It’s hard not to be inspired watching Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky speed past their competition and win gold medals at the Rio Olympics. Their speed, tenacity and mind-blowing talent is likely to have you jumping in your local pool to see if you can improve your freestyle.
However, great swimmers require more than technique – they must also have strength and stamina. Here are four exercises you can perform outside of the pool to make you a better swimmer.
BACK: Straight-Arm Pull Down
You can perform this exercise with a lat pull-down machine, cable machine with a wide bar, or resistance bands.
Start standing with the equipment in front and above you, and grab the bar/handles with palms facing down with arms slightly wider than shoulder-width. Then step back 1-2 feet so that arms can remain straight throughout the exercise.
- Hinge forward slightly at the hips and start with a slight bend in the elbows. Retract your shoulder blades slightly and tighten your lats to initiate the movement.
- Keeping arms straight, exhale as you pull the bar down until the bar is at your hips and your hands are next to your thighs.
- Slowly return to the start, stopping when arms are at shoulder height, keeping arms straight and core tight to maintain your body position. Inhale as you let the weight back up.
- Repeat 12-15 times and complete 3 sets.
You can perform this with a barbell, dumbbells, or kettlebells.
- Start with the weight resting on your shoulders. Hands should grip the bar or weights with palms facing away from you, shoulder distance apart. Bend slightly at the hips and knees, flex the hips and knees, while core pulls in tight toward your spine to keep a straight back.
- Right after you bend at the knees and hip, explosively reverse that movement, pressing through the heels and straightening the knees and waist. Your feet should lift slightly from the floor, causing you to jump quickly. As heels press back into the ground, push weights explosively up toward the ceiling with the momentum you’ve created, fully extending arms overhead.
- Lower back to start position, then repeat 10-12 times, completing 3 sets.
CORE: Bird Dog
- Start on the floor or a padded mat on hands and knees in a tabletop position – knees under your hips, wrists under your shoulders and a flat back.
- Pull your belly button in toward your spine to maintain a tight core, then extend one arm in front of you while the opposite leg extends behind you. Your body should form one straight line from fingertips to toes.
- Make sure to keep hips and shoulders parallel with the floor, not allowing your body to tilt to either side.
- Hold this position for 5 seconds, keeping core as tight as possible while still breathing comfortably, then lower and repeat 8-10 more times. Switch sides and repeat with the opposite arm and leg.
You can perform sprints outdoors, on a treadmill or bike to improve your cardiovascular capacity.
- Warm up at a medium pace for 3-5 minutes.
- Run or pedal as fast as you can for 20-30 seconds.
- Return to a light jog or walk for 1 minute.
- Repeat the above sequence 10 times.
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