Many factors contribute to swimming well, including proper stroke form, sufficient focus and good breath timing. But many things outside the water can affect your performance as well, such as your conditioning. Building muscle in the weight room can help you improve your endurance and speed in the pool. Haphazard lifting will not be sufficient for improving distance swimming, so you'll need to use specific techniques and work specific muscles to achieve your goals.
How Many Reps Should I Perform?
All weightlifting routines are not created equal, with some techniques better than others for specific goals. When it comes to lifting for distance swimmers, you should base your workout on encouraging muscular endurance. According to the American Council on Exercise, you should perform two or three sets of 12 to 16 repetitions each to maximize muscular endurance. High amounts of repetitions keep your muscles under tension longer, which reflects the demands of distance swimming.
Upper Body Exercises
Your upper body muscles -- those of your shoulders, chest, arms and back -- are integral in propelling you through the water as you swim. When you lift for distance swimming, you should be sure to hit all of your muscle groups before leaving the gym. According to a study from the November 1994 issue of the "Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research," some of the best exercises for swimming strength are pullups and dips. You can also perform the bench press, barbell row and dumbbell curls to boost your distance swimming abilities.
Your core, which consists of your lower back and abdominal muscles, plays a crucial role in swimming. As swimming instruction website Swim Smooth notes, "having a strong stable core makes you more torpedo-like so you spear through the water in a straight line." To achieve a competition-worthy core, perform weighted crunches and planks for your abdominals and seated rows for your lower back. Performing high repetitions of these exercises will help you keep your core muscles flexed throughout the duration of your swims, improving your form and assisting in endurance.
Your leg muscles help propel you through the water, and as your legs contain some of the largest muscles of your body, they should be a priority in the gym. Lifts such as the squat, deadlift and lunges are good choices for creating efficient swimming workouts because they work multiple muscles at one time. Performing these exercises in sets of 12 to 16 repetitions will prepare your legs for the extended duration of kicking required in distance swimming.
Working out can improve your distance swimming performances, but it also has the potential to interfere with your success. After your workouts, your body needs at least a day for muscle recovery and for regaining strength. Avoid working out too close to your competitions so you can be sure you're at your best.
- American Council on Exercise: When Strength Training, is it Better to do More Reps with Lighter Weights or Fewer Reps with Heavier Weights?
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: Effects of Weight Assisted Dry-Land Strength Training on Swimming Performance
- Swim Smooth: The Core & Core Strength In Freestyle Swimming
Brian Willett began writing in 2005. He has been published in the "Buffalo News," the "Daytona Times" and "Natural Muscle Magazine." Willett also writes for Bloginity.com and Bodybuilding.com. He is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer and earned a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of North Carolina.