- Technique and Training
Building A Strong Core for More Powerful Swimming
Supine core progressions
Having a strong and stable core provides a foundation for faster and more powerful swimming. Although many swimmers do “core” work, most of the time they’re doing so in a prone or push-up position. However, because the core is a three-dimensional segment of the body running from the rib cage down through the hips, it’s important to use different positions to access all the core muscles during core work.
If you’re unfamiliar with the different categories that your strength program should cover, be sure to review Strength Training: A Balanced Approach.
Here are the categories that you should train consistently for a balanced program with a focus on injury reduction and performance enhancement:
- Push (horizontal & vertical)
- Pull (horizontal & vertical)
- Squat (single & double-legged)
- Hinge (single & double-legged)
- Core (prone, supine & vertical)
In this article, we’re reviewing that last bullet point, specifically core progressions done in a supine (face-up) position.
Important: Before you begin, review the videos of all of the exercises and progressions so you can be sure you understand all of the movements and variations.
Important: If you're new to strength training, consult a qualified trainer or strength and conditioning coach to determine if these exercises are appropriate for you.
Here, I’ll explain how you can specifically develop more core strength on your backside and hips. This can unlock incredible strength and power if you focus on working core exercises in a supine position.
For the initial assessment to help identify where you should start, see if you can perform a front bridge for 1 minute, as well as a side bridge for 1 minute on each side. If you cannot perform all three tests successfully, start at Level 1. If you successfully held a 1-minute bridge in all three positions start at Level 2, but you can always do Level 1 exercises for a lower intensity or to refine your technique.
Part of being strong in your core is learning to recruit and fire your hip muscles as well as staying in a “braced” or tight position throughout your core. These are the best introductory exercises to develop this athletic attribute.
- Single-leg Floor Bridge. While lying on your back, keep your feet flat on the ground and drive through your heels while squeezing your butt to lift your hips up off the ground. Once set, straighten one leg out, keeping yourself balanced and even. After holding for a few seconds, switch legs. Complete 12 to 20 total repetitions.
- Hollow. Lie on your back with your legs straight and arms straight overhead on the floor. Brace and tighten your whole body from fingers to toes and slightly elevate both your arms and legs just a few inches off the ground. Hold for about 5 seconds for 4 to 10 reps.
- Straight-leg Sit-up. With arms at your side, lie on your back with legs straight out on the floor. Starting with your head, lift your neck and back one vertebrae at a time while staying as straight as possible until your torso is angled at about 45 degrees to the floor. Then slowly lower yourself down. Perform 4 to 10 reps slowly.
This level is appropriate if you either passed all three bridge tests or if you’ve become technically proficient at the exercises in Level 1.
- Half Turkish Get-up + Kettle Bell. While lying flat on your back on the floor, keep your right foot on the ground and your left leg out straight. Hold the weight straight up to the ceiling in your right hand. Perform a straight-leg sit-up. Once at the top of this position drive through the right heel to lift your hips up off the ground and make a straight line from your right knee, hip, and shoulder. Come back down in reverse order. Repeat 2 to 5 times on each side with an appropriately heavy weight. For true beginners a paper cup half-filled with water is a great teaching tool.
- Opposite V-up. Start by lying on your back with arms extended overhead on the ground and legs straight out. Perform a crunch while raising your left leg in a straight position and your right arm simultaneously. Put both the leg and arm back down and alternate to the other side. Perform 12 to 20 total reps.
These exercises build upon those learned in Level 2.
- Turkish Get-up + Kettle Bell. While lying flat on your back on the floor, keep your right foot on the ground and your left leg out straight. Hold the weight straight up to the ceiling in your right hand. Perform a straight-leg sit-up. Once at the top of this position drive through the right heel to lift your hips up off the ground and make a straight line from your right knee, hip, and shoulder. From there, swing the left leg underneath and sit up so that you’re in a kneeling position with your left knee down and right knee up. From there drive through the right heel and stand straight up. Come back down in reverse order. Repeat 2 to 5 times each side with an appropriately heavy weight. For true beginners a paper cup half-filled with water is a great teaching tool.
- V-up. Start by lying on your back with arms extended overhead on the ground and legs straight out on the ground as well. Perform a crunch while raising both your arms and legs in straight positions so that you are in a “V” position. Return back down to the ground. Repeat for 6 to 12 reps.