Lifeguard Training Exercises

lifeguard
A lifeguard on duty, watching a pool. (Image: Byron Moore/Hemera/Getty Images)

The physical fitness of lifeguards has a direct impact on their ability to perform rescues, whether working poolside or patrolling beaches and open water. Lifeguards regularly partake in swimming and strength training exercises. Beach lifeguards choose workouts that help them develop endurance and speed, so they can optimally perform their jobs. In addition to rescues, some lifeguards do two full workouts per workday.

Swimming

Due to the nature of their jobs, swimming ranks as the most important exercise for lifeguards. Rescue swimming must be fast and accurate so that lifeguards can reach victims quickly. Typical swim training includes a warm-up followed by skills training, where lifeguards focus on stroke length and breathing techniques. They spend some time swimming at race-pace, but they spend a larger percentage of time swimming at a steady, endurance-level pace. The average lifeguard swimming workout is a half mile to a mile in distance. On days when lifeguards sprint-train in the water, they may also perform a strength training session or run a few miles. Beach lifeguards often do combination swim-run or row-swim workouts.

Running

Running, like swimming, is another functional exercise for lifeguards, especially those who patrol open water and have to cover land distance before reaching the water. Lifeguards at New Jersey’s Brigantine Beach run on the sand at least three times per week to maintain running proficiency. When enough guards are on duty, they sometimes take turns going for runs down the beach. A 2- to 4-mile run is average, while some lifeguards run as many as 10 miles per day and average 60 miles or more per week. Lifeguards at Hampton Beach in New Hampshire incorporate swimming sprints and running sprints in a single workout.

Rowing

Some lifeguard jobs call for the ability to quickly row a boat to and from an emergency site, which means rowing can also be a functional exercise. Even for lifeguards who don’t need to row to perform their jobs, the training exercise develops cardiovascular endurance while building upper body strength, which are key physical attributes for lifeguards. Those working out at the gym can use rowing machines as a way to warm up for strength training or use them for a full-on cardio workout. Beach lifeguards may combine rowing and swimming into a single workout. By training in pairs, one guard can swim as another rows for the first half of the workout, switching activities for the second half.

Compound Exercises

Upper body strength is of utmost importance to lifeguards, who have to be able to carry dead weight in the form of unconscious victims. A strong upper body needs to be balanced by a strong core and lower body. Compound exercises, also known as multi-joint exercises, train more than one group of muscles at a time. Push-ups and planks target the back, chest, shoulders, abdominal muscles, glutes and quadriceps. Other compound exercises lifeguards commonly perform include dips, pull-ups and dead-lifts. Most of these exercises use body weight for resistance and can be done on the pool deck or in the sand.

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