10 Best Strength Exercises For Swimmers

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Competitive swimming is often described as one of the most complex sports to master. There are so many things that go into it- technique development, nutrition, mental training, dry-land, and of course strength training as well. And that’s why today we will be taking a look at the best strength exercises for swimmers.

There are many reasons why you should be doing strength exercises to improve your performance in the water, things like increased power, added strength (obviously), explosiveness, and so on.

It is, however, 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.

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.

To ensure that your strength training and swimming practices stay in line consider reading my article on the 8 weightlifting guidelines every swimmer should follow.

There are many examples of absolutely excellent swimmers that use 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. Here’s a quick video-

10 best strength exercises for swimmers-

Here are the best strength exercises for swimmers-

  • Pull-ups
  • Barbell Squat
  • Bench Press
  • Overhead Press
  • Deadlifts
  • Barbell Rows
  • Walking Lunges
  • Box Jumps
  • Plank
  • Kettlebell swings

1. Pull-Ups

First up we have pull-ups. I truly believe that all swimmers should do pull-ups for overall upper body strength as it targets a lot of the important upper body muscle groups used in swimming, like the lats, and traps for example.

These muscle groups play a very big and important role in swimming- they help you to push water effectively, allowing for faster and more powerful strokes, which is a big driver of propulsion in the water.

The pull up is probably one of the best exercises to train your lats and simulate the overhead motion commonly found when swimming, therefore you should definitely incorporate it into your dry-land or strength training routine.

Another reason the pull up is so great is due to the fact that the technique is very basic and easy to learn. Continuous progress with this exercise isn’t a problem either as there are many different variations that place emphasis on different muscles and you can also add weight to the exercise once you are strong enough.

If you need a pull-up bar consider checking out my favorite wall-mounted one on Amazon by clicking here. Or if you just want something a bit simpler, consider a standard doorway pull up bar, check out this nice one on Amazon by clicking here.

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.

For more information as well as some scientific studies about this exercise, consider reading my article, why every swimmer should do pull-ups.

Another way to enhance performance in the pool- tech suits! Consider checking out my article on the best tech suits for swimmers or read my article on do tech suits make a difference? For an in-depth look and some cool scientific studies.

2. Barbell Squats

The barbell squat is not only one of the best lower body exercises but a great full-body exercise as well. The barbell squat is excellent for strengthening your legs and building explosive power that can translate into faster kicking as well as better starts and turns. It also engages your core, back, arms, and stabilizer muscles.

As swimmers, we all know how important a strong kick is- I mean the fastest swimmers are usually the ones with the strongest kick and good starts and turns are just as valuable for winning races.

Therefore the barbell squat is a great exercise for swimmers. There are many different variations of the squat, but the 2 main variations I would recommend is the barbell back squat and the barbell front squat. Bodyweight jumping squats, dumbbell split squats, and goblet squats are also great options to try out.

With this exercise, it is extremely important to first master the technique before you start adding a lot of 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, and maximize your results from the exercise in doing so.

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.

3. Bench Press

The bench press can be a very beneficial exercise to a swimmer’s overall strength if it is done correctly. The bench press is one of the best upper body compound exercises, meaning it works a large number of muscles at the same time. These muscles mainly include the chest, triceps, and shoulders- all of which are important in swimming.

These muscles play an important role in the pulling motion of your stroke and strengthening them can be very beneficial. It will allow for a more powerful stroke which will help with better propulsion and faster swimming.

However, like the front squat, a movement largely dependant on adding weight to the bar to become stronger. You will need to be 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.

Overall, the bench press is definitely one of my favorite strength exercises and I believe that it can be a very beneficial strength exercise for becoming a better swimmer when performed safely with proper technique and form.

4. Overhead Press

The overhead press is another great strength exercise to incorporate into your swimming strength training routine. This exercise targets and strengthens your shoulders, triceps, and traps- muscles which are once again all important for developing a strong pull.

The overhead press is also good for developing core stability as well as explosive power that can come in useful on the start and during sprinting events like 50’s and 100’s. Another benefit is the fact that it trains the overhead position which is commonly found when swimming.

There are many variations of this exercise all of which are good options. A few include- seated overhead dumbbell press, standing overhead dumbbell press, standing barbell press, military press, seated barbell press, smith machine press, push press, and so on.

I’d recommend the standing overhead barbell press and the push press. Both are good for building strength. The push press engages slightly more muscles and develops explosive power and the standing overhead press is more strict and will place a bigger emphasis on strength.

Overall, a great strength exercise for swimmers. Remember to learn proper technique before adding weight.

5. Deadlifts

The deadlift is known as being one of the best exercises for full-body strength and power. The deadlift engages pretty much every muscle in your body and is a great way to develop explosive power, making it an excellent strength exercise for swimmers as we frequently have every muscle in our body firing as we swim.

The deadlift will help to develop core stability, full-body strength, and power which will translate into faster kicking, pulling, and more stability in the water, which is important for technique and reducing drag when swimming.

This exercise will also help swimmers to increase their strength endurance allowing for faster swimming for longer periods of time.

Like a lot of the other exercises the deadlift also has a couple of variations to choose from. For swimmers, I recommend the hex bar deadlift and the conventional barbell deadlift as these are both great for developing athleticism, strength, and power.

In terms of exercise technique, the deadlift is a bit more complicated than a lot of other exercises. Make sure to take the time to learn proper technique first. Watch videos, and record yourself to see if you are performing the exercise correctly.

I also recommend keeping the volume on this exercise a bit on the lower side as performing it excessively may cause fatigue that will interfere with your swimming practices. Do 2-3 sets of 5-8 reps once or twice a week for this exercise.

