Whether you are training for a triathlon or just want to become a better swimmer, in general, the key to becoming a stronger swimmer doesn’t happen in the pool alone.
It might surprise you, but the secret to becoming a better swimmer actually begins in the weight room. While swimming regularly and perfecting your strokes is important, it’s equally important to ensure your body is properly conditioned.
As an endurance athlete you likely already spend tons of time training – swimming, running and possibly cycling if you’re a triathlete, and may feel intimidated about the idea of training with weights. Lifting weights can improve your strength which leads to better technique, posture and more confidence in the water.
In fact, the right strength exercises can also make you a faster swimmer because it will enable you to become more economical with your strokes. While mobility exercises will help keep your shoulders in prime swimming condition.
If you’re a swimmer you’re probably already spending a ton of time training, this is especially true during times you’re preparing for a race or triathlon. The good news is strength training doesn’t have to be long in order to be effective. In fact, keeping your exercise variety small and concise is ideal.
Here’s a list of some great workouts you should incorporate into your routine and tips on how to do each of them.
Why: To strengthen your hips and glutes, which will help improve your power while swimming.
How: Grab a resistance band and wrap it around your legs just above your knees. Position yourself into a half-squat, with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width, and your back flat. Keep your left leg stationary and move your right knee in and out for 10 reps. Switch legs and repeat with the other leg.
Equipment We Recommend: Body-Solid Resistance Bands
Why: To work out your hips, knees, and ankles, this is an especially good exercise for those who compete and need more power off the blocks and wall.
How: Stand with your feet just outside the shoulders and hands behind your head. Begin to squat, while keeping your knees behind your toes. Holding this position for two seconds and jump, pulling your toes toward your shins in midair to prepare for landing in the original starting squat position, hold 3 seconds. Repeat 10 times. (For an added challenge, grab a medicine ball)
Equipment We Recommend: Medicine Ball Package
Why: To promote shoulder stability without straining your shoulders.
How: Lie face up on a workout bench, and hold dumbbells at the outside of your shoulders and with palms facing your thighs. Lift both dumbbells over your chest. Keep one dumbbell raised, and lower the other dumbbell, touching it to the outside of your shoulder, then pushing it back up. At the top of the movement, push farther with both hands, as if though you were trying to punch the ceiling. Switch and repeat with the other arm. Repeat 10 times.
Equipment We Recommend: Body-Solid Rubber Coated SDR Hex Dumbbells
Why: A proper stroke when swimming creates a full extension through the lats, back, shoulders, and wrist. A correctly done pull-up mimics this movement, which will allow you to strengthen your pull as they glide through the water.
How: Hang from a bar with either an overhand or reverse grip, pull your shoulder blades back and down to lift your body up pulling with your arms. Remember with pull-ups the key is to return to the slightly bent elbow position after each rep. Avoid fully extending where your ears touch your arms. This will help you avoid injury.
Tip: If you are having trouble doing a pull-up, try supporting yourself with a resistance band.
Equipment We Recommend: Body-Solid Vertical Knee Raise Pull-Up & Dip Station
Why: Lunges open up and strengthen the muscles of the groin and hips, helping to improve your hip rotation. It’s common for distance swimmers to rely on their hip rotation to allow for them to take long and strong strokes and pull more water which is why this is vital out of the water exercise for swimmers.
How: Begin by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and your hands on hips. Step out to the right and shift your body weight over your right leg, squatting to a 90-degree angle at the right knee. Try to sit down with your butt, keeping your back as upright as possible. Then push off and bring your right leg back to center to complete one rep. Finish 10 reps on this side, and repeat on the left side for 10 reps. (For an added challenge, grab a weighted fitness bar)
Equipment We Recommend: Body-Solid Fitness Bar Package
Why: Planks are a great bodyweight exercise that helps to strengthen your upper and lower body, as well as your shoulders, arms, and glutes – all of which you help you be a stronger swimmer.
How: Position yourself like you are about to do a push-up. Ground your arms slightly wider than your shoulders length. Use your toes to hold your feet and squeeze your glutes to stabilize your body. Align your head with your back. Focus looking down at a single spot on the floor.
Hold this position for as long as you can. Practice this daily increasing your intervals as you become stronger.
If your main goal is simply to just become a stronger recreational swimmer these workouts will still help you achieve this goal. Whether you’re trying to become a better runner, swimmer or better athlete, in general, strengthening your muscles will always go a long way in improving your athletic ability.