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.
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!