Want to take your swimming to the next level? Consider adding weight training to your dryland routine.
In initial studies, low volume, high intensity weight training programs (programs that have a lower rep count and progressively increase weight) have been shown to increase swimming performance, especially for short course swimming.
Related: 5 Ways to Cross-Train for Swimming
If you currently do bodyweight dryland training, consider picking up a few dumbbells. While bodyweight training has its own benefits, lifting weights offers more opportunity for substantial strength gains that will help you move through the water more efficiently.
Still not convinced you should hit the weight room? Check out our top reasons swimmers should lift weights!
1. Prevent Injury
Avoid pesky shoulder injuries, back or neck pain, swimmer’s knee and other common issues with a proper strength training routine. Strength training provides an opportunity to build strength in a way swimming can’t. In the gym, you’ll strengthen your muscles and joints in all planes of motion, moving differently than you do in the pool and correcting muscle imbalances that can cause injury. If you don’t address imbalances, your body can fall into incorrect, inefficient stroke mechanics to compensate for weak muscles.
Strength training is a great way to break up your swimming if you struggle with pain associated with overuse, which can be common in the shoulders.
2. Develop Power and Endurance
Strength training can increase your stroke rate (the amount of strokes you take in a certain period of time) and your distance per stroke (the distance you cover with each stroke), which are beneficial for both sprint and distance races.
If you’re working on building power for the 100 freestyle, for example, train with heavier weight and low reps. One set within your workout could look like the following:
Squats: 3×8 reps at 50kg
If you’re focused on a longer race, such as the mile, higher reps with less weight will boost your muscular endurance. For example:
Squats: 3×15-20 reps at 30kg
Want to improve your starts and turns? Working on explosive movements, such as box jumps or medicine ball tosses, and single-leg movements, such as weighted lunges or step-ups, can help you gain the strength you need to improve your speed.
3. Improve Body Awareness
Weight training teaches you to move with proper biomechanics on land, which transfers to the pool. Better body awareness can help you develop a strong “mind-to-muscle” connection, making you more in-tune with how your stroke feels. In many cases, improved body awareness can help you get the most out of drills and perfect your stroke.
For example, working on proper head position when doing push-ups or planks can translate into a better head position while swimming freestyle. Or, practicing engaging your core when squatting can help you better connect to your core while swimming.
4. Improve Your Taper
If you work on building strength in the gym during your training, you’ll start your taper with a strong foundation. This foundation helps you maintain more strength during your taper and compete at a higher level.
However, it is important to scale back weight training in the weeks leading up to competition.
Strength training is important, but so is rest! Be sure to incorporate at least one full day of rest into your training schedule each week to ensure proper muscle recovery and avoid injury.