Note- We may earn commisions from affiliate links on certain pages at no extra cost to you. Read Disclosure & Your Privacy Rights
Competitive swimming is frequently described as one of the most complex sports to master. There are so many things that go into it- extreme technique focus, nutrition, mental training, dry-land and off course strength training for more explosive performance in the water. Today we will be taking a look at the best strength exercises for swimmers.
Quick Answer: Best strength exercises for swimmers-
- Box Jumps
- Overhead Press
- Russian Twists
There are many reasons why you should be doing strength exercises to improve your physical ability in the water.
However, it is important to remember that the amount of time you spend in the water, combined with technique focus is far more important than any other aspect of becoming a better swimmer.
You should NEVER EVER be sacrificing time in the water for dry-land or strength training.
Yes, strength training can help enhance your physical performance in the water, but if you do decide to incorporate it into your training schedule, you need to make sure that it won’t be interfering with your actual swim practices.
There are many examples of absolutely excellent swimmers that have used strength training to their advantage, take Adam Peaty, probably one the greatest breaststroke swimmers to ever live for example.
We have seen how he uses strength training and his power based training program to his advantage in becoming a faster, stronger and better swimmer.
But, then, on the other hand, we again have Michael Andrew, one of the rising legends in competitive swimming, (at the time of writing this article anyway).
Michael Andrew doesn’t follow a specific strength based training program, like many other professional swimmers, instead, he spends his extra time surfing as a form of strength training.
Michael successfully managed to outswim some of the current Legends in competitive swimming at the 2018 U.S Nationals, he won swimmers like Caeleb Dressel and Cody Miller.
It is, however, important to note that Michael has been breaking records and racking in golds since he could learn to swim. He managed to go pro at the age of 14 and swam his first Olympic trails at the age of 16.
Unfortunately, he didn’t quite make the team but is looking to do so for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, and it is safe to say he is in the best condition of his swimming career right now.
Now that we have cleared that out of the way, we can actually get to the 10 best strength exercises for swimmers-
Here are the 10 best strength exercises for swimmers-
Squats are an excellent exercise to strengthen your legs and build explosive power that can translate into better start and turns.
In professional swimming, it has been seen multiple times how a good turn can completely turn a race around.
There are more power and advantage in a turn and a start than you might realize. a Start completely determines your race, if you have a bad start, you will more than likely have a bad race.
Therefore squats are a great exercise for swimmers. There are many different variations of the squat, but the 3 variations I would recommend would be the-
- Body weight Jumping Squat
- Weighted Front Squat
- Weighted Back Squat
It is extremely important to first master the technique of the weighted versions of this exercise before you start adding more weight to the bar.
If you do not master the technique, it may result in injury. It might be minor or it could be a major injury. I wouldn’t take the risk, better to first master the technique.
With all that said, the squat is a great strength exercise for swimmers. It will help develop strength and muscle in your legs, as well as improving explosive power for better starts and turns in the pool.
Similarly to the squat, box jumps also help to develop explosive power to help you have better starts and turns.
Many professional swimmers love box jumps, because of its ability to help develop power and strength in your legs.
To quickly dive a little deeper, the main reason for the explosive power gained from doing box jumps are, because it improves the reaction of fast-twitch muscle fibers. This is exactly what you want to improve when it comes to starts and turns.
The box jump works many different muscle groups, including the core, glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves. These muscles are frequently used when swimming and therefore it makes the box jump a great strength exercise for you as a swimmer.
Overall, the box jump is a great strength exercise for swimmers to strengthen their legs and improve explosive power in and outside of the water.
Now moving away from some of the more explosive leg strength exercises, we have lunges. Lunges are a pretty standard strength exercise that will help to build muscle and power in your legs.
They largely target your quadriceps but also help to strengthen other muscles including- the hamstrings, glutes, calves and even your core muscles.
There are many different variations of lunges that you can try out, some include front lunges, walking lunges and reverse lunges. If you are looking for explosive power, you can also try doing jumping lunges.
All in all, lunges are a great strength exercise to develop muscle and power in your legs. This can translate to faster and stronger kicks in the water, ultimately making you a faster swimmer.
Now that we have pretty much, covered the majority of the muscles in the lower body, with those 3 exercises we can move onto some of the upper body strength exercises for swimmers.
First up we have pull-ups. I truly believe that all swimmers should do pull-ups for overall upper body strength. You can check out my article on why all swimmers should do pull-ups for more information about this strength exercise.
In general, they are just a really great exercise for swimmers. Pull-ups train some of the most used upper body muscles in swimming, including the latissimus dorsi (lats), the trapezius muscles, your biceps, and your deltoids.
Your lats play a very big and important role in swimming. They help you to push water effectively, allowing for faster and more powerful strokes.
The pull up is probably one of the best exercises to train your lats, therefore you should definitely incorporate it into your dry-land or strength training routine.
Once you are finally strong enough at pull-ups and you have mastered the technique, you can add weight for more resistance and to help you become even stronger in the water.
Quick Tip: When performing pull-ups, make sure not to use a lot of momentum, a little bit is okay for beginners, but you should be aiming to use as little as possible momentum when doing pull-ups.
