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Sport-Specific Training: Swimming

Updated: Jun 19, 2023

Mannnnn it’s HOT outside ain’t it? Chlorine supposedly kills viruses (don’t quote this), so if you have ventured into a pool to cool off, then perhaps you’ve begun to take up swimming as a form of exercise. Swimming is a great low-impact sport when it comes to the joints, but just like other aerobic-based sports (such as swimming and biking), it involves a ton of repeated action...stroke after stroke after stroke.

While there is nothing inherently wrong with this, it can lead to muscular imbalances which sound scary but just means that your strength training should account for it. Seems to be a recurring theme doesn’t it? Use the gym, and in turn strength training, to help you feel/perform better, wherever and however you want.

Many coaches and trainers will take the actions that occur in a given sport, stroking in this case, and try to emulate that in an athlete’s training as much as possible (think shadow boxing with light dumbbells). While this has some merit and a place within a strength and conditioning program, the individual is just furthering their imbalances which can lead to a host of injuries, mainly surrounding the shoulder.

So what can you do? Focus a portion of your workouts on “undoing” what you do in the pool all the time. While this may sound counterintuitive, it will actually enhance your performance as you will be teaching those chiseled muscles of yours to contract and elongate properly, recruit more motor units, and in turn make you stronger and more efficient.

Below is a sample workout that is geared towards swimming specifically, but can of course be utilized by anyone. Most people could benefit from what’s below as it focuses a lot on the posterior chain and loading through different planes of motion, specifically in the overhead position where swimmers spend a lot of time. There will also be an emphasis on training the “postural” muscles including the rhomboids, middle/lower traps, rear delts, and the lats to a degree. Since swimmers spend so much time in internal shoulder rotation, the goal is to offset that with some both isolated and integrated external rotation work.

Follow along with the workout below, use the videos to help guide you, and follow the reps and sets listed out. If 3 exercises are under one header, that means to perform them back-to-back-to back, with only transitional rest, then rest the designated amount, and repeat the cycle again.

*Some of these videos aren’t perfect renditions, just remember to use a slow tempo on the way down for most exercises, and utilize 90 degree joint angles*


-Bird Dog: 2 Sets, 5 Reps/side

-T-Spine Rotation (Spiderman): 2 Sets, 5 Reps/side

30 seconds rest

1A & 1B

1A. Kettlebell Swap w/ In-Line Feet: 2 Sets, 10 Reps/leg

1B. Scap Pushup: 2 Sets, 8 Reps

30 seconds rest

2A & 2B

2A. Single Leg Hip Thrust: 3 Sets, 8 Reps/side

2B. Renegade Row: 3 Sets, 10 Reps/side

30 seconds rest


3A. Med Ball Side Throw: 2 Sets, 12 Reps/side

45 seconds rest

4A, 4B, & 4C

4A. Barbell Block Pull: 4 Sets, 4-6 Reps

4B. Depth Drop to Jump: 4 Sets, 4 Reps

4C. Dumbbell Pullovers w/ Hollow Body Hold: 4 Sets, 8 Reps

90 seconds rest

5A, 5B, & 5C

5A. Wide Neutral Grip Pull-ups (Lat Pulldown): 3 Sets, 8-10 Reps

5B. Goblet Bulgarian Split Squats: 3 Sets, 6-8 Reps/side

5C. Ball to Wall Dumbbell Overhead Press: 3 Sets, 8-10 Reps

90 seconds rest

6A, 6B, 6C, & 6D

6A. Landmine Iron Grip RDL to Row: 3 Sets, 4-5 Reps (1 rep is 1 RDL and 2 Rows)

6B. Single Arm Dumbbell Floor Press: 3 Sets, 8/side

6C. Physioball Plank w/ Knee Drive: 3 Sets, 8/side

6D. Cable Rear Delt Rows: 3 Sets, 12 reps

60 seconds rest


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