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Swimmers and Strength Training - Introduction

Dryland Training Routine for Swimming


Updated June 23, 2014
Sport specific training is the best way to get better at that sport; if you want to be a better swimmer, then swim! But how can you make additional gains when you have maximized your swim time? One way is to add dryland training, flexibility training, plyometric work, swimming while wearing weights, and resistance training are some of the options. One example of resistance training is weight work aimed at adding strength and speed to your stroke.

What muscles are used in swimming? Almost all of them, from the top of your head through your toes. To maximize your time, this program will emphasis the major groups that should give your swimming some extra strength. This type of dryland work can help endurance, but other types of work, such as swim trainers (like the Vasa Trainer) or stretch cords are better at this based on lower resistance and higher repetitions. These are also a valuable part of any swimming program.

This is a basic plan designed to increase muscle strength. It can be more refined based on a particular need or a season plan. It may need to be modified based on what equipment you have available. You will use the routine two to three times each week, progressing through each phase. The first few sessions in each phase establish starting points for the rest of the sessions. The final phase is for the last four to five weeks before your biggest competition; you should stop lifting weights 10 days before the first day of the competition. To make gains, you are breaking down your muscles, then letting them rebuild. To give them the time to rebuild, do not lift two days in a row. To help prevent injury, do not "lift to failure"; always end feeling like you could do a few more.

Warm up before you begin any of the routines. Spend 10 to 20 minutes building your heart rate to increase blood flow, body temperature, and general range of motion; Place your general stretching routine after completing the weight routine, but you could do a short stretch for the muscle groups just used while you recover between exercises. Some warm-up ideas are stationary cycling, jogging, rowing, or jumping rope.

Keeping a log book is vital. Record the date, time, phase, lifts (including sets and repetitions), amount of weight for each lift, and other comments for the day, like general feeling about the workout. You will use this information throughout the program to track your progress.

An additional area to be aware of is muscle balance (thanks for the reminder, Mikey 810). Swimmers can do some simple shoulder exercises to maintain strength balance in the rotator cuff/shoulder girdle area every day with stretch cords or barbells if desired; this can help prevent shoulder injury.

The exercises used in this program are:

  • Squats
  • Leg Press
  • Leg Extension
  • Leg Curl
  • Lat Pull-down
  • Seated Rowing
  • Bent-over Rowing
  • Lateral Raise
  • Shoulder Press
  • Bench Press
  • Dumbbell Curl
  • Push-up
  • Abdominal Work
  • Assorted Stretches

This workout program uses three different phases. The first phase is to either get you started or to build strength. The second phase is to take your strength gains and build on them. The third phase is for the last three to four weeks before your biggest competition, and you should stop the routine 7 - 14 days before the first day of the competition. You are going to maintain most of your strength gains, build more muscular power, and begin to reduce the stress to your muscles so they are fully recovered by your big event. There are more details to these phases on page two.

Remember to start light and gradually increase the weights; slow progress is the key to good strength gains without injury! Keep that log book, hit the weights, and feel yourself get stronger in the pool.

Swim On!

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