Cross-training is defined as- “the action or practice of engaging in two or more sports or types of exercise in order to improve fitness or performance in one’s main sport”. Today we will be taking a look at cross-training for swimmers.
Cross-training is frequently used by elite athletes from all sports to help them to become better at what they do.
The current world 50m and 100m breaststroke record holder- Adam Peaty uses strength training as a form of cross-training to help him swim faster.
Michael Phelps was also known for being able to do some ridiculously hard dry-land workouts as a form of cross training.
However, cross training for swimmers really isn’t limited to just dry-land and strength training. Take Michael Andrew for example, one of the fastest 50 sprinters at this time, he uses surfing as a form of cross training.
Michael’s reason for this is simply, because he enjoys surfing and surfing trains many of the same movements and muscles in swimming, making it a good choice as a form of cross training.
Cross training can be anything that you enjoy, as long as it has a positive effect on your swimming, meaning it strengthens your muscles or improves your cardiovascular abilities.
It is important to note that cross training is meant to supplement your swim training, not replace it, cross training can never replace your swimming training.
With that being said let’s take a look at some awesome and enjoyable cross-training sports and workouts that swimmers can do to help them improve in the water, but first let’s look at three benefits of cross-training for swimmers-
- More strength in the water
One of the most notable benefits of cross training is more strength in the water. However, some cross training activities might not necessarily improve strength directly, but rather things like movements patterns and cardiovascular performance.
More strength in the water will translate to stronger strokes and kicks, ultimately allowing for more speed, since those two things are the main drivers of speed in the water.
- Injury Prevention
Competitive swimming has many repetitive movement patterns, things like the rotation of your shoulder and the up and down movement of your legs.
This can lead to the overuse of muscles and that can ultimately lead to injury. However, when you do cross training you can strengthen your muscles.
The extra strength in the muscles will make you less vulnerable to injury since your body is used to handling more resistance.
- More Explosive Power
Cross training can help build explosive power in the water, power that can translate into better dives, turns, and breakouts.
For example, let’s say you choose strength or dry-land training as your form of cross training. Then you can do exercises like box jumps, front squats, jumping squats and jumping lunges to help you develop more explosive power.
Explosive power is really important in swimming, especially for 50 sprinters. If you don’t have explosive power your starts, turns, breakouts, and even strokes will lack.
Every time you jump in for a race you will already be at a disadvantage just because you don’t have enough power on your start.
Cross training can help you improve this aspect of your swimming.
Now that we have discussed some of the benefits of cross-training for swimmer we can actually look at some cool cross-training sports and workouts that swimmers can do to improve their performance in the water-
If you have ever looked at any professional or even just a local gymnast, you will quickly notice their finely toned muscles.
Gymnastics develops all of the muscles in the body extremely well. It also develops core muscles extremely well and a lot of swimmers lack the needed core strength.
Core strength plays a very important role in competitive swimming. It helps you to improve power, speed and body position in the water.
Further, gymnastics will help to develop fast and strong turns and starts in the pool. Gymnastics includes many tumbling and jumping movements, allowing for more explosive power and improved movement patterns.
Gymnasts are usually also very flexible, another key component of being a good swimmer and preventing injuries in the water.
Overall, gymnastics is a really great form of cross training for swimmers, I highly recommend swimmers who are looking for a fun and effective form of cross training to try out gymnastics.
Boxers are notorious for being some of the toughest athletes out there. Not just, because they can take shots to the face, but also for their extreme workouts and training routines.
Boxing can be a great form of cross training for swimmers. It requires a ridiculous amount of cardiovascular fitness, more than most sports. Thus boxing will definitely improve a swimmer’s overall cardiovascular fitness, allowing them to have more endurance in the pool.
Furthermore, boxing strengthens almost every single muscle in your body. Throughout a boxing workout, you may kick and punch a heavy 100-pound bag hundreds of times.
This will build extreme core, upper and lower body strength, as well as a lot of explosive power.
Overall, boxing is a really great and enjoyable cross training method for swimmers!
