Get familiar with your muscles and know which ones to build up!
Close your eyes and imagine you are swimming in your favorite stroke.
Can you name the muscles you use during your favorite stroke? Could you point out your lats, pecs, abs, and obliques on your body?
You don’t need to be an anatomist, but having a basic understanding of the functions of your joints and muscles will help you be a better swimmer in two ways.
First, it will allow you to appreciate your body’s framework and stroke mechanics. Second, if you want to swim competitively, it will help you identify which muscles, in particular, to target and build upon dry land to swim your favorite stroke faster and more fluidly
However, coming to the point of how these muscles help you in the pool
the triceps, lats, abdominals, cores… let’s understand them individually.
The pecs or the pectoral muscles are the large muscles in the chest. These muscles play an essential role in the movement of the upper body. Muscular pecs mean you have a strong chest.
The triceps are the muscles at the back of your upper arm that extend the elbow joints. Strong triceps help you swim better by making your arm strokes more powerful.
The lats are the large back muscles that help you move your upper body explosively.
The abdominals or abs are the muscles in your belly area. These muscles help you bend, twist, and stabilize your spine.
The cores are the midsection muscles, including the abdominals, lower back, and pelvis. These muscles provide stability, balance, and strength for the movement of your body.
How To Make Your Muscles Vital to Make Your Pool Performance Outstanding:
Now, while you have a basic understanding of different muscles, let’s discuss this important point.
A study conducted in 2012 suggests that dry land training can enhance performance in competitive swimming. For competitive swimmers, dry land exercises are essential to avoid muscle imbalances and get an edge in the pool. These exercises can be tailored to your stroke. For example,
Backstroke swimmers can do flutter kicks on an exercise mat to strengthen their external obliques, abs, and rectus femoris.
For butterfly swimmers, crunches on a physioball will work these same muscles more specifically, improving the undulating movement in their stroke.
Breastrokers, who depend on solid hips, can work out their glutes and tensor fasciae latae by doing hip rotations or lateral shuffles with resistance bands.
Freestyle swimmers might want to do dumbbell shoulder presses to work their deltoids and pecs.
Dryland Workouts… Why?
The critical goal of dryland exercises is to use a variety of strength and conditioning exercises to enhance your power, mobility, and flexibility, resulting in a more well-rounded physical fitness.
So, the ultimate goal for swimmers is to become more explosive in the water. Swimmers must focus on increasing speed, improving stroke rate, and enhancing distance per stroke. And this goal can be achieved by training on dryland and targeting your different muscles.
There are hundreds of exercises designed to isolate and work each muscle. People usually get straight to the internet resources to find exercise options. But it may be a bit overwhelming sometimes and cause injuries if you don’t choose the right workouts.
Getting the right piece of information is especially important for swimmers. It’s because a slight injury can lead to several problems and reduced performance in the pool. So, swimmers have to be extra careful about avoiding injuries.
Dryland Workouts For Swimmers:
As a fitness coach and personal trainer for over ten years, let me guide you about simple dry land exercises that may help you build muscle mass.
These are primarily simple exercises requiring no equipment but having immense benefits.
When it comes to swimming, you must choose the exercises that help you keep your pace in the pool. Choose exercises that improve your stamina and performance.
Besides pool training, the best dryland exercises for muscle strengthening and training include
- Flutter kicks
- Hip rotation with resistance bands
- Dumbbell presses
Planks is an excellent exercise for swimmers which targets various muscles. It builds core strength and stability. It works on the abdominals, obliques, shoulders, lower back, glutes and quadriceps. Planks tone muscles and improve stamina, which shows itself in the pool.
Burpees is a high-intensity and full-body exercise. It targets the chest, shoulders, triceps, abdominals, legs, lower back, glutes, and hip flexors. Burpees improve overall fitness due to their comprehensive muscle engagement and dynamic nature.
Push-ups have many variations. You can select one as per your level of fitness. It is a strength training exercise that mainly targets your chest and shoulders.
Pull-ups are excellent for building upper body strength and improving grip. It enhances overall upper body development. Pull-ups mainly target upper body muscles, lats, biceps, and upper back.
Squats are the best choice if you want to strengthen your legs. Squats target the hamstrings, glutes, and quadriceps. It also helps you in improving your core.
Flutter kicks are the most helpful exercise if you want to master your backstroke. It helps you target your lower abs. Flutter kicks strengthen the core and improve endurance and flexibility.
Crunches have many variations. Whatever type or level of intensity you select for your training, crunches always give you the best results. Crunches specifically target your abs.
The positive effects of crunches on the body are undeniable, including strengthening and toning the core muscles, improving posture, and providing better stability and support for the spine.
