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) https://fitnesscrest.com/romanian-deadlift-vs-deadlift/

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!

3 Ways To Improve Your Swim Posture #SwimTechTues

3 Ways To Improve Your Swim Posture

Good body positioning is truly important to swimming because of how alien water is to move through for us as humans. Strong swim posture is key to getting this right.

Growing up – and at various points in your life – it’s likely you have been told to stand up straight or not to slouch. That same advice should be carried to the water, where your swim posture significantly affects body position. Posture can also affect neck/back pain – and possibly more importantly, your power output. Remember, swim proud!

Head Position

First, pay attention to your head position. If your head is too high or too low, your hips and legs will drop and cause drag. Try this: lie flat on the water, arms out in front (streamlined) and head between your arms. Don’t forget to point your toes! Vary your eyeline and where you are looking, and see if it changes the level of your legs and feet. Try looking straight ahead – with your eyes on the waterline, and go all the way down until your chin is on your chest. Everyone will have a slightly different sweet spot – but the majority of people will find that they need to look down – or more likely lengthen their neck and stand a bit taller than they have done previously. This will also help create a bow wave off of your head and a subsequent pocket of air to easily breathe into.

Swim Posture head position core

See how the head position affects the depth of the legs

In the photo above, you can see how when the eyes are looking down, it’s far easier to stretch the neck and body long but more importantly keep the legs afloat with minimum effort.

Core Engagement

Let’s look closer at the role of your core in the water. If your core lacks engagement during freestyle you will likely feel a disconnect in your stroke. Your core should function as the connecting piece of your upper and lower body, allowing for symmetry in which your shoulders and hips are rotating together on the same plane, and also as a driver to make your stroke move forward. Imagine extending the crown of your head toward the wall ahead, while also extending your toes to the wall behind you. Additionally you can focus on drawing your belly button toward your spine, and squeezing your buttocks (I encourage athletes to imagine that they have a £50 note between the cheeks). This helps to create length in the torso and tautness in the core to stabilise the spine.

Swim Posture

Focus on keeping a long spine – a straight line from neck to shoulders to hips to feet

Balance and symmetry

It’s easy to unintentionally roll your shoulders forward and “slouch” during freestyle. Focus on controlling everything from the hip and engaging your core to keep everything as stable and strong as possible (see above) . By remaining tight through your core and stretching your spine you can help recruit the bigger muscle groups of your back for the entire pull. Also by stretching from the hip rather than the shoulder, it also helps to eliminate an arm cross-over in front of your head. Among many things, a cross-over can cause your legs to scissor open wide or fishtail in an attempt to counter-balance your body. I love side kick as a drill to work on this – with the focus being on stacking the shoulders one on top of the other. This will force you to engage your core muscles, improve your kick efficiency and reinforce that strong body position.

Swim posture alignment

Keep your shoulders and hips square to keep everything in alignment.

Build these elements of swim posture into your stroke steadily – focus on one thing at a time and within a few sessions you’ll begin to notice a difference.

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!

The Simplest Way To Improve Your Running #RunFormFriday

If a new runner wants to get faster, what’s the best way to improve on their race times? Surprisingly, beginners should not focus on difficult workouts or faster paces during easy runs. These training strategies have their place, but new runners are most limited by two factors:

1. Endurance is low since they haven’t been running for long.
2. Injury risks are high.

Shoe-Tie

So to improve, beginners must maximise their endurance while limiting their risk of injury – two goals that are often at odds with one another. After all, the best way to increase endurance is to run more mileage. But mileage increases are the most common time period for injuries. Therefore, it’s critical to build endurance in a safer, less risky manner.

Two strategies can be used by beginners to both boost endurance and limit injury risk so they can continue improving.

 

Train the Heart Without Damaging the Legs

Running is a contact sport—there’s no doubt about it. It’s your legs versus the ground and those impact forces are what damage muscles and connective tissues. A little damage is a good thing because this is what prompts your body to adapt and get stronger. But too much damage without enough recovery can cause injuries.

This risk can be virtually eliminated by alternative aerobic exercise—also known more simply as cross-training. There are two types of exercise that give runners many of the same aerobic benefits of running but with none of the damaging impact forces: aqua jogging and cycling.

