A swimming core workout engages not only the major muscle groups in your body--the quadriceps, hamstrings, biceps, shoulders and back--but also the central muscles that support the spine and internal organs. If you learned to swim when you were younger, you may need to relearn your stroke to engage your core while swimming as many young swimmers were taught to swim flat to maintain a streamline. In fact, core rotation and using your core to power your swim makes you a faster and better swimmer.
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Years ago, swimmers were taught to stay flat in the water, not moving their hips or torso when swimming. Nowadays, swimmers are taught to use a full body roll to enable better swimming. This body roll is fueled by your core rotation--the rotation of your hips, torso and shoulders. Not only does it power your stroke, it also makes breathing easier when swimming freestyle. A swimming workout that focuses on your core enables you to continue to advance in your technique and endurance.
Swimming core workouts can occur in the water, but they can also be done before, after or in place of a water workout on dry land. Water workouts focus on swimming with one arm, then the other, to strengthen and train your core and your body roll. Dry-land workouts use traditional core exercises, such as plank, side plank and one-armed holds to help strengthen your core muscles.
A swimming core workout can be part of your overall swim workout. Incorporate some technique training, including drills to work your core, into your routine. Start with a warm-up and continue with the main endurance workout. Finish with technique drills that provide focused core training as well as drills to help your stroke. Alternately, you can train outside of the water after you have finished your swim or in place of a swim workout by taking a Pilates or yoga class, both of which are disciplines that provide core training that can enhance your swim workout.
Swimming workouts that focus on your core are not simply exercises for your abdomen. Your buttocks, scapulae and pelvic muscles are all involved when working your core. These muscles not only provide a healthy support for your internal organs and back, they also limit injury by enabling your trunk to flex and bend with ease.
By strengthening your core in a swimming workout, you enjoy the best of many workout worlds. While swimming is not weight-bearing and thus will not strengthen your skeleton, it is an excellent resistance exercise. It enables you to work your core differently than you might on land. You have resistance in both the work and the release of a muscle, and you can often bend and flex more fully in water. In addition, swimming core workouts are easy on your joints, so your knees, ankles and wrists won't ache as they might after a dry-land workout.