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Alternative Weight Room Workouts for Swimmers and Triathletes

Swimming pool too busy? Try this weight training routine.

By

Updated December 27, 2005
Pool time can be tough in the winter. Not only are outdoor pools shut down, but many indoor pools are inundated by hordes of children and/or water aerobic partipants. Indoor lane swimming can go from a smooth, relaxing exercise to an dangerous obstacle course of kids and floating toys.

For swimmers and triathletes, it can be effective to turn to the weightroom as an alternative exercise source for your swim workout. I'm going to give you a fun and challenging swim-specific workout, and for an extra boost to your multi-sport training, complete this challenge directly before a spin class or bicycle workout. For those of you currently training with longer base endurance workouts, complete a run as well.

  • Warm-up: Complete on arm ergometer or rowing machine:
    1. 2 minute warm-up
    2. Hard-easy ladder: 1 hard pull or cycle followed by 1 easy pull or cycle, then 2/2, 3/3, and so on up to 10 hard pulls and 10 easy pulls. Then ladder back down from 10/10 to 1/1.
    3. Finish this station with a 2 minute maximum effort, before moving on to the next station.
  • Cable work: Complete 15 repetitions for each of these three exercises, with minimal rest:
    1. Straight arm cable pulldowns: use a bar for a handle - grab with both arms and pull from high (above shoulder height) to low (down to hips) without bending your arms.
    2. Bent arm cable pushdowns: do the same exercise, except begin with elbows bent at 90 degrees, and straighten at bottom.
    3. Standing cable rows: bring cable height down to bellybutton level - row into body, squeezing shoulder blades back.
    4. Complete this cable circuit three times through, then move on to the third station.
  • Core work: Again, complete these three exercises as a 3x circuit with minimal rest (15 repetitions):
    1. Superman: line in prone position on ground with all four limbs outstretched - lift all limbs off the ground, hold briefly, then return to starting position.
    2. Bicycle crunches: start on back with one leg extended and one leg bent (both feet hover above the ground). Complete a crunch by flexing upper body up while bending the straight leg and straightening the bent leg. Return to starting position (that's one rep, complete 15 for both sides).
    3. Mountain climber: in push-up position, bent right knee to touch left elbow, then left knee to touch right elbow (complete 15 to each side).
  • Leg Work: Finish with the last station - two lower body strengthening exercises. Complete both exercises as a 15 repetition circuit.
    1. Cable kick forward: attach leg to cable apparatus - standing on one leg with the kicking leg straight, kick forward as if kicking soccer ball. Switch after 15 and complete 15 kicks for the opposite leg.
    2. Cable kick back: again stand on one leg, but hinge forward at the waist and kick *behind*.
    3. Same number of repetitions (15), but complete this circuit only 2x.

This workout will work many of the same muscles that are utilized while swimming, but remember, nothing can substitute for the feel and drag experienced in the water, so don't completely neglect the pool - just substitute a resistance training workout if you simply can't get a good swim time or need a change-up from the normal routine. The off-season is a great time for cross-training, so a weight training routine like the one outlined above is recommended, especially at this time of the training season.

About the Author: Ben Greenfield holds Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Sport Science and Exercise Physiology, and is certified by the National Strength and Conditioning Association as a Personal Trainer and Strength and Conditioning Coach (NSCA-CPT and CSCS). He is the head trainer for Pacific Elite Fitness, a web-based training program that provides detailed and customized coaching for triathletes of all levels. For more training advice or coaching, go to www.pacificfit.net.

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