Strength training can improve swimming performance, body awareness, and keep your workouts fresh.
There are a number of great reasons swimmers should hit the weight room – even if your goal is a little different than getting your body to look like the Incredible Hulk.
What is “Bulky” Anyway?
“Bulky” is subjective. When it comes to your body, it’s up to you to decide what level of muscular build you desire.
From a swimming performance perspective, if you’ve never lifted weights before, there’s a lot of opportunity to improve your athleticism both in and out of the water. But don’t worry, lifting weights will not make you “bulky!”
Everyone Responds Differently To Lifting
When you start lifting weights, you use your muscles in ways you either haven’t ever before, or haven’t in a long time. Your body responds quickly to this exercise by building muscle.
Building Muscle Does NOT Equal Bulking Up
First, let’s bust the myth that basic weight training makes you bulk up. Building muscle takes work. Building LOTS of muscle takes a lot of hard work. No one wakes up looking like The Rock overnight.
The average person’s diet and workout isn’t going to yield those kinds of results. Most bodybuilders spend hours in the gym lifting heavy weights, paired with a really strict diet focused on muscle gain.
Negative Effect on Swimming Performance?
Many swimmers are afraid to lift weights because they don’t want to gain a significant amount of muscle mass, which would cause them to sink in the water and negatively impact swimming performance. However, it’s important to remember why you’re lifting weights.
A well-rounded strength-training program will address all of the major movement categories to increase your body awareness, core strength and general strength to improve your body position, muscular activation and power production in all 4 strokes.
Yes, It Is Possible To Be Too Bulky!
There’s a reason why the best swimmers are lean, flexible and agile in the water. Swimming faster comes down to two fundamental concepts: reducing drag and increasing propulsion.
There’s a fine balance between the two, and it’s important to remember that if you become so large that your basic fundamentals (streamline, body position, stroke mechanics) become impaired, your swimming will suffer.
99% of the swimming population does not have to worry about this. Most swimmers are not even close to this level of muscular size. Compare yourself to the top Olympic swimmers, and you’re most likely an order of magnitude smaller in physical size than they are.
Top swimmers have lots of muscle. They are powerful, and they lift weights or do dryland regularly. Some elite swimmers spend as much as 6 hours per week in the weight room alone.
Today’s swimming elite train vastly different than just a generation ago. It’s clear that today’s top-level swimmers are more powerful and are physically stronger than ever, and weight training has a lot to do with that.
If you’re new to lifting weights be sure to checkout our Beginner’s Guide to Strength Training For Swimmers. We also recommend our post on the 4 Principles For Effective & Sustainable Strength Training.
Good luck and swim strong!
Ready to start your dryland training journey? To start your personalized swim and dryland training plan, get your free 30-day trial of MySwimPro ELITE COACH here.