Swimming recruits many muscles throughout the body in all the strokes. The legs, hips, core, trunk and arms contribute to the kinetic chain of events that create the powerful movements that propel you through the water. To compete at your best, you'll want to build muscle everywhere.
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Setting Up a Workout
To build strength, focus on different areas of your body using a routine like the Reg Parks 5 X 5 workout. Lift five repetitions of 60 percent of your maximum weight. Perform a second set at 80 percent of your max, then three sets using your maximum weight. Rest and recover one day between workouts.
Classic Leg Exercises
Your lower body contributes to your swim strokes via the lower and upper leg. Exercises that incorporate swimming movements -- such as hamstring curls, which have you lying on your stomach and raising your lower legs straight up against resistance -- help build muscle strength in the way you use them for swimming. Other lower-body exercises include calf raises, squats, lunges and deadlifts. Work the upper leg with squats and lunges by lowering and raising yourself with your quadriceps. You can also use leg presses to work the quads. These exercises work the hips as well.
A Strong Core Is Essential
Perform a variety of weighted and body-weight crunches and sit-ups. For oblique crunches, start on your side and raise your legs and upper body off the floor. Russian twists start with you lying on your back and raising yourself with side-to-side twists. Perform bicycle crunches on your back, rotating your legs in a pedaling motion. Pelvic thrusts have you on your back with your legs in the air, pushing your buttocks off the floor and lowering yourself back down with your core muscles. Add an ab roller and exercise ball to your core workouts.
Working on the Back
The latissimus dorsi is an extremely important muscle area for swimmers. Exercises such as lat pulldowns, reverse flyes and chin-ups help build the lats. Lat pulldowns are most effective when you pull the weight down in front of your head, using a hand placement farther apart than shoulder width. Bent-over barbell rows, one-arm dumbbell rows and using the breaststroke arm motion with dumbbells also create helpful lat exercises for swimmers.
To improve your pectorals, perform bench presses, incline chest presses, flyes, pull-ups, and pushups. Pay attention to negative reps, or movements that use eccentric muscle contractions, such as lowering yourself from a pullup. These contractions offer the most benefit and are often ignored as fatigued lifters let gravity, or body weight, drop weights.
Targeting the Arms
Work through triceps extensions, dips and kickbacks, shoulder presses, close-arm press-ups, arm rows, biceps curls, lateral raises and wide-arm pushups to improve arm and shoulder strength. Because your shoulder muscles and lats are often weaker than other muscle groups, you can benefit from doing exercises that target these muscles with dumbbells and resistance bands.