Sometimes you won't be able to make to a pool and a lot of swimmers supplement their swimming program with exercises in the gym and other dry-land activities. We have put together a list of some of the best exercises for swimmers to do outside of the water. Some of these exercises you can do at home and some you will need to go to the gym.
1. Medicine ball exercises for swimmers
For centuries muscle men have used heavy spheres to increase muscle mass and improve co-ordination. Medicine-ball training for swimmers is categorised as functional training. This means it uses multiple muscles or muscle groups to complete a movement and mimics everyday muscle use.
This type of movement can be much more beneficial than isolating muscle groups because it trains your bodies parts to work together more effectively rather than just improving one element and becoming unbalanced.
Example Exercise: Russian Twist
2. Stretchcord exercises for swimmers
Stretchcords are essentially giant rubber bands with varying degrees of thickness according to ability and training requirements.
The idea of stretchcord training exercises is to pull on the band as you would pull through water in your swimming strokes, with the resistance providing a work-out that closely simulates the resistance you feel in the water.
Usually stretchcords are available fairly cheaply, if you search on Google you'll quickly find some cheap options.
Stretchcords are also particularly useful for injuries. They are often used by physios to help nurse muscle groups together.
Example stretchcord exercises for swimmers.
3. Weight-Training Exercises for Swimmers
Proper lifting technique is a must if you are doing any sort of weight training. I advise you to seek a professional to teach you the proper techniques before you try any weight lifting. Not only because you can cause injury, but you want get the benefit out of the program unless the technique is correct.
It's also worth noting that maximum muscular strength gains can be obtained from a heavy-resistance-low-repetition training programme, while muscular endurance is more effectively achieved through light-resistance-high-repetition programmes.
Example Exercise: Dumb-bell Press
Lie on the bench holding two dumb-bells, face up. Lower each weight until level with the chest and then return. On the up phase, rotate the shoulders externally. At the bottom point the thumbs inwards. At the top, thumbs point behind the head. At the low point the elbows should be at 90 degrees, in line with the shoulders. This exercise can be performed on a bench or a swiss-ball.
4. Exercises for swimmers at home
Most committed competitive swimmers will do some sort of land training programme at home as well as the programme at their local swimming club set by the coach.
Even if it is stretching this can be a really great habit to get into when your are trying to be more flexible. Flexibility can produce lots of power in swimming as it allows you to grab more water.
It may sound boring but 500 sit ups a day is a great routine to get into. Make it a habit when you get out of bed in the morning to roll onto the floor and do 500 sit ups before you get in the shower.
The sit-up should be like a roll-up. You should roll all the way up until your chest touches your knees. On the way down you unroll. Imagine rolling up a newspaper and then unrolling it.
5. Swiss Ball Swimming Exercises
Swiss balls help improve your core stability, if you have spent any time around a swim coach then you would have heard about having a strong core. Swiss balls are an excellent way to build up core-strength.
Training with a Swiss ball forces you to use muscles that stabilise and control the body's position. You add complexity by shifting to more unstable positions over time.
Swiss ball exercises are used to:
- Increase the core-strength of the muscles in the trunk of the body
- Improve your posture
- Improve joint stability and control - reduces the chance of injury
- Improves flexibility and range of motion in your joints
It's important to choose the right Swiss ball for you as they come in a variety of shapes and sizes (although all round of course!).
Tips for picking the right Swiss ball:
- It should be firmly inflated so when pressed with one finger a small dent is made
- When seated on the ball your thigh should be parallel to the ground
- Balls that are smooth and shiny are harder to stay on
- Make sure the ball can take your weight.
Example Swiss ball exercise:
6. Circuit Training For Swimmers
Circuit training is really the pre-cursor to CrossFit which has now been branded its own sport by Reebok. Circuit Training used to be called 'circuits' in the mid-1950s.
Circuit training is usually aimed at individuals rather than groups because each circuit or WOD can be tailored to the specific person. CrossFit or Circuit Training is designed to improve all-round physical fitness rather than fitness for a specific sport.
With the invention of CrossFit as a sport in itself you could argue that Circuit Training has evolved into a sport itself.
Swimming specific CrossFit training or Circuit Training means you should be working at sub-maximum level over an extended period of time with either no rest, or very little rest between exercises. The whole body should be exercised and no one muscle group should be exercised consecutively.
An example of Circuit Training for Swimmers may be as follows:
Work for 60 seconds and rest for 15 seconds and repeat 3 times:
- Squat Thrusts
- Ball Press-ups
- 'V' Sits
- Balance Ball Jumps
- Sit-ups with a medicine ball
- Shoulder press (Stretchcord)
- Medicine ball slams
- Upright rowing (Stretchcord)
- Medicine ball Squat (ball above head)
7. Stretching Exercises for Swimmers
Stretching is very important for swimmers. What you should be thinking about when you are doing warm up exercises for swimming is making them dynamic rather than static.
A dynamic warm up is basically stretching with movement. For example: arm swings, trunk twists and lunges.
A dynamic warm up helps swimmers pre-pare on land before getting in the pool in 5 key ways.
- It increases the body temperature. At a slightly elevated temperature muscles are able to contract more efficiently and generate more force.
- It primes the cardiovascular system and gets the heart and lungs ready to engage in vigorous activity,
- It elongates muscles actively. This improves joint range of motion as well as the body's ability to handle the forces experienced during training and competition.
- It helps to establish proper movement patterns for training and competition.
- A dynamic warm-up 'wakes-up' the nervous system and gets the brain communicating effectively with the muscles.
How competitive swimmers train
Everyone loves a montage and swimmers are no different. Some of the best places to learn what the best exercises for swimmers are of course American Universities.
The USA has a ridiculous amount of money plowed into the sporting system at university to the point where it's all most a profession in itself and people become celebrities.
If you want to get some ideas of the best exercises for swimmers than go onto you tube and do some searches for swim team training. Here is a video from Harvard Swim Team.