Swimming is a great form of exercise for many people, including those with contraindications to other forms of exercise for medical reasons and those wishing to reduce the impact on their joints while still reaping the benefits of exercise.

There are several exercises involving weight training for swimmers though, which will improve time and speed in both competitive and noncompetitive swimmers.  Swimming, although a total body workout and primarily endurance based, can also be very explosive and thus requires power and strength.

For speed development, swimmers should complete three sets with six to eight repetitions per set with a high weight for these exercises.  For swimming endurance these movements should be completed for four sets by ten to twelve repetitions with a lighter weight.


Weight Training Movements for the Upper Body

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Lat Pulldown

This exercise is essential in developing strength and power in the latissimus dorsi muscle, a large muscle in the back that works to extend the shoulder, horizontally abduct the shoulder, and internally rotate the shoulder, all are important motions to swimmers.  This movement will also train the elbow flexors, such as the biceps brachii and the brachialis.

This exercise should be completed seated with a brace for the thighs.  The back should be straight and the arms should grasp the bar overhead using an overhand grip.  The width of the grip can be varied to focus the exercise on different areas of the muscle.  The bar should be pulled down to the neck by pulling the elbows down and back.

Overhead Press or Push Press

This exercise involves pressing a barbell, or dumbbells overhead from a rest position on the front of the shoulders.  An overhead press should be done with a lighter weight, whereas a push press is slightly more explosive by using the legs to drive the bar up and then locking out the arms through the press, therefore the overhead press should be used for endurance while the push press should be used for speed development in swimmers.

This movement will train the deltoid muscles, pectoralis major, and the triceps brachii.  The push press will also add in a strength/power component to also train the quadriceps femoris in the legs and the hip extensors.

Dumbbell Incline Press

This exercise trains the pectoralis major muscles and the triceps brachii predominantly.  Using a bench set to a 45° angle, dumbbell should be held in each hand and pressed up above the chest from a resting position at mid chest.

Single-Arm Row

This exercise trains the latissimus dorsi muscle along with the elbow flexors.  To complete this exercise, a dumbbell should be taken in one hand while bent over a weight bench and resting on the opposite arm and leg.  Keeping the back parallel to the floor and the shoulders even, the dumbbell should be raised to the side by pulling the elbow up to the side.  After completing one set, repeat using the opposite arm.

Front/Lat Raises

Using a dumbbell in each hand, raise arms straight out in front of the body until they are parallel to the floor for one set, then raise arms straight out to the side until they are parallel to the floor for a set before repeating.  This exercise will train the deltoid muscles.

To develop a more powerful kick to maintain proper positioning in the water, these exercises will be beneficial.  Again, these should be completed for three sets of six to eight repetitions with a heavier weight for speed development or four sets of ten to twelve with a lighter weight for endurance.

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Weight Training Movements for the Lower Body


There are many variations of the squat, but the most basic is done with a barbell resting across the base of the neck and upper back and the back of the shoulders while stabilizing the bar with the hands.  Keeping the back straight and the feet flat on the floor with the toes pointing out slightly, the hips should be lowered to the floor as if you are sitting down into a chair.

For the purposes of this exercise, the hips should be even with the knees at the bottom of the squat so that the thighs are parallel to the floor.  Then pressing through the feet, stand up to return to the starting position.

Stiff-Legged Dead Lift

This exercise should be completed with the barbell resting on the floor about mid-foot.  The knees should be slightly bent and the back is straight rather than rounded.  Without changing the knee angle and keeping the arms fully extended, lift the bar to the mid-thigh by standing up.  Lower the bar to the floor and repeat.

Please note that the bar should remain close to the body throughout the entire motion and the bar will rest on the mid-thighs at the top.

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