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by Bo Hickey

March 28, 2022

A structured approach to your core training can help you swim faster and more efficiently

You’ve probably heard of many ways to train your core, from sit-ups to squats. No matter what exercises you’ve mastered, it’s beneficial to step back occasionally and take a step-by-step approach to strengthening your core.

Start with the basics and gradually progress to more advanced movements. Don’t rush this process—master each step before progressing to the next. A stronger core will help you hold stronger body positions in the water.

Set Your Foundation

Here’s a secret: The basics work really well. Setting your foundation will set you up for success as you build into more advanced variations.

With the high plank, take a little extra time to focus on your position. First, engage your glutes, which helps stabilize your lumbar (lower) spine. Think about your head position, too. What position are you looking to hold in the water? This is the same position you should hold during your high plank. Set a goal to hold three, 60-second high planks before progressing to the next sequence of exercises.

Progress Your Position

Now that you’ve mastered the foundation, take it up a notch. As you advance to these variations of core exercises, remember what you practiced previously.

First up, add some limb movement. With the deadbug hold, start by pressing your lower back to the floor. Make it a goal to keep this contact point with the floor throughout the movement. As you reach, control your lumbar spine. Move as slowly as you need to maintain your back position. At the bottom, hold each repetition for five seconds.

The next pattern to explore is anti-rotation. This involves taking away one piece of your base of support and focusing on keeping your hips still and even. Being able to maintain hip position as one limb is active translates to stroke efficiency in the water. During the plank shoulder tap, focus on keeping your hips as still as you can. Feel out a deeper core engagement and minimize movement.

The final progression to master is rotation. Being able to rotate as one is something you could do easily as a kid. As an adult, you might’ve lost this ability to stay connected, but you can get it back. For the side-to-side rock, start in a hollow position. Then rotate to one side only using your core. Avoid using your limbs to generate momentum.

Complete three rounds of the following exercises two times a week. Once you feel you can complete three rounds with quality form, progress to the next phase of exercises.

Advance Your Inner Strength

Now that you’ve built the foundation and mastered the keys of anti-rotation and rotation, you can progress to a few advanced core exercises to strengthen your position in the water. As you intertwine these new exercises, remember what you’ve focused on to this point. The foundations are important—don’t forget them.

First up is the side plank with a band. You control how challenging this exercise is based on the band resistance you use and the distance you set up from the band anchor point. As you set in the side plank position, remember the cues from the high plank. Engage your glutes and aim to position your head to your heel in a straight line. Focus on driving your shoulder blades toward each other and holding steady. As the time goes on, you'll have to say focused on your body position. It’s easy to slip out of position, just as during the late stages of a swim practice.

Now, progress to the speed rotation with a band. As you ramp up the speed, focus on establishing a strong brace in your midsection before starting the movement. This exercise mimics faster actions that you'll encounter in the water. When you ramp up your speed, your form can fall apart. Bring extra focus to this one and stay strong.

Finally, walk it out with a plank walk. As you get close to the high plank position, remember your plank keys from the foundation points. Then, see how far you can walk while maintaining your position. The goal is to get closer and closer to the ground over time.

Complete three rounds of the following exercises, two times a week.


  • Technique and Training


  • Core
  • Drylands