Strength for Swimming

Strength for Swimming

Welcome back to our blog on maintaining strength and fitness during this strange time. Most of us are not able to swim at the moment, and we are worried about losing all the gains we made in the pool over winter. So, should we be concerned about our swim conditioning, and what should be doing during this time?

We asked Jonny Kilpatrick – a sports physiotherapist with 15 years of experience, and founder of Physio Effect in Glasgow. He tells us:

“Just now, with an enforced break for many swimmers, it’s really important that they still exercise their shoulder and upper body with some form of regular resistance training. When they are able to get back into the water, they’ll certainly want to feel fit for it but, more importantly, they’ll want to have kept their tendon integrity and muscular strength for swimming. This will avoid a scenario where what would normally be considered an easy session for them is, in fact, a huge step up in current loading and causes them an overuse injury.

Loading capacity of tendons is always relative to recent training history and tendons will decondition with disuse, leaving them susceptible to overload. For a swimmer, it would be advisable just now to keep their Pectoral Muscles and Latissimus Dorsi strong for producing torque in the water, and work their rotator cuff to ensure the stabilising muscles are also in condition. This can be done via free weights, bodyweight movements or resistance bands depending on available equipment.”

Below is a set of exercises that can be done at home with weights. These should be heavy enough to work your tendons and muscle and cause fatigue (so for most of you, little 1kg dumbbells is not going to be enough for most of these exercises!). This programme is ideally suited to people who are used to lifting weights – most of the exercises you will have done before. Take a minute or two rest after each set.

Next week we will include another body weight workout for swimmers, for those of you that don’t have access to weights or bands and that is more suitable for beginners.

Make sure you start with a good warm up, including some walking or cardio, and replicate some of the exercises below with lighter weights or bodyweight in that warm up. There are plenty of videos on You Tube for ideas! The workout below starts with your larger, compound movements and moves on to smaller muscles to finish. If you are unsure of any techniques, personal trainers are mostly working online at the moment and any good PT should be able to help you get started virtually, and check your form! You should be aiming to fail by the end of the sets.

1. a. Goblet Squat – 15 reps
b. Squat to Overhead Press – 12 reps.
Repeat a and b as a set 3 times

2. Single Arm Bent Over Rows – 3 sets of 15 reps.

3. Standing Bent Over Reverse Flys – 3 sets of 10 (use lighter weights here)

4 a. Single Arm Chest Press – 8 reps. This can be done on a bench or from the floor. Keep your none-moving arm stretched above your chest for an added challenge.
b. Push ups to failure.
Repeat a and b as a set 3 times

5. a. Single Arm Shoulder Press – 12 reps
b. Bicep Curl, overhead Push, Tricep Dip (from overhead, lower your dumbbells behind your head) x 10 reps. Use 2 dumbbells. Controlled – no swinging of arms!
Repeat a and b as a set 3 times

6. Circuit to finish, 3 rounds, 50 seconds work, 10 seconds rest
a. Tricep Push ups (arms close to side)
b. Bicycles (ab exercise)
c. Standing air punches (can be done with a light weight)
d. Squat Jump

Physiotherapists across the country are still working online, including Jonny, and you can book in for a consultation here: