Historically many competitive and first-time swimmers or triathletes train to improve their swimming performance by swimming more frequently and for long durations at various intensities. More recently with the improvements in sports conditions, many swimmers have been looking outside the pool, working alongside fitness professionals and strength coaches who offer additional training benefits to improve and increase performance that they will not gain from swimming alone. That being said there are still many swimmers that don’t combine weight training and swimming – This is a big mistake for overall performance.
I highly recommend that to support and improve your swimming with some strength and conditioning work. Here is why –
The aim of any swimmer is to cover a set distance using a specific stroke in the quickest time possible, and faster than their competitors. That means that a swimmer must have better technical proficiency, fitness, tactical awareness and strength than their competitors. Swimming uses a lot of muscles in your body, the most important ones are your lats, pectorals, shoulders, abdominals, quadriceps and hamstrings. Training these muscles properly will help you become faster, stronger and more efficient in the pool.
The Latissimus Dorsi – Commonly known as the “lats” are the long muscles that attach to the outside of your back. These muscles play and important part in your ability to pull. You will flex these muscles at point of water entry all the way until the hand passes the chest.
Pectoral Muscles – This is the fancy term given to your chest muscles or “pecs”, these play an integral part in freestyle and in breast stroke. They stabilise your stroke, meaning it does not contribute a large amount of strength in propulsion.
Abdominals – Also referred to as the “core” muscles, allow you to stabilise your body in the water and help with your body positioning in the pool. If you have a flat or weak core you will not be able to hold your body on top of the water, therefore creating unwanted drag. A strong core will allow you to be more efficient, have better propulsion, and stronger stabilisers.
Quadriceps – Commonly known as the “quads” are the group of muscles in the front of the upper legs. They are used to jump and kick. Though kicking only plays a small part in long duration front crawl, backstroke and butterfly rely a lot on kick. Kick sets and legs sessions tend to get neglected by main swimmers and gym goers. A stronger kick will set the tone for your entire stroke, aiding both condition and power. As the legs tire towards the end of the race, building up strength in the weights room will make the legs go further in the pool and fatigue less. Your quads are also particularly important in your starts and your turns. Having powerful quads will also help increase your speed on that last 25 metres.
Hamstrings – These muscles are located in the back of the upper leg. Like with the quads they help generate power in the kick and help with your turns, dives and sprints. These muscles should be strengthened and stretched for maximal leg power and performance.
Hitting the weights room to train these muscles is important and something every swimmer and triathlete should be doing to improve performance and reduce injury. But how do we get stronger for swimming improvement? Well the human body likes to maintain its current state, therefore in order for your body to change (get stronger) you need to put in a little bit of effort to stimulate and force the body to adapt to a new state. Put in simple terms if you swim two easy sessions a week it is unlikely you will improve your fitness in the pool. Strength and conditioning is the same, you are unlikely to see any improvements if you haven’t worked your body hard enough to force any type of adaption.
But I’m too busy swimming, I don’t have time for weight training!! – Do both, weight training and swimming is an effective way to train if you are stuck for time. A half an hour swimming and a half hour in the gym will help improve your performance.
Try this sample workout to get you started –
Lat Pulldown – 3 x 12
Dumbbell Chest Press – 3 x 12
Standing Cable Row – 3 x 12
Standing Dumbbell shoulder press 3 x12
Barbell Squats – 3 x 12
Alternate Lunges 3 x 12
Plank 3 x 20 secs
Like with swimming training, your resistance program should be varied and work through different energy systems to build strength, power, muscle and endurance. Exercises should be added to work on any imbalances and maintain balance in the rotator cuff, shoulder girdle and core.
Sports specific training is the best way to get better at a sport, but you will make additional gains when you maximise all training aspects, including dry land training.
If you are looking to improve your swimming or triathlon performance, please feel free to contact us firstname.lastname@example.org. We can help with all aspects of dry land training as well as providing pool based programs for you to follow to improve your strength, fitness and power. Contact us today for a FREE consultation to see what we can do for you.