Backstroke, in which you are essentially swimming the freestyle stroke but on your back, requires a ton of power and finesse to keep moving forward. It's a stroke that needs precision as well as power. And like other strokes, swimmers can benefit from dry-land exercises, including weightlifting exercises.
Weightlifting for Rotation
As you swim backstroke, you turn from side to side. This means you must have a well-defined core to help you stabilize your body when you return to the center, or else you'll end up with the dreaded wiggle down the lane. Regular crunches help, but twisting crunches target the obliques, which control the rolling on your side. Lie on your back on an inclined bench with your feet just a bit higher than your head. Hook your feet beneath the bar on the bench and hold a medium weight over your chest, arms crossed in front of you. Lift your upper body, twisting at the top the crunch, keeping the weight in place.
Weightlifting for Leg Muscles
Having a strong kick is critical in backstroke, so you must take into account the one-way anatomy of the knee, according to U.S. Masters Swimming. If you relax the knee, it will over-bend, which means the shins and calves drop, and your kick is less powerful. To get legs with muscle that will maintain the kicking speed you want, work out your shins and thighs by doing leg curls. Put a medium weight on a low pulley cable machine. Attach the ankle cuffs on the cable machine. Lie on your stomach on top of a weight bench in front of the machine with your knees positioned a little off the bench. Bend your knees toward your glutes by flexing your legs at the knees. You'll feel the pull in your hamstrings on the back of your thighs as well.
Weightlifting for Arms
Like freestyle, developing strong arm muscles is important to backstroke. The deltoid muscles in particular, which are in your upper back and shoulders, are particularly good to build up, as your arms constantly rotate straight up in the air. Shoulder weightlifting exercises, such as the lateral raise, can help build muscle while reducing the risk of injuring yourself. Use light-weight dumbbells in each hand. Keep your knees slightly bent as you lift the weights parallel to the ground in a smooth motion in front of you. Your palms should face inward as you lift the weights, hold, then return to the starting position.
Weightlifting for the Turn
When you turn in backstroke, you need power behind your legs to rotate and push off the wall with a dolphin kick that will put you out in front. There's no better way to strengthen your quadriceps -- the upper legs and thighs -- than squats. To do this, take a dumbbell you can comfortably carry in each hand, palms facing inward. Curl your arms up to your shoulders while you bend at the hips and knees, lowering yourself to the floor so your thighs are parallel to the ground. Keep your back straight, then return to the starting position.
- Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images