Article image

by Joni Briganti

August 10, 2022

Here are a few sets coaches can add to their workouts to build core strength

Swimming efficiency requires great body alignment to reduce drag. This means eliminating unwanted lateral movement such as wiggling, wobbling, and flopping around, which is usually the result of weakness within the abdomen, lower back, and pelvic area, commonly referred to as your core.

Strengthening your core will solidify your alignment and provide support for your propulsive muscles, which reduces your drag profile while distributing the workload to reduce fatigue in the arms and legs.

Although there are plenty of great dryland core-building exercises (planks, Pilates, Yoga, etc.), there are also ways to increase your stability while you’re in the water. Here are some fun exercises to support awesome abs while having a blast with your teammates in the pool. I call these sets core shenanigans, and silliness is not only allowed, it’s mandatory!

Yippie Ki Yak

Straddle a foam pool noodle as if you’re riding a horse, then grab a second noodle to use as if it were a kayak paddle. Keep your core tight to maintain an upright position in the water and move forward by using both your arms and legs.

  • Rotate your legs as if riding a bicycle. Without touching the bottom of the pool, get your feet to press backward on the upstroke, as if you’re scraping mud off the bottom of your foot.
  • At the same time, hold the other noodle with both hands about shoulder-width apart and dip it into the water on alternating sides as if paddling a watercraft.

Neither your legs nor a floppy foam paddle is going to be very effective at moving you forward but keeping your midsection solid in support of the two motions will force your core to engage as you learn a whole new appreciation for swimming horizontally. Try to keep your torso steady and solid throughout.

Margaritaville Twister

Load a kickboard with foam dumbbells, pull buoys, or water bottles and prepare to deliver your tray to the table without spilling anything. With your head above water (top hats and other fashion accessories are optional), straddle a noodle and hold a steady upright position as you kick your way down the pool, raising and lowering the loaded kickboard as if you’re doing repetitions in the weight room.

Pony Express Relay

With a 12- or 14-pound waterproof medicine ball under your arm, ride the noodle for 25 yards and hand off the ball to your next rider. Options for this challenge include cycling backward, tossing the ball vertically and catching it, and tossing it over your head in increments until you’ve covered the length.

Another option is to kick vertically in deep water while you toss a beach ball around your circle of friends. Focus on staying stable and using your entire body to control your position in the water as well as your tossing and catching motions.

You and the Tube

If you have access to inner tubes or other flotation devices, you can try all sorts of crazy relays that will challenge you to think about your relationship with the water. Try it both on your front and on your back, trying to keep your core engaged for maximum control of your watercraft. Surfing on kickboards can be done by sitting on the board, or even doing a “hang 5” foot placement with the board underneath you in the water.

Fins and hand paddles can provide options to change the focus on the effort of these variants. The more challenges you face in terms of balance, position, and external drag, the more core strength and feel for the water you can develop. And if you happen to have some good laughs with these shenanigans, well, those probably make you stronger, as well. Enjoy!


  • Technique and Training
  • Coaches Only


  • Core
  • Writing Workouts