Hip-rotation with Resistance Bands:
This exercise helps swimmers to prevent hip-related injuries and improve their performance in the water. It targets hip muscles, including hip flexors and external rotators.
Incorporating exercises that involve using a resistance band to work on hip rotation can be beneficial in enhancing the flexibility of your hips, strengthening the muscles around your hips, and improving flexibility in your body. These exercises are also great for increasing stability in your hips.
Dumbbell presses such as bench and shoulder presses are beneficial if you want to swim freestyle strokes. It targets your triceps, chest, and shoulder muscles. It improves upper body strength and enhances shoulder stability.
Do’s and Don’ts:
Along with exercise, certain other factors contribute to proper muscle development. Let’s discuss them one by one.
Consult a Coach:
When it comes to swimming, it’s essential to focus on the technique and intensity of the exercise both in the pool and dryland. A coach properly guides you from the beginner to the advanced level.
For example, you may choose bench dips by yourself, which also falls under the umbrella of calisthenics. But the problem with this exercise is that you may overstrain your rotator cuff while downward movement and may be injured, especially when you don’t perform it correctly.
So, the presence and guidance of a coach are mandatory to help you perform accurate exercises to target specific muscles with suitable intensity.
Avoid Overstressing Yourself:
Please don’t go hard on yourself. Always remember, “slow and steady wins the race.” Be gentle with your body. Don’t overstress yourself. Keep calm and be persistent. Nothing happens overnight. Stay regular with your exercise and start slowly from the beginner level. Once you maintain your pace, you can build your muscles.
Warm-up and cool-down:
Warm-up and cool-down sessions are most important for you. A light and low-pace warm-up makes your body ready for a high-intensity workout. The risk of injury increases significantly when your muscles are cold, so it is essential to remain vigilant in and out of the pool. Warm-ups also improve your body position and posture. You can do light jumping jacks as a warm-up.
Similarly, cool-down stretches are essential to lower heartbeat and blood pressure. It gives your body a safe transition from a high-intensity workout to a resting state.
Cool down stretches of a few minutes prevent injuries and relax muscles and your mind.
Test yourself in the pool:
Testing your muscles in the pool is an excellent way to assess your swimming performance and overall fitness level. You may use various methods to assess your fitness, like timed swims of 100m or 200m freestyle. This way, you can test your stamina, endurance, and technique in water.
You can also test your muscular strength by underwater dolphin kicks and getting feedback from your coach. Pool testing helps you track your progress. It also helps your coach identify areas of improvement in your training and technique.
Use Resistance Bands For Training:
Although calisthenics don’t require fancy equipment, use your body weight as resistance. However, using resistance bands can increase the difficulty level of the exercise. It makes you use more energy and improves stamina.
Once you have gone beyond the beginner level and progressed towards the advanced levels, different things like resistance bands, physio balls, and bars help you improve your fitness level.
Nutrition is Equally Important to Build Muscles:
Along with exercise, nutrition is equally important to build muscles. Building muscles requires lots of energy from suitable sources. Eating less food than required will cause fatigue, and eating more food than required will cause weight gain.
You need to be very careful about your diet and nutrition if you want to build muscle. A swimmer’s ability to recover and perform at their best depends on getting the proper nutrition through a diet that balances macronutrients, making it a crucial aspect of their training regimen. The right balance of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats keeps a swimmer’s energy level high.
- Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are the primary and readily available energy source and make up about half of a swimmer’s diet. Oatmeal, bananas, and whole-grain toast are the best options for an immediate energy boost.
- Proteins: Proteins promote muscle repair and growth. Swimming can cause muscle wear and tear because it is a physically demanding sport. Adequate protein intake helps in recovery, maintains lean muscle mass, and facilitates overall performance in the pool. Swimmers are advised to get 25% of their nutrition from protein. They should include plenty of eggs, milk, and meat.
- Fats: Fats provide long-lasting energy, which is required for endurance events. You should include 20-35% healthy fats in your diet if you are a swimmer. But limiting saturated and trans fats. Nut butter, olive oil, and avocados are excellent sources of fats for swimmers.
Staying hydrated is crucial for swimmers because it maintains optimal muscle function endurance and improves overall performance. Proper hydration means your muscles get adequate blood flow and nutrients, which helps muscle recovery and prevents cramps.
So what the Conclusion:
So if you want to make muscles by swimming, you must also train yourself on dryland. Just take proper guidance and keep focus on your nutrition.
And finally, if you need more inspiration to start dry land workouts, check out our video below, explaining why and how swimmers benefit from these exercises!