Dips are one of the best strength exercises for swimmers out there. The reason being is because they train your triceps, chest, and shoulders.
The triceps and shoulders play a big role for an effective and powerful stroke when swimming freestyle and backstroke.
The chest comes more into play along with your triceps and shoulders when swimming butterfly and breaststroke.
Dips can also help to improve core strength and stability, but like some of the other exercises mentioned I wouldn’t rely on dips alone for core strength.
Like pull-ups, you can also add weight onto your dips when you are eventually strong enough but again focus on first getting your technique and form right, before adding weight.
Overall, dips are a great strength exercise for swimmers to build muscle and power in the arms and chest. This can help you to develop a stronger and more efficient stroke in the water.
The bench press trains many of the same muscles, trained in dips. However, the bench press is a bit more of a traditional strength exercise.
The bench press can be very beneficial to a swimmers overall strength if it is done correctly. The bench press is a compound exercise, meaning it works a large number of muscles at the same time.
These muscles include the chest, triceps, biceps, shoulders and even the trapezius muscles.
All of these muscles are frequently used when swimming, if you can strengthen and grow them, it could be beneficial to your swimming. You will gain a more powerful stroke, allowing for faster movement in the water.
However, like the front squat, a movement largely dependant on adding weight to the bar to become stronger. You will need to be very careful not to injure yourself, especially if you are a beginner.
Focus on learning proper technique and form, before you add any significant amount of weight to the bar.
I believe that the bench press can be a very good strength exercise for swimmers when performed safely with proper technique and form.
If you are looking for a strength exercise to directly strengthen your shoulders, triceps and trapezius muscles, then I would go with the overhead press.
The overhead press is an awesome and very challenging strength exercise. I remember the first time I tried it, it was… hard to say the least.
Like most of the upper body strength exercises I have chosen in this list, the overhead press will directly benefit your stroke power and strength, since it works the back, shoulders, and triceps.
Once, again I will mention that you need to be very careful as not to injure yourself. Learn proper technique and form and then start adding weight to the bar.
Now that we have covered almost the entire body, it is time for some strength exercises that focus directly on improving core strength.
Core strength is extremely important in competitive swimming. It plays an important role in many aspects including- trunks rotation and flexion, balance and stability, body position, power, and underwaters.
The plank is one of my go-to exercises for core strength since it easily develops the entire core area.
Another cool thing to note is that the plank helps with flexibility, the plank stretches your shoulders, hamstrings, and areas of your feet.
Overall I really like the plank as a core exercise and I highly recommend all swimmers to incorporate it into their strength training routine.
The Russian twist is an excellent exercise to help strengthen your obliques as well as your abs, it is also particularly good for improving the rotational movement, found in backstroke and freestyle.
Unlike some other oblique exercises, the Russian twist strengthens both the internal and external obliques.
You can increase the difficulty of the Russian twist by adding weights or using a medicine ball. (I like the medicine ball one, check out these nice ones on amazon HERE.)
Overall, the Russian twist is a good core exercise, like I mentioned earlier- it is especially good for backstroke and freestyle swimmers since it works the rotational movement found in those strokes.
The sit-up is probably one of the most basic core exercises out there. Every swimmer knows about it and has probably done a couple of hundred or even thousand reps in their swimming career.
The sit up strengthens most of the core muscles in one simple movement. There really isn’t much technique involved when it comes to sitting ups.
The only thing to really focus on should be to use as little as possible momentum.
There are many awesome and fun sit up variations out there. You can add weight or medicine balls to your sit-ups to make them harder and more challenging.
All in all, the sit-up is a basic core strength exercise, but I definitely think all swimmers should be doing them. Some college teams even dish out a couple of hundred sit-ups before practice!
At the end of the day, I do believe that strength training is beneficial to swimming performance in the water. You are able to strengthen the muscles required for certain movements or strokes with strength exercises.
This can translate into you developing faster, more explosive and more efficient strokes, kicks and other aspects of becoming a better and faster swimmer.
For example, you might lack power on the back end of your stroke, when your arms are exiting the water. Well, why not do some tricep strength exercises to help develop a stronger pull at the end.
Here is a quick list of the 10 best strength exercises for swimmers again-
- Box Jumps
- Bench Press
- Overhead Press
- Russian Twist
- Sit Ups
VISIT MY BLOG FOR MORE ARTICLES ON COMPETITIVE SWIMMING
More Swimming Articles-
- What muscle groups should swimmers workout?– Now that you know what are the best strength exercises for swimmers, you might still be wondering how I chose these exercises. You can check out this article, based on what muscle groups swimmers should train in order to become faster and better in the water.
- How to create a meal plan for swimmers– Nutrition is extremely important for any athlete. You are placing yourself at a massive disadvantage when you have poor nutrition. Having good nutrition and consuming the right foods on a regular basis is a key element of becoming a better swimmer. You can learn how to create your own meal plan in this article.
- 10 Best core exercises for swimmers at home– Core training is probably the most important strength training that you can do as a swimmer. Check out this article where I discuss the 10 best core exercises for swimmers at home!