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)
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.
Having spent some of the weekend gardening and tidying up the greenhouse I had a few thoughts about food. What is the best food for endurance sports athletes?
My greenhouse of veg!
Secondly, there is only a limited amount of food you can eat in a single day.
In order to maximize the amount of nutrients you take in, it makes sense to spend your time cooking, eating and digesting wisely.
The best way to do that is to simply eat the foods that carry the greatest amount and variety of nutrients.
These are the 11 most nutrient dense foods on the planet.
Not all fish is created equal.
Salmon, and other fatty types of fish, contain the greatest amount of Omega-3s.
Omega-3 fatty acids are extremely important for the optimal function of your body. They’re linked to improved wellbeing and a lower risk of many serious diseases.
Although salmon is mainly prized for its beneficial composition of fatty acids, it also packs a massive amount of other nutrients.
A 100 gram piece of wild salmon contains 2.8 grams of Omega-3s, along with lots of high quality animal protein and a ton of vitamins and minerals… including large amounts of Magnesium, Potassium, Selenium and all the B-vitamins (2).
It is a good idea to eat fatty fish at least once or twice a week, to get all the Omega-3s that your body (and brain) desperately need.
Studies show that the people who eat fatty fish regularly have a lower risk of heart disease, dementia, depression and a plethora of common diseases (3, 4, 5, 6).
Also, let’s not forget the fact that salmon tastes awesome and is fairly simple to prepare. It also tends to make you feel more full!
If you can, choose wild salmon instead of farmed. It is more nutritious, has a better Omega-6:Omega-3 ratio and is less likely to contain harmful compounds (7, 8).
Bottom Line: Fatty fish like salmon is loaded with beneficial fatty acids, protein, vitamins and minerals. It is a good idea to eat fatty fish every week.
Kale – easy to grow at home!
Of all the super healthy leafy greens, kale is the king.
It is loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants and various bioactive compounds.
300% of the RDA for Vitamin A (from beta-carotene).
1000% of the RDA for Vitamin K1.
Large amounts of Vitamin B6, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium, Copper and Manganese.
This is coming with 2 grams of fiber, 3 grams of protein and only 50 calories.
Kale may be even healthier than spinach. Both are super nutritious, but kale is lower in oxalates, which are substances that can bind minerals like calcium in the intestine, preventing them from being absorbed (10).
Kale (and other greens) are also loaded with various bioactive compounds, including Isothiocyanates and Indole-3-Carbinol, which have been shown to fight cancer in test tubes and animal studies (11, 12).
Bottom Line: Kale is one of the most nutrient dense vegetables you can eat, with large amounts of vitamins, minerals and cancer-fighting compounds.
The sea has more than just fish… it also contains massive amounts of vegetation.
Sushi isn’t everyone’s cup of tea – but it can be really help your health
Usually referred to as “seaweed,” there are thousands of different plant species in the ocean, some of which are incredibly nutritious (13).
In many cases, seaweed is even more nutritious than vegetables from the land. It is particularly high in minerals like Calcium, Iron, Magnesium and Manganese (14).
It is also loaded with various bioactive compounds, including phycocyanins and carotenoids. Some of these substances are antioxidants with powerful anti-inflammatory activity (15).
But where seaweed really shines is in its high content of iodine, a mineral that is used to make thyroid hormones.
Just eating a high-iodine seaweed like kelp a few times per month can give your body all the iodine that it needs.
If you don’t like the thought of eating seaweed, then you can also get it as a supplement. Dried kelp tablets are very cheap and loaded with iodine.
Many sushi dishes also include seaweed in them, along with other goodies.
Bottom Line: The vegetables from the sea are highly nutritious, but very rarely consumed in Western parts of the world. They are particularly high in iodine, which is essential for optimal thyroid function.
Garlic does more than just make your breath smell and food taste nice!
Garlic really is an amazing ingredient.
Not only can it turn all sorts of bland dishes into delicious treats, it is also incredibly nutritious.
It is high in vitamins C, B1 and B6, Calcium, Potassium, Copper, Manganese and Selenium (16).
But garlic is also loaded with another incredibly important nutrient called Allicin, which is the active ingredient in garlic.
There are many studies on the health benefits of allicin and garlic. It has been shown to lower blood pressure and total and LDL cholesterol, while raising HDL… which should lead to a reduced risk of heart disease down the line (17, 18, 19, 20).
It also has various cancer-fighting properties. Studies show that the people who eat a lot of garlic have a much lower risk of several common cancers, especially cancers of the colon and stomach (21, 22).
Garlic is also very potent at killing pathogens like bacteria and fungi (23, 24).
Bottom Line: Garlic is both tasty and extremely healthy. It is highly nutritious and the bioactive compounds in it have known disease fighting properties.
Out of all the wonderfully nutritious organisms found in the sea, shellfish may be the most nutritious of all.
Commonly consumed types of shellfish include clams, oysters and various others.
Clams are among the best sources of vitamin B12 in existence, with a 100 grams of clams supplying over 16 times the RDA! It is also loaded with other nutrients, including Vitamin C, B-Vitamins, Potassium, Selenium and Iron (25).
Oysters are also incredibly nutritious… with a 100 grams supplying 6 times the RDA for Zinc, 2 times the RDA for Copper, along with large amounts of B12 and Vitamin D – along with a plethora of other nutrients (26).
Really, shellfish are among the most nutritious foods in existence. Unfortunately, people rarely consume them.
