Training

Weight Training For Swimmers | Benefits & Best Exercises

Weight Training For Swimmers | Benefits & Best Exercises

Regular resistance training has many benefits especially for sport performance. However, all sports have a specific outcome or goal and training should be just as specific. For example competitive swimming has multiple races of varying distances and it is pertinent that training mimics the specific desired performance. Furthermore, resistance training is not a race and resistance training needs to be designed based off of movements and muscles used to increase performance.


The Goal of a Resistance Training Program

The goal of a good resistance training program for sports performance is to increase performance and minimize injury risk. Let us analyze the sport of swimming biomechanically, swimming is a dynamic sport utilizing the entire body to allow oneself to move from point A to B. At the start of each swim race the athlete must propel themselves from a kick board out of the water into the water and begin swimming to the opposite side of the pool. Depending on the distance of the race they may even perform a technique that allows them to quickly change direction and kick off the wall at each lap to increase displacement through the water.

weight training for swimmers


Explosive Triple Extension

Swimmers need explosive ability in the lower body to perform these movements. This movement is known as an explosive triple extension. The triple extension applies force through the hips, knees, and ankles. The muscles that are utilized are the hamstrings, quadriceps, and lower leg muscles including the gastrocnemius and soleus. Strengthening this movement will greatly increase performance during starts and changing direction during each lap for the wall kickoff.


Injury Reduction

Another important aspect of strength and conditioning is to reduce the likelihood of injury. Swimmers are at a high risk for shoulder injuries specifically overuse injuries and rotator cuff problems. These shoulder injuries can be reduced by strengthening the muscles that stabilize the shoulder girdle such as the trapezius and rhomboids. Forceful triple extension can be developed through Olympic lifts and variations such as clean pulls and snatch pulls.

weight training for swimmers

If there is a good base of strength then jump squats can be incorporated into the program as well. Utilizing these full body movements will also load the axial skeleton, exercises that load the axial skeleton increase bone mass and density.

Swimmers typically are at risk of stress fractures due to the majority of their training being in the water which has no impact or stress to the bone structure. The lack of impact in training can reduce bone mass, resistance training that specifically loads the axial skeleton can increase bone mass, thus decreasing the risk of injury. Exercises that load the axial skeleton include Olympic lifts, overhead movements, and squat/deadlift variations. Table 1 lists exercises that should be incorporated and why into a strength and conditioning


S&C Exercises for Swimmers

Strength and Conditioning Exercises for Swimmers
Exercises Sets Reps Intensity Why?
Snatch 3-5 2-3 70-90%

Triple Ext.

 

Clean 3-5 2-3 70-90%

Triple Ext.

 

Snatch Pull

 

3-5 3-5 85-110%

Triple Ext.

 

Clean pull

 

3-5 3-5 85-115%

Triple Ext.

 

Push Press 3-6 2-5 70-95%

Triple Ext.

 

Back Squat

 

3-5 3-5 70-90% Axial loading

Front Squat

 

3-5 3-5 70-90% Axial loading

Overhead Squat

 

3-5 3-5 70-90% Axial loading
Press 3-6 3-6 70-90%

Axial loading

 

Pullups 3-5 5-6 N/A Shoulder girdle stabilization

Cable face pulls

 

6-10 6-10 70-85% Shoulder girdle stabilization

Bat wings

 

6-10 6-10 70-85% Shoulder girdle stabilization
Bent over row 5-10 5-10 70-87% Shoulder girdle stabilization

These exercises are a must have in a sport specific strength and conditioning program for swimmers. I prefer to throw multiple Glenohumeral extension exercises in each workout to help stabilize the shoulder girdle.



Joshua Levesque

Joshua Levesque

Writer and expert


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