 

Aqua running and cycling are the preferred types of aerobic cross-training for runners because they’re more specific to running itself—they challenge your body in similar ways and most of the fitness gains are transferrable to running. While you should never expect cross-training to replace running, it can greatly enhance your training efforts and increase endurance with very little injury risk.

 

Run Consistently by Reducing the Risk of Injury

Even though higher and higher mileage weeks often cause injuries for new runners, there are ways to mitigate this risk to ensure you’re still getting in great shape while staying healthy. First, make sure you’re increasing mileage at a conservative rate. You may have heard of the 10 Percent Rule, but new runners should limit their mileage increases to about 2-4 miles every other week. That means some weeks your mileage won’t increase at all—and that’s ok! Your body takes time to adjust and adapt to new training stresses.

Learning how to increase mileage is one of the best skills a runner can develop, after all. Even with slow, gradual jumps in distance, runners can often succumb to injuries if they run those miles too quickly or lack strength. It’s critical to build “armour” that helps protect you from overuse injuries—and you do that with a strong dose of strength workouts. Running fast too often puts an unnecessary burden on the muscles, bones and joints and doesn’t allow the body to recover sufficiently – and this fatigue along with a lack of strength means that injury is more likely.

 

These exercises are classics—and for good reason! They’re compound, multi-joint exercises that train movements, not muscles. They’ll help beginner runners move more efficiently and develop the strength necessary to handle the rigours of running more and more mileage.

Most new runners simply don’t do enough strength training and the results are often injury or chronic aches and pains that derail consistent training over a long time period. It’s this consistency—what I call the “secret sauce” to successful running—that builds monster endurance over the long-term. By injecting a healthy amount of aerobic cross-training and strength training, runners will not only dramatically increase their endurance in the short-term, but will gradually build stamina over the long-term by consistent, injury-free training.

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!

Running Backwards #RunFormFriday

Running can be boring at times, especially on the treadmill or on the track when you haven’t necessarily got scenery to distract you! One of the things we try to do here is give you drills for your warm ups or easy sessions to give you something to engage with, to concentrate on but also to strengthen, stabilise and speed you up. Running backwards does all of the above and more!

Why Do It

Running backwards helps strengthen the glutes and upper hamstrings, as well as various core muscles in the abs and lower back.

How To Do It

Although it will seem awkward at first, try to replicate your forward running motion while moving backward. You’ll still be pushing off of your forefoot and swinging you arms, but you’ll be lunging backward with your hamstrings and using core muscles to stabilize differently than you’re used to while moving forward. Focus on form, not on speed. Do two or four reps of 50 to 100 meters.

Send us a message or leave a comment and let us know how you get on! I will be doing this drill amongst others down the running track tonight!

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!

 

Running backwards

Running backwards – develop your stride!

Ankle Pull Buoy Swim Drill #SwimTechTues

Maintaining a stable core is an important part of a good freestyle. This drill is a good one to help accomplish this. Many athletes swim with a pull buoy – as many triathletes know, some rely on their pull buoy! The main point of using one is to isolate the arms and strengthen them while working on technique; it’s not about removing thought and ploughing up and down for length after length!

Why Do It:

Freestyle is faster when you rotate through a solid tube in the water, rather than wiggle down the pool. This drill requires the swimmer to tighten the core a bit to maintain the straight line through the entire body.

How to Do It:

1. Put on a pull buoy at the ankles, not between the thighs as typical.
2. Push off and start swimming.
3. Hold the pull-buoy tight between the ankels by squeezing the legs together.
4. Keep the hips at the surface by tightening the core.

 

Swim with a pull buoy at your ankles to work on a more balanced stroke

How to Do It Really Well (the Fine Points):

Limit the side-to-side movement of the legs while you’re swimming. Taller swimmers will move a bit more than swimmers who are more vertically challeneged simply because of the longer line. Holding the pull-buoy in for longer swims will also show you another benefit of working the groin and inner parts of your legs.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to get in touch; either by email, facebook or leave a comment on here! Let us know how you get on with the drill if you try it!

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