long neck and back

Alternating Head Position

Swim a length of freestyle with your eyes looking straight forward. Notice what happens to your hips. And notice the amount of effort it takes.

Next swim with your eyes looking straight down, keeping your neck long. Focus on the tiles…and notice what happens to your hips.

Swim half a length looking forward…

…and half a length looking at the bottom, with the neck relaxed and head in neutral.

Compare your speed…and the ease with which you swim.

You can also try this doing streamlined kick, changing your head position:

Do a length with your ears tight between your shoulders kicking, looking down.

Follow this up with a length keeping your eyes looking almost up toward your hands.

Next do a length “surf kick” with your chin on the surface surfing the water. You can even do a length changing between the 3 head positions.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to get in touch; either by email, facebook or leave a comment on here! Remember, you can always get your swimming reviewed in  the endless pool with our video swim analysis packages.

See what’s up next week for our #SwimTechTues tip!

Swimming Straight #SwimTechTues

Swimming Straight

Swimming straight while in a swimming pool is easy. You’ve got a line to follow on the bottom of the lane. Swimming straight in open water is a little harder. Not only is there no line to follow, the likelihood is that the water is so murky you can’t see beyond the end of your arm! So how do you ensure that you swim straight?

First up, sighting is an important skill to learn, making sure that you are swimming on the right heading in any training or race. But the more you lift your head up to sight the more energy you will use and more drag you create for yourself.swimming straight

So how do you ensure that you swim straight without sighting too often?

The main thing to do is make sure that your stroke is as balanced and even as possible. Especially if you only breath to one side, you might find that your arms are doing different things.

Try this: swim a length (or as far as you can) without breathing. Watch for your hands coming through under the body. If you have a swim snorkel this would work just as well, you can get used to making sure everything is where it should be. Added to this, ensure that your kick is balanced and even, and that your core is set and working for you, to stop your hips swinging from side to side.

Doing these exercises, getting a feel for being as balanced and even as possible is key because without being able to view your stroke, you can never be quite sure that what you think you’re doing and what you are actually doing are the same!

The next exercise to try is swimming with your eyes closed. Make sure there is the space, and make sure you know how many strokes you take for a length. Push off the wall, eyes closed and swim steady. Put into practice the elements from the previous exercise – whether you do this no breathing, with a snorkel or breathing regularly, feel for where your hands/arms are in relation to your body. Swim to within 2 or 3 strokes of your normal length’s stroke count, open your eyes and finish the length. Did you manage to swim straight? If not, it’s time to work out what is pulling you off line.

You may well find that swimming straight is easy with no breathing, but when you introduce it into your stroke, that’s where things fall down – if so be aware that your hand may well pull across under you as you breath. For instance, if you breath to your left, as you breath your right hand might come across under your body (pulling the whole of you across to the left). The key here is to concentrate on trying not to over reach to breath, and keeping the pulling elbow up and out (as you no doubt do when not breathing).


swimming straight

This should help you go much further for each individual stroke, with less effort – and hopefully by swimming straight you will also be faster! If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to get in touch; either by email, facebook or leave a comment on here! Remember, you can always get your swimming reviewed in  the endless pool with our video swim analysis packages.

See what’s up next week for our #SwimTechTues tip!