By now it is no secret that weight lifting can enhance and improve swimming performances. Countless professional and elite level swimmers have incorporated weight lifting into their training schedules and many of them have seen fantastic results in doing so.
Not even to mention that almost every large university and training facility around the world has spent large sums of money to construct high-performance weight rooms and gyms with dedicated strength coaches for their athletes.
There has also been a lot of research done concerning the matter of weight lifting for swimming. A recent study published by researcher Clayne R. Jensen in the Journal of the American Association for Health, Physical Education, and Recreation looked at the effects of five training combinations of swimming and weight lifting on the front crawl (freestyle).
Needless to say, all five training combinations resulted in remarkable improvements in swimming performance. None of the training combinations were, however, much more effective than the other combinations. (But what does it matter? Improvement is improvement).
Another study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning found that strength and conditioning training for sprint swimming (various weight lifting exercises were used in the study) resulted in significant improvements in starts and turns, as well as increased range of motion and decreased risk of injury.
In this article, I will cover everything you want and should know regarding which order to swim and lift weights for optimal results in the pool. So whether you are an elite level competitive swimmer, an open water swimmer or just someone who swims for the fun, you’ll know exactly what to do going forward once you’ve read this article.
Is It Better to Lift Weights Before or After Swimming?
In short- it is better to lift weights before swimming if your objective is to improve strength and build muscle. On the other hand, if you want to improve your swimming and enhance your technique in the water, then you should lift weights after swimming for optimal results.
When it comes to deciding on the best time to lift weights, say before or after swim training, it is important to take a closer look at your goals and then carefully consider what would be best for you.
For example, as a competitive swimmer myself, I always place swimming as priority number one on my list when it comes to training. So if I had a morning and evening swim practice on a particular day I would only lift weights after my evening swim practice to ensure that I could obtain adequate recovery in between sessions and give my everything in the pool.
On the other hand, if I had the morning off, I would go and lift weights a couple of hours before swimming practice to make sure I can still recover enough in time to go hard in the pool.
There have also been times when I decided to lift weights in between swimming workouts. (So essentially after morning practice). I usually did this during periods where I wanted to prioritize strength slightly more in order to enhance my swimming performances.
So, at the end of the day, it comes down to what your goals are and what you want to prioritize in your training schedule. If you would prefer to focus on increasing strength, you could decide to lift weights before swimming or on the other spectrum of things if you want to make sure you get the most out of your swimming workout then you can lift weights after swimming.
|Right order of workouts
|Improve swimming speed, endurance and technique.
|Swimming before lifting weights.
|Improve maximal strength and build muscle.
|Swimming after lifting weights.
Below I am going to dive slightly deeper into each topic in order to give you some more insight into what would be best for you.
Weight Training Before Swimming
To start off, we are going to take a look at weight lifting before swimming. Lifting weights before swimming is a great way to place the emphasis on improving strength and power since you will focus the majority of your energy on making improvements in the gym or weight room.
Generally, it is recommended to lift weights before swimming if your aim is to build muscle and maximal strength or if you lack strength and power that could otherwise benefit you in the pool.
In order to ensure optimal strength gains, it is best to do your strength workouts when your muscles are rested and you can work out at a good intensity to provide an effective training stimulus.
Lifting weights when you are tired and your body is fatigued will only result in a higher risk of injury. Additionally, tired muscles will create a lack of coordination and stabilizing muscles might not work effectively.
If you decide to hit the gym or weight room first your mind will still be fresh and your glycogen stores won’t be depleted. Ultimately, allowing you to execute each lift with maximum effort and perfect lifting form and technique.
A possible drawback of this training method is going to come if you decide to swim directly after hitting the weight room. Your swimming workouts might lack in intensity and your swim technique could be hindered. Resistance training is very taxing on your joints and muscles, therefore making it hard to quickly recover from.
It’s also good to keep in mind that lifting light to moderate weights for higher repetition sets is going to have less of an effect on your swimming workout when compared to lifting heavy for smaller repetition sets.
