Competitive swimmers have special requirements when it comes to fitness routine. Swimming is a sport that provides a full-body workout, so the upper body, lower body, and core must all be kept in shape for the best possible performance.
Swimmers must be careful when choosing dry land workouts because their joints may be unstable. Doing exercises to strengthen the joints will prevent problems outside the pool. Mike Kotch, an experienced swimming coach, outlines practical considerations for competitive swimmers that will keep them healthy and fit both in and out of the pool.
While stretching is beneficial, swimmers and all athletes should be careful to warm up first. Stretching cold muscles can strain them and bring the potential for injury. After warming up, swimmers should carefully stretch their arms and shoulders. Shoulders, in particular, receive a great deal of strain in a competitive swimmer. However, Mike Kotch recommends avoiding the temptation to “stretch” the shoulder joint. There is a natural amount of tension that should exist in the shoulder area to maintain stability. Most shoulder exercises should focus on stability and strengthening the area as opposed to trying to loosen it.
For the lower body, calf stretches while leaning on a wall with your hands are effective. This is an area where majority of cramping might occur; especially if kicking vigorously with fins.
Yoga stretches such as “child’s pose” are also highly effective and very useful for the post-workout period. This stretch cools the body and relaxes the hips, lower back, and arms.
In the Gym
There are many gym exercises, including weight training, that will keep a competitive swimmer fit and ready to compete. For swimmers who spend a great deal of time training in the water, it is best to remember that dry land workouts offer their own form of wear and tear on the body so be careful to ensure the proper mix of training is being considered. This supplemental training will give a swimmer the shoulder, arm, core, and leg strength needed to make a great showing in a race.
Squat jumps are beneficial for all athletes, but especially swimmers. They build the quads, calf muscles, and glutes to give swimmers the strength to push off the wall each and every time.
Tricep extensions are another great exercise for swimmers. Holding a free weight back behind the head with bent arms, extend the arms up and above the head. Do this slowly and without locking your elbows.
Deadlifting is a method to build full-body strength. When you deadlift, make sure that you have a competent spotter on hand. As you are building muscle strength and endurance, this exercise will be exhausting. Over time, you will become accustomed to the extra exertion.
Hanging crunches are an exercise which most people dislike, but they are greatly beneficial to the competitive swimmer. Hanging from a pull-up bar, bring your knees up to your chest, then return to a straight position. This amazing core exercise will tone your muscles and build your endurance.
Do shoulder rotations with resistance bands. These will help you strengthen the shoulder stability muscles that are overlooked in the water when the larger shoulder muscles take up most of the effort. Using a resistance band, bend your arm at a 90-degree angle and then rotate your arm out and in. This exercise should be done two or three times a week. It is also great for warming up before swimming.
Swim coach Mike Kotch encourages all swimmers to put time and thought into their dry land workouts. All of these exercises are great for helping competitive swimmers build endurance in and out of the water. When you follow this workout plan along with a healthy diet, you will see an improvement in your times and also feel less fatigued after a race. As always, build these new exercises into your workout routine slowly to avoid strain and overuse.