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by Bo Hickey

September 20, 2021

Swimmers can benefit from adding weight lifting to their workout regimen

Masters swimmers have common fears about strength training that hold them back from fully committing to making it part of their training regimen. But dedicating time to strength training can have a positive impact on your swimming and your day-to-day life.

Your muscles are your fountain of youth. Without muscle, human movement ceases to happen, whether that’s getting out of a chair or swimming. Muscle also helps protect you from injuries.

With these benefits in mind, let's look at three common reasons swimmers avoid strength training, and dispel any fears you might have.

Fear 1: Strength Training Makes Swimmers Too Big

The fear of gaining too much mass is the most common fear I hear from Masters swimmers. But it takes hours and a dedicated nutrition plan to pack on loads of muscle, and the amount of time swimmers spend in the water takes away from their ability to add a lot of muscle. A lot keeps swimmers from getting a body builder physique.

If getting too big is a fear of yours, start with two simple 30- to 45-minute strength training sessions a week. This can help you enjoy the benefits of improved strength without worrying about getting bulky.

Also, track your swimming performance. If you start noticing an increase in your muscle mass but a decrease in swimming performance, scale back your strength training to make sure you find the sweet spot for your body.

Fear 2: Strength Training Causes Injury

A study published in Sports Health found that collegiate swimmers have about four injuries per 1,000 hours. A similar study of weightlifters and powerlifters found an injury rate of roughly three injuries per 1,000 hours.

The average injury rate is similar between swimming and strength sports. You might describe swimming as a relatively safe activity and, based on the research, you can describe strength training in the same light. 

In addition, properly managed strength training can help reduce swimming injury rates by addressing muscular imbalances and creating more support for the various muscles, ligaments, and tendons used during swimming.

Strength training for swimmers doesn’t mean striving for insanely heavy lifts in the gym and grueling two-hour weight sessions. Start with mastering the bodyweight basics and then progress at a pace that feels comfortable.

Here are some exercises to get you started. Do six repetitions of each movement and three rounds through to start, and then progress your way to 12 repetitions of each movement as you feel comfortable.

Fear 3: Not Knowing Where to Start

This is where things can get a little challenging for swimmers. The internet is a great resource, but it also causes information overload. Instead of falling victim to this, start with the basic bodyweight movements and become proficient at the following exercises. This alone can give you enough of a goal for weeks and months.

Once you feel comfortable with bodyweight movements, gradually add some resistance in the form of resistance bands or dumbbells. Strength training doesn’t have to be flashy. The basics work well and will constantly provide benefits when you perform these movements with proper technique.

These movements are simple to execute and extremely valuable. If it’s your first time completing these movements, start with a lighter weight, complete 12 repetitions of each movement, and focus on learning proper form.

From there, try to increase the weight slowly each time you complete the workout. Tracking how much weight you used previously is a great way to reduce the risk of injury and optimize your progress.


  • Technique and Training


  • Drylands