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Home Sport-Specific Swimming Training Strength Training Exercises for Competitive Swimmers

Strength Training Exercises for Competitive Swimmers

Strength Training Exercises for Competitive Swimmers


Competitive swimmers spend a lot of time in the pool training for their next meet. However, in order to excel in competitive swimming, athletes need to expand their training to the gym where weight training techniques will help them obtain that valuable edge against other swimming competitors.

What’s most important when developing your strength exercise program is to focus on weight training exercises which replicate swimming motions so that those muscles used in the sport are strengthened. The three most important movements for competitive swimmers are the arm pull-down which propels you through the water, the leg kick which is also used for propulsion and the combination of dive start and kick-off return.

The following exercises will assist the competitive swimmer in building these key muscle groups for added start, turn and propulsion strength.



Single Arm Medicine Ball Overhead Throw

The movement generated by this exercise is very near the same motion as is used in the front crawl stroke. The latissimus and pectoral muscles are worked, adding power and greater functionality to the arm movement.

You will need a partner and a 2 to 4 kg medicine ball. Lie on your back and extend you arm over your head. Throw the ball as hard as you can by using the full motion of your shoulder and arm. The motion should move up and across your body towards the opposite knee, replicating a swim stroke. Perform 10 repetitions with each arm and repeat.

Focus on only using the strength of your shoulder as you throw without raising your head or pulling from your stomach. It helps to visualize the motion as you would perform it in the pool.

Cable Rotational Front Pull

This motion is the equivalent to the front crawl when your arm is pulling through water with the hand crossing diagonally and down in relation to the body.

Kneeling on one knee, grasp the handle that utilizes the high setting on a pulley machine. Straighten your back, square your shoulders, tuck in your chin, and hold your arm out from your side slightly.

With a smooth, fluent motion, pull the cable down and across the body, rotating it as you go until the hand reaches the opposite hip. In a smooth and controlled motion, return the cable to the starting position and repeat.

Do 10 repetitions and switch arms. Keep the elbow slightly bent and focus on using only the shoulder muscles. This exercise will strengthen the muscles of the internal rotator cuff.


Cable Rotational Rear Pull

This exercise strengthens the external rotator cuff muscles which is essential to balance the shoulder from the front pull motion and to prevent shoulder injury.

Using the lower pulley on the machine, stand at its side and, with the hand positioned at the opposite hip, pull the cable up and away rotating the arm as you go. End the movement with the arm high and out, maintaining a straight, firm posture.

Return and repeat in repetitions of 10 before switching arms.




Hip Flexion and Extension Kick

Use these exercises to strengthen your hamstrings and glutes which will add power to your kicking action. Be sure to use weights which allow you to perform the exercise quickly as you would in the water.


Hip Flexion Lifts

Attach an ankle strap to one ankle and stand with your back to the cable machine. Lift your leg forward and pull the weight until you reach an approximate 30° angle. Keep your leg and back straight and focus on only using your hip flexor muscles. Start with sets of 10 and increase as you build strength.


Hip Extension Lifts

This time, face the machine and with one leg pull the weight back while keeping your leg and back straight. Allow the weights to return smoothly and repeat. Focus your workout on the hamstrings and glutes. Again, start with 10 reps and increase as you’re able.




Barbell Squat Jumps

To perform these moves well in the pool, you need the power and full extension of your hip, ankle and knee joints. This strength exercise focuses on the gluteal, calf and quadriceps muscles which surround these areas. Use a barbell which adds weight to your jump and provides resistance, thus increasing your muscle strength.

From a standing position, place the barbell across your shoulders. Squat while focusing on bending only at the knees and hips and then jump up rapidly and extend your legs as your feet leave the floor. Land with unlocked knees and go right back into a squatting position and repeat. Begin with 5 sets of 5 reps each.

Performing these strength exercises in the gym will increase your performance once you hit the water and give you an advantage over your competitors.


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