- Technique and Training
Don’t Do Swimming-Specific Exercises
Get strong on land and then get fast in the water
Swimming is different from other sports in many ways. Therefore, it might seem to make sense to create a dryland training program centered on a swimming-specific program, even specializing in a certain stroke or race distance. However, this approach can lead to the craziest looking exercises, with swimmers desperately trying to mimic the exact movements of a particular swimming stroke. This can lead to frustration or, worse, injury.
Instead, you should master dryland basics before going exotic in your exercise selection.
When you first learned to swim, you probably started with learning how to float, blow bubbles, and kick. You didn’t start by trying to swim 50 yards of butterfly. Likewise, your strength-training program should start with the basics.
So what are the basics of strength training? There are many standards out there, but here is what I think Masters swimmers should focus on:
- Pull-ups for double-digit reps or more (both male and female)
- Technically sound squat and deadlift of bodyweight load
- Technically sound overhead press of half-bodyweight load
- Mastering the kneeling rollouts with the wheel in the double digits with sound technique as well as doing walkouts with the wheel for over 20 yards forward and backward without stopping
If you can’t do at least five of these foundational standards, you shouldn’t be worrying about swimming-specific exercises or programs.
If your first reaction is, “Wow, I can’t do any of those!” or “I will never be able to do that.” That’s OK—you don’t need to be able to do all of these to be a successful swimmer. However, if you want to have your strength training benefit your swimming, you should at least be walking down the path toward these standards.
Remember: get strong on land and then get fast in the water.