Strength training can improve swimming performance, body awareness, and prevent injury.
“You’ll increase bone density and strengthen the tendons and ligaments, so not only are you simply able to lift more weight, but you’re also building resistance to injury.”– Michael Boyle, a Functional Training expert
If done incorrectly, lifting weights can be dangerous and nowhere near your goals. But don’t write it off just yet! If you take the time to consider a few key principles, you’ll know that the work you put in will keep you healthy, free from injury, and ready to attack your next swim workout.
1) Quality > Quantity
For every single lift you perform, concentrate on the quality of the lift over the actual amount of weight lifted. Be mindful of your technique, make sure the last repetition of a set is as good as the first repetition.
While tracking your training load is important, tracking your form is CRITICAL. Sure, you may be able to lift a few more pounds with poor form, but what happens when that poor form results in an injury keeping you out of the pool for months?
Don’t let ego get in the way of being healthy. Patience will yield the results you’re looking for. Taking the time to master the technical skills of a movement will offer the maximum long-term benefit. You’ll be amazed at the results down the line.
2) Train All the Major Movements
A well-rounded strength training program should address all of the major movement categories. Below is a break down strength training movements:
- Squatting – squats, lunges, step-ups, etc.
- Hinging – deadlifts, kettlebell swings, RDLs, etc.
- Reaching – presses, overhead carries, push-ups, etc.
- Pulling – rows, pull-ups, chin-ups, etc.
- Core – plank, plank with arm lifts, contralateral limb raises, etc.
Addressing these fundamental movement patterns will build a solid foundation. Remember, Friends don’t let friends skip leg day!
3) Don’t Over Do It
There is such a thing as pushing yourself too hard. Training to utter failure every session impairs recovery, increases the risk of injury, and can negatively impact the rest of your training week. Every now and then, it’s good to push past your limits. But if you do it every day, you’re asking for trouble. Push yourself and get a good session in, but respect your breaking point.
It’s easy to feel like you wasted your time if you finish a workout and aren’t gasping for breath, laying in a pool of sweat, or walking out of the gym with wobbly legs. The results of your training stem from what you do in a session, not how you feel after a session is over. Train hard, but don’t over do it!
4) Pain is Different From Discomfort
People often ignore pain thinking they can push through the discomfort. Pain and discomfort are not the same. Pain is an intense distressing feeling caused by intense or damaging stimuli. It’s a signal that something is wrong. Discomfort put simply is your muscles crying inside your body.
Pain could be caused by poor technique or something that’s off inside the body. If you experience pain during a certain movement, then it’s in your best interest to find a variation of that that doesn’t cause pain.
“Pain is Weakness Leaving the Body” …or it could be a signal that you are slowly tearing your rotator cuff into uselessness. If you suspect your form is incorrect, reach out to an expert for some advice or coaching. If the pain persists, lay off that movement until you can see a clinician who is trained to deal with pain.
How To Get Started
While everyone has unique goals and starts at a different level of physical fitness, utilizing these basic principles will offer a foundation to get you started. Be sure to read A Beginners Guide To Strength Training For Swimmers.
It’s important to remember that different routines work for different people. Find something you enjoy and try to get a little bit better every day. Take responsibility for your strength training, and pick a safe, realistic program!
Good Luck and swim strong!