3. Dry-land Workouts.
Dry-land training is one of the most basic and effective forms of cross training for swimmers. You can easily target specific muscle groups to strengthen with dry-land training.
There are so many advantages of dry-land training mainly because you or your coach is in charge of what the exercises you do are.
For example, if you needed to strengthen your lats for more powerful strokes, you can make that a priority in your dryland by doing pull-ups and other various lat exercises. (Check out my article on why all swimmers should do pull-ups.)
Or maybe you need to build some extra power in your legs to improve your dives and turns, well then you can put emphasis on that by doing explosive leg exercises like box jumps and jump squats.
All in all, dry-land training is probably one of the most common and effective cross training methods for swimmers. Professional athletes still use it to this day to help improve their swimming.
4. Weight Lifting.
Weight lifting is the go-to cross-training method for most athletes looking to gain strength and power in whatever sport they are competing in.
In our case, it is competitive swimming. Many Professional and Olympic swimmers use weight lifting to build strength and power to increase their abilities in the pool.
Weight lifting is the easiest way for athletes to gain power and muscle mass. However, it is important to approach weight training with caution.
If you use improper technique or don’t warm up properly before lifting, you can injure yourself and put yourself out of action for the rest of the season.
If you do choose to use weight lifting as your cross-training method, make sure to learn proper technique for all of the lifts, don’t use too much weight if you aren’t comfortable with a certain exercise yet.
Most importantly, always remember to warm up properly. I don’t recommend that you start lifting weights before the ages of 14 – 15, rather go with dry-land or something else if you are younger.
Overall, weight lifting can be very beneficial for swimmers as long as they stay within their limitations in order to avoid injury.
Surfing is another great form of cross training for swimmers. However, you will actually need to live near the ocean in order for this to be a sustainable cross-training method.
Surfing trains many of the same movement patterns found in swimming, for example, the freestyle or butterfly pull is used when going out into the ocean.
This is essentially like swim training, but with a twist. This will help swimmers to strengthen some other muscles and improve movement patterns found in swimming, whilst having a good time out in the ocean.
Overall, I think surfing is an awesome form of cross-training for swimmers and I would certainly have done it if I lived near the ocean.
6. Water polo.
Similarly to surfing, water polo also trains many of the same movement patterns and muscles as in swimming.
If you are looking for a fun way to improve your competitive swimming, whilst spending some time away from the pool, then I would recommend water polo.
Water polo trains many of the same movements in swimming, whilst strengthening your muscles since you are throwing around the ball and staying on top of the water the entire time, instead of in or under it.
Many swimmers might find water polo more challenging than they thought it would be.
Nonetheless, it is a good form of cross-training for swimmers to help them become faster and better in the water, whilst being able to spend some time away from actual swim practice.
If you are a fan of soccer, you might want to do a few sessions each week to help improve your swimming, just make sure that it doesn’t actually interfere with your swim practices.
Soccer can help swimmers build great cardiovascular fitness, like in boxing, this cardiovascular fitness will translate to more endurance in the water.
Further, soccer can build a lot of strength, mobility and explosive power in your legs from constantly kicking the ball around.
This can translate to faster and stronger kicks and better starts and turns in the pool.
All in all, soccer is a pretty good form of cross-training for swimmers to help improve their speed in the water.
Now, in my opinion, you have to be really bored to choose running as your cross-training method, nonetheless, that is just my opinion and some swimmers might actually enjoy running.
Running won’t have any significant strength benefits for swimmers. The only benefit swimmers will gain from running is endurance.
This makes running an awesome cross-training method for endurance or distance swimmers since they need a lot of endurance in the water.
If you do choose running as your form of cross training, I would probably combine it with some core training. (Check out these awesome core exercises at home.)
So there you have it. These cross-training methods can drastically improve your performance in the water, especially if you haven’t had any previous experience with cross training.
Cross-training can help strengthen your muscles, allowing for more powerful and explosive physical output in the water, it can help with injury prevention and will improve your overall fitness even more.
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