Unfortunately, heavy lifting is required if you want to increase your maximum strength and develop more power.
Related: Strength Exercises for Swimmers.
Lifting Weights After Swimming
Next, we are going to take a look at lifting weights after swimming. Hitting the weight room after your swim workout is a great way to ensure you are able to maximize swimming intensity while building up some extra strength and power afterward.
Usually, it is recommended to swim before lifting weights if your aim is to work on your swimming speed, stroke technique, or swim endurance since your body will be more rested and you will be able to exert the required power and effort.
If you swim first, your muscles will be rested and your energy stores will still be full. Allowing you to execute effective stroke technique and maintain a good body position, all while swimming at a fast pace.
It is not as effective to swim when your muscles are tired and your body lacks recovery since it is likely to decrease your efficiency in the water and negatively impact swimming technique.
Bad swimming technique and a tired body could also lead to muscle strains or overuse injuries such as swimmer’s shoulder caused by the repetitive rotation of the shoulder muscles.
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Can I Swim and Lift Weights on the Same Day?
In short- It is completely acceptable to swim and lift weights on the same day. This will assist you in building up good cardiovascular fitness through swimming and increase strength and muscle through weight lifting. Just make sure that you are receiving adequate recovery throughout the week.
By now it probably wouldn’t surprise you to know that it is completely okay to swim and lift weights on the same day. Like I just mentioned, there are also some good benefits in doing so such as simultaneously developing cardiovascular fitness, strength, and muscle.
The important thing to keep in mind when lifting weights and swimming on the same day is recovery, not just on that particular day, but throughout the entire week and month. Make sure to have good nutrition and to consume enough protein to allow muscles to recover effectively.
Also make sure to get enough sleep to allow muscle tissue to grow and repair, drink enough water to avoid dehydration and warm up properly before workouts to avoid injuries.
Related: Leg exercises for swimmers.
Should You Lift Weights Before or After Swimming to Lose Weight?
Individuals who might want to shed a few pounds and lose some weight might be wondering what would be the right order for them in terms of lifting weights and swimming.
As a general guideline, it is quite often recommended to do your weight lifting or strength training workout before swimming. The idea is to empty carbohydrate stores and to force your body to pull its energy mostly from fat rather than carbs while swimming.
The downside of doing it in this order is going to be that your swimming workout might lose intensity and therefore you will burn fewer calories from swimming resulting in less body fat being burned.
At the end of the day, when it comes to losing weight, it is more important to stay in a caloric deficit rather than worrying about the order of workouts. If you burn more calories than you consume, you will lose weight. It is as simple as that. I explain all of this in my article on swim workouts for weight loss.
On the other spectrum of things, if you consume more calories than your body burns, you will gain weight. So make sure to follow a proper nutrition plan while strategically planning your workouts to allow for maximum intensity exertion and adequate recovery in between workouts.
Related: Dryland cardio for swimmers.
Swimming or Weights First? It’s Up to You!
As we wind up this article, it is clear that you should structure the order of your workouts based on your fitness goals in the gym, pool, or weight room. If you are a competitive swimmer like myself you are probably going to want to prioritize swimming and therefore wait until the end of the day before pumping some iron.
On the other hand, if your primary focus is strength and muscle, you might want to consider hitting the weights first and then diving in the pool for the cardiovascular and health benefits gained in doing so.
You could also consider doing swimming and weight training on alternate days. This is a great option for people who aren’t elite athletes and just want to better their general health and fitness as well as looking and feeling good.
Some individuals, such as high school or club swimmers who only have one swimming session per day may also prefer swimming in the mornings and hitting the gym in the evening or the other way round. This is a good way to exert high intensity in both of your workouts by resting a few hours in between.
All in all, it would be best not to do back-to-back workouts. This is going to allow for enough recovery in between and will result in better long-term gains in both the swimming pool and the weight room.