Swimming alone is often not enough to improve performance.
With weight lifting you can…
… get stronger, build more endurance, and even improve muscle coordination.
Swimming alone, lots of it, will no doubt get you better at swimming. Michael Phelps is said to train 6 days a week for 6 hours a day. It’s just like with anything else, golf, basketball, etc. Do it consistently, for long periods of time, and you’ll get better and better at it.
But as you build up your performance to the top levels, how can you continue to improve?
The answer can be weight training and even swimming with weights attached.
Weight Training For Swimmers – The Benefits
The main benefits of weight lifting for swimmers is that you’ll be able to build up muscle endurance so you can last longer in the water. Your muscles won’t be so quick to fatigue and tire.
You’ll also get stronger.
When you get stronger in your legs and upper body, you can push a lot faster.
By building up your upper body, you’ll be able to propel through the water a lot quicker than someone who doesn’t lift weights.
Muscle coordination is also important. Your whole body is working when you swim, so it’s important to workout your entire body, not just your lower or upper body.
Weight Training For Swimmers – The Goals
The goals of most swimmers is not to get big and bulky.
As stated above, most swimmers want to get faster, a bit stronger and increase their endurance.
So with that in mind, we won’t be partaking too much in any bodybuilding type of programs where the goal is to increase muscle mass as much as possible.
We’ll be working in the lower rep ranges and in the higher rep ranges with compound movements.
Weight Training For Swimmers – The Workout Routines
So we’ve figured out that we don’t want to get BIG, BULKY muscles, but instead, get stronger and faster.
The best way to achieve this is by working in the low rep ranges (1-3 reps) and even doing work in the high rep ranges (15-20 reps) for endurance.
A good starter weight lifting routine would be:
(3) sets of bench press – 3 Reps
(3) sets of standing overhead press – 3 Reps
(1) set of bench press – 15-20 reps as fast as you can
(1) set of standing overhead press – 15-20 reps as fast as you can
Obviously, we don’t want weight training to be our main exercise tool, so we can limit weight workouts to just 2 times a week to leave more room for actual swimming.
The above workout can be one workout day, say Monday.
The next workout day might be Friday, or whatever day you like just be sure you’re not working out on consecutive days.
Here’s an example of the next workout day:
(3) sets of barbell rows – 3 Reps
(1) set of barbell row – 15-20 reps as fast as you can
(3) sets of squats – 3 Reps
(1) set of squats – 15-20 reps as fast as you can
The low reps will help with strength and the high reps will help with endurance and speed, if you do it as fast as you can.
NOTE: Be sure you’re executing these exercises carefully, especially when going for speed.
Also, instead of doing the 1 speed set at the end where you’re going for 15-20 reps as fast as you can, you can move that down to just 3 reps with a bit heavier load and do that as fast as you can. Either way works fine.
If you feel this is too much, don’t hesitate to lower the amount of sets you do by 1 or 2 sets.
Always do a thorough warm-up before jumping in to your working sets to warm up your body and muscles.
Start a bit light at first to get a feel for how much weight you can handle. The first week should be spent just testing the weights.
By the end of the 1st week, you should have an idea of where you’re at in regards to how much weight you can lift for each set; the heavy working sets (3 reps) and the lighter, speed/endurance sets (15-20 reps).
If you’re nearing a competition, I’d recommend to halt all weight training about a week or two before the actual competition to let your body and central nervous system rest and recover.
If you use the above weight training for swimmers routine, you should be able to notice positive results in the water within the first couple of weeks.