Strength training for open-water swimming

by Evan Morrison. 09 April 2010.

Notwithstanding this post’s title, my strength training routine - which I started about 6 weeks ago - is only partly tailored for open water swimming. It’s a balanced, total-body routine designed for strength, simplicity, and sustainability.

Strength means not designed for maximum muscle mass (the former helps swimming, the latter does not).

Simplicity means using only a few basic gym equipment, and that I can remember the routine easily without writing it down.

Sustainability means giving myself the best chance of consistently doing the routine over the long term. It’s integrated seamlessly into my everyday life, and it’s brief (no more than 30 minutes per session).

Some other principles, related to the above, include:

Here’s the routine:

Gym Session A (chest + lower body)

Gym Session B (back + shoulders)

Core + Resistance Band Session


Each session takes no more than 30 minutes, and involves two pieces of equipment. Session A requires a power rack and a bench. Session B requires a power rack and a dip station. The Core session requires a medicine ball and an ab wheel.

The gym sessions target a maximum number of muscles with a minimum number of exercises. The core+bands session targets “swim strength” - the core, lats, and triceps - and also incorporates an injury-preventive exercise for “swimmer’s shoulder” (i.e., rotator cuff inflammation).

After 6 weeks, I can report substantial gains in strength. My performance in swim workouts has suffered, which can be frustrating - but you just have to trust that your eventual taper will have that much more upside.

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Posted in: training Tags: strength