How to Increase Swimming Stamina

Young healthy man with muscular body swims
(Image: takoburito/iStock/GettyImages)

Regardless if someone is a competitive or recreational swimmer — stamina is a crucial component of swimming well. Having a well-developed capacity to continue swimming over an extended period improves performance and is insurance against the danger of becoming too fatigued to make it back to shore when swimming in open water.

Training for better swimming stamina is a little more complicated than just putting in more pool time; it’s important to train smart. Here are some practical ways to develop more swimming stamina using a combination of dry-land exercises and water-based exercises.

Dry land exercises will help develop more swim stamina.
Dry land training can improve swimming stamina. (Image: Pixabay)

Dry-Land Exercise to Build Swimming Stamina

Swimming is a whole-body activity that uses almost every muscle in the body. According to a study in the May 2012 issue of the Journal of Human Kinetics, dry-land training improved both swimming force and performance in 26 male swimmers. So building up muscular strength and endurance by training away from the water can be the way to develop more stamina.

Leg Training for Swim Stamina

Every swimming stroke requires leg movement so working on more leg strength and endurance with resistance training should mean better stamina when in the water. A study in the June 2014 issue of Sports Medicine concluded that strength exercises significantly improved swimming time and economy of movement after only about five weeks of training.

Squats are an efficient way to train for greater lower body strength because both legs work at the same time.

HOW TO DO IT: Stand in front of a squat rack with the bar positioned about shoulder height. Position the bar behind your neck and step away from the squat rack. With the back straight and legs a little wider than shoulder-width apart, descend into a squat (thighs parallel to the ground). Finish the rep by raising the body to the start position.

Use a weight that allows for between eight and 10 reps and do five sets to build better swim stamina.

Upper Body Training for Swim Stamina

The upper body muscles that influence swimming stamina the most are those of the back and shoulders. A research study in the September 2011 Journal of Human Kinetics determined that strength in the lat pull-down accurately predicted swimming performance.

HOW TO DO IT: Begin the lat pull-down by sitting at the pull-down machine and grasping the bar with hands about shoulder-width apart and palms facing forward. Pull the bar down to neck level and slowly raise the bar to the starting position. Select a weigh that allows for between 10 and 20 repetitions for three to five sets.

Core training can improve swimming stamina.
A strong core will improve swimming stamina. (Image: Pixabay)

Core Training to Develop Swimming Stamina

Swimming relies on a powerful and stable core that acts as a stabilizing connection between the upper and lower body. A weak core will negatively impact stamina in many sports — not just swimming.

Front planks are a super exercise to develop increased stamina in the core muscles.

HOW TO DO IT: Begin by lying on your belly with both elbows close to the torso and under the shoulders. With palms down and fingers pointing forward, raise the body up on both elbows and toes while keeping the back and hips straight. Maintain the plank position for upwards of one minute to improve swimming stamina with a tight set of abs.

Side planks develop the oblique muscles on each side of the waist.

HOW TO DO IT: Begin by lying on one side and keeping both feet together. Contract the core and lift the hips to make a straight line from head and knees to the feet. Hold this position for at least one minute on each side to powerfully develop the oblique muscles evenly.

Developing Swim Stamina in the Water

Here are three ways to build greater swim stamina in the water:

1) Improve swim technique: By refining swimming technique, a swimmer will become more energy efficient to go farther and swim longer. Consult a coach, as swimming is incredibly technical and you benefit from hands-on training.

2) Breathing rhythm: Instead of holding the breath, find a breathing rhythm that keeps the body sufficiently oxygenated for long-term swimming.

3) Change goals: Set a new (longer) distance or time goal to push the body toward better performance in the water.

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