When your primary workout involves swimming, it's pretty obvious that you're getting a good workout in your arms and legs -- by maybe not so much in the abdominals. While most of the work is focused on your limbs, it is possible to make your abs work harder during your swimming workout. Strengthening your core muscles could lead to faster turns and more efficient swimming overall, according to "Swimming World" magazine. Try a few techniques to work your abs while you're in the water -- and then balance that with extra ab-strengthening exercises out of the water.
Tighten your core as you do the freestyle stroke, pulling in your abdominals as often as you think of it. Not only will this help tighten your core, but it can also help to reduce the curve of your lower back. In swimming, the goal is to make your body in as straight a line as possible, in order to swim faster and more efficiently. By tightening your abdominals, you'll be reducing that drag as well as working your ab muscles. At the same time, lower your head so that it is not craned upward. Focus on looking straight down toward the bottom of the pool, which will further reduce the curve of your spine.
Do chest-down flutter kicks with a kickboard. Stand at the edge of the pool and place your hands on either side of the kickboard. Push off the side of the pool with both feet and push the kickboard forward, so that your arms are stretched out in front of you. This will force your core muscles to work harder to balance your trunk and legs. Kick from the hips and point your toes, working to maintain a tight core as you swim from one end of the pool to the other. Also use the kickboard to do chest-up flutter kicking, again keeping the kickboard far away from the body to engage your core.
Swim to the deep end of the pool and tread water, focusing on tightening your core muscles throughout the exercise. Cycle your legs and move your arms from a wide, open position in toward your chest, contracting the abdominal muscles as you move your arms inward, and then releasing them as you move your arms outward. Perform this exercise for five minutes, or for as long as you can safely do it.
- To further work the abdominals, do exercises out of the pool as well. The three most effective abdominal exercises, according to a study sponsored by the American Council on Exercise, are bicycle crunches, in which you cycle your legs and meet the opposite elbow to knee; the Captain's Chair, in which you lift your legs toward your chest while resting your body weight on a captain's chair; and crunches on an exercise ball.
Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.