They may also be considered a great food for people who want to be as close to vegetarian/vegan as possible, while also getting most of the benefits of consuming animal foods. Shellfish is non-sentient.
Bottom Line: Shellfish are among the most nutritious organisms found in the sea. They are very high in important nutrients like Vitamin B12 and Zinc.
A single large potato contains lots of Potassium, Magnesium, Iron, Copper and Manganese… with plenty of vitamin C and most of the B vitamins (27).
Potatoes really are one of the world’s most perfect foods.
They contain a little bit of almost every nutrient we need and there have been accounts of people living on nothing but potatoes for a long time.
They are also one of the most fulfilling foods in existence. When researchers compared the “satiety value” of different foods, boiled potatoes scored higher than any other food they measured (28).
If you cook the potatoes and then allow them to cool afterwards, they also form large amounts of resistant starch, a fiber-like substance with many powerful health benefits (29).
Bottom Line: Potatoes contain a little bit of almost every nutrient we need. They are incredibly fulfilling and can contain large amounts of resistant starch.
Over 50% of the RDA for Vitamins B6, B5, Niacin and Folate.
201% of the RDA for Vitamin B2.
634% of the RDA for Vitamin A.
714% of the RDA for Copper.
Over 30% of the RDA for Iron, Phosphorus, Zinc and Selenium.
29 grams of high quality animal protein.
Eating liver once per week is a good way to ensure that you get optimal amounts of these very important nutrients.
Bottom Line: Hunter-gatherers who eat meat usually prize organs like liver, because they are the most nutritious parts of the animal.
Sardines are small, oily fish that can be eaten whole.
This includes bones, skin, organs, brains and everything.
Given that the organs are usually the most nutritious parts of an animal, it is not surprising to see that whole sardines are incredibly nutritious.
They contain a little bit of almost every nutrient that the body needs and are pretty close to being perfect from a nutritional standpoint (31).
Like other fatty fish, they’re also very high in heart-healthy Omega-3s.
Bottom Line: Small, oily fish like sardines are usually eaten whole, which includes the organs, bones, brains and other nutritious parts. They contain a little bit of almost every nutrient we need.
When it comes to the nutritional value of fruits, blueberries are in a league of their own.
Although they’re not as high in vitamins and minerals as vegetables (calorie for calorie), the antioxidant content is where they really shine.
They are loaded with powerful antioxidant substances, including anthocyanins and various phytochemicals, some of which can cross the blood-brain barrier and exert protective effects on the brain (32).
Several studies have examined the health effects of blueberries in humans.
One study found that blueberries improved memory in older adults (33).
Another study found that obese men and women with metabolic syndrome had a lowered blood pressure and reduced markers of oxidized LDL cholesterol, when they added blueberries to their diet (34).
This finding makes sense, given that eating blueberries has been shown to increase the antioxidant value of the blood (35).
Then multiple studies in test tubes and experimental animals suggest that blueberries can help fight cancer (36, 37, 38).
Bottom Line: Blueberries are very nutritious compared to most fruits and are loaded with powerful antioxidants, some of which can increase the antioxidant value of the blood and have protective effects on the brain.
But the studies actually show that dietary cholesterol isn’t something you need to worry about, because cholesterol in the diet doesn’t raise the “bad” cholesterol in the blood (39).
What we’re left with is one of the most nutritious foods on the planet. Whole eggs are so nutritious that they’re often referred to as “nature’s multivitamin.”
Egg yolks are loaded with vitamins, minerals and various powerful nutrients (40).
They’re high in Lutein and Zeaxanthine, antioxidants that can protect the eyes and reduce your risk of eye diseases like cataracts and macular degeneration (41).
Eggs are also loaded with choline, a brain nutrient that about 90% of people aren’t getting enough of (42).
Eggs also contain high quality protein and healthy fats. Several studies suggest that they can even help lose weight (43, 44).
Really… whole eggs are an amazing food. The yolk is where almost all the nutrients are found, throwing it away is the absolute worst thing you can do.
Also let’s not forget that eggs are cheap, taste amazing and are super easy to prepare.
If you can, get pastured and/or Omega-3 enriched eggs. They’re healthier and more nutritious than most “conventional” supermarket eggs (45, 46).
Bottom Line: Whole eggs are so nutritious that they’re often called “nature’s multivitamin.” The yolk is where almost all of the nutrients are found, just eating the whites is a terrible idea.
11. Dark Chocolate (Cocoa)
Dark chocolate with a high cocoa content is one of the most nutritious foods you can eat.
It is loaded with fiber, iron, magnesium, copper and manganese (47).
But the biggest factor is its amazing range of antioxidants.
In fact, a study showed that cocoa and dark chocolate scored higher than any other food they tested, which included blueberries and acai berries (48).
There are multiple studies in humans showing that dark chocolate has powerful health benefits… including improved blood flow, a lower blood pressure, reduced oxidized LDL and improved brain function (49, 50, 51, 52).
One study found that people who consumed chocolate 5+ times per week had a 57% lower risk of heart disease (53).
Given that heart disease is the most common cause of death in the world, this finding could have implications for millions of people.
Make sure to get dark chocolate with a 70% cocoa content, at least. The best ones contain 85% cocoa or higher.
Eating a small square of quality dark chocolate every day may be one of the best ways to “supplement” your diet with additional antioxidants.
Hopefully this gives you some thoughts as to some different food you could add into your diet on a daily and weekly basis! Our berries and veg garden will hopefully make life cheaper as well as easy to get hold of various bits that are both tasty and nutritious!