Another way to enhance performance in the pool- tech suits! Consider checking out my article on the best tech suits for swimmers or read my article on do tech suits make a difference? For an in-depth look and some cool scientific studies.

6. Barbell row

Swimmers are known for having strong back muscles, the reason being? The back muscles play an important role in swimming fast and efficiently. That said, the barbell row is easily one of my favorite exercises for developing complete back strength and power.

This exercise engages all of the upper- and lower back muscles and also works your biceps and triceps. There are a couple of variations of this exercise that you can try out. I recommend the standard bent-over barbell row, the dumbbell row, or if you want some more stability try out the supported barbell row, which is also a great variation.

Overall, a great upper body exercise for swimmers to develop a stronger back and increase your swimming speed.

7. Lunges

Lunges is another great strength exercise for developing power and strength in your legs which will help you to develop a stronger kick as well as better starts, turns, and underwaters, all contributing to the common goal of swimming as fast as possible in whatever event you specialize in.

Like the barbell squat, lunges engage all of the muscles in your legs including the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves.

There are many different variations of the lunge that you can try out, some examples include dumbbell walking lunges, barbell lunges, and reverse lunges. If you are looking for explosive power, you can also try doing jumping lunges.

That said, I recommend the walking dumbbell lunges as I found it to be one of the most engaging variations making it great for developing strength in your legs. Another great thing about this strength exercise is that the technique is quite basic to learn.

8. Box Jumps

Box jumps are one of the best exercises for developing explosive power allowing for better starts, turns, and underwaters. This exercise isn’t necessarily the best for raw strength, but it is a great athletic exercise that can help you to become a better and faster swimmer.

The box jump works many different muscle groups, including the core, glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves. These muscles are all frequently used when swimming, making the box jump a great exercise for you as a swimmer.

To quickly dive a little deeper, the main reason for the gain in explosive power from doing box jumps is because it improves the reaction of fast-twitch muscle fibers, which is required for quick and explosive motions like starts, turns, underwaters, and fast strokes.

9. Plank

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 develops the entire core and develops some great stability in the abdominal muscles.

Another cool thing to note is that the plank actually helps a little bit with flexibility, the plank stretches your shoulders, hamstrings, and certain areas of your feet.

Overall I really like the plank and highly recommend all swimmers to incorporate it into their strength training routine. The plank is a great way to train the entire core in just a few sets.

As you get stronger with the plank you can also try some more advanced variations like weighted planks, plank with your arms extended further in front of you, and ab wheel roll outs, which is a more dynamic and challenging variation of the plank.

For some more core exercises, consider checking out my article on the 10 best core exercises for swimmers at home.

10. Kettlebell swings

The kettlebell swing is a great dynamic exercise for strengthening a large number of muscles in your body, including your hips, glutes, hamstrings, lats, abs, shoulders, and pecs. It’s also great for developing explosive power that will help with fast kicks, pulls, underwaters, turns, and starts.

The kettlebell swing will also quickly get your heart rate up training the aerobic systems in your body and burning a lot of calories. Another benefit is the fact that the technique on this exercise is also simple and easy to learn.

Overall, the kettlebell swing is a good athletic exercise to incorporate into your strength training to become a better and faster swimmer.

Example strength training routines.

Below are 2 example strength training routines that you can try out. You can also use them as a guideline to create your own one if you’d like. The key is to stay consistent with it over a period of at least 3 to 6 months and to gradually increase the weight/ intensity on exercises as you become stronger.

Example 1-

Workout 1- Monday

  • Pull Ups, 3 sets of 8-12 reps.
  • Barbell Back Squat, 3 sets of 6-8 reps.
  • Bench Press, 3 sets of 6-8 reps.
  • Plank, 3 sets of 1,5 minutes
  • Box Jumps, 3 sets of 8-10 reps.

Workout 2- Wednesday

  • Pull Ups, 3 sets of 8-12 reps.
  • Dumbell walking lunges, 3 sets of 12 reps per leg.
  • Overhead Press, 3 sets of 6-8 reps.
  • Deadlifts, 2 sets of 5 reps.
  • Kettlebell swings, 3 sets of 15-20 reps.

Workout 3- Friday

  • Pull-ups, 3 sets of 8-12 reps.
  • Barbell Front Squats, 3 sets of 6-8 reps.
  • Bench press 3 sets of 6-8 reps.
  • Barbell rows, 3 sets of 6-8 reps.
  • Plank, 3 sets of 1.5 minutes.

Example 2-

Workout 1- Monday

  • Barbell back squat, 3 sets 6-8 reps.
  • Bench Press, 3 sets 6-8 reps.
  • Overhead Press, 3 sets 6-8 reps.
  • Pull-ups, 3 sets, 8-10 reps.

Workout 2- Wednesday

  • Barbell back squat, 3 sets 6-8 reps.
  • Bench press, 3 sets 6-8 reps.
  • Deadlift, 3 sets 6-8 reps.
  • Box jumps, 3 sets 10 reps.

Workout 3- Friday

  • Barbell back squat, 3 sets 6-8 reps.
  • Bench press, 3 sets 6-8 reps.
  • Overhead press, 3 sets 6-8 reps.
  • Weighted pull-ups, 3 sets 5 reps.


At the end of the day, strength training can be very beneficial to swimming performance. Strength training allows you to develop muscle strength and explosive power that is required for developing faster, more explosive, and more efficient strokes, kicks, and other aspects of becoming a better and faster swimmer.

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    I am Benjamin, a competitive swimmer with many years of experience in the sport of swimming. I am very passionate about competitive swimming and love sharing everything I have learned about the sport. I specialize in swimming butterfly and my favorite event is the 100m butterfly with the 50m and 200m fly closely following.