Workout to Improve Strength, Conditioning, and Swim Technique
The first thing to do when you want to get stronger is to increase your total amount of muscle mass. If you are not strong enough yet then you need to work on it until you become so. The best way is by doing a workout routine which will involve weights and cardio exercises.
You may have heard of the term “cardio” before but what does it really mean?
Cardio means moving around at high speed using your muscles’ energy reserves. It’s basically running or walking at a fast pace with no resistance (or very little) and without any rest period between each step. So, if you run for one minute, you’ve done cardio.
So, how much time should you spend on cardio?
Well, it depends on several factors such as your age, fitness level, goals and other physical activities you’re currently engaged in. A good rule of thumb would be to start off with 30 minutes of cardio per day and gradually build up from there. For example:
Age: 18 – 25 Minutes per Day
Fitness Level: Beginner/Intermediate
Goal(s): To gain more muscle mass and burn more calories than I did during my previous workout routine.
Other physical activities: Basketball 2x per week
In this case, 30 minutes is a good amount of time for your cardio to be spent. Since you’re only doing it twice a week, you don’t need to spend more than that. But then again, if a week goes by and you find yourself needing (or wanting) to do more cardio, go ahead and adjust the times accordingly. It’s always good to keep your body guessing.
But, what if you’re not 18 – 25 years old anymore? What if you’re older than that and want to do some sort of workout routine to get yourself back into shape?
The good news is that your body is more resistant to fatigue than it used to be. This makes the process a little easier on you. You can still do the same amount of cardio as a person in their younger years, but you may need to decrease the amount of weight you lift and increase the number of rest periods you take. It all comes down to how your body feels that particular day and how much you want to push yourself.
So, while 30 minutes is a good “average” for your cardio, it’s really all the way at the bottom of the spectrum. Some people prefer to do more and that’s fine too. As long as you’re working up a sweat for at least 20 minutes, you’ll be able to reap the benefits of cardio. The best way to start off is to just go for a walk outside.
Listen to your favorite music, take in nature and just enjoy yourself. It doesn’t have to be a chore.
The next thing you need to work on is your strength training routine. The stronger you are, the better your performance will be in the water. Having more muscle also helps with losing weight too since it raises your metabolism. In order to gain more muscle mass we recommend using free weights such as barbells and dumbbells.
You don’t need to join a fancy gym to do this either. If you have access to free weights at your house, that will work just fine.
Just like with the cardio, everyone has different goals in mind as to how strong they want to be.
Are you a swimmer?
Then you may want to focus on just your upper body since that’s what does the most work.
Are you a triathlete?
Well in that case you’ll want to train your whole body since it all comes into play during competition. The choice is up to you, but just remember that when training your whole body, you will not see as much of an increase in your arms as you do with your legs since swimming tends to favor one more than the other.
When it comes to strength training, the general rule of thumb is that if you can perform an exercise for 12 – 15 repetitions, then you’re working your muscles to their optimum range and should continue at that weight. If you can perform more than 15 repetitions, then the weight needs to be increased so your muscles are forced to grow stronger. If you can only perform half of the allotted amount of reps, then the weight is too heavy and you need to decrease it so your muscles aren’t getting injured.
Keep in mind that sometimes you’ll be working with partners or groups. In this case, it’s best if you ALL select a weight that you ALL can perform the required number of repetitions. For example, if you and a partner are going to lift weights, it’s best if you BOTH pick a weight that allows you to do at least 12 repetitions. This allows for the BEST results with the least amount of injuries.
Also keep in mind that your arms and legs are different. What we mean by this, is that your arms are usually bigger and stronger than your legs and as such you’ll need to use different amounts of weight for each. For example, if you can perform 12 repetitions of lifting 30 lb barbells for your arms and legs, then it’s best to use a heavier weight for your arms. If you’re performing the same amount of repetitions with both, then it’s best to use the same amount of weight in both.
Trust us, if you plan your weights out accordingly, you’ll see better results AND have an easier time with your arms being much stronger than your legs. This is a common problem since most swimmers have such great upper body strength and it causes them to rely on it too much during races.
Some people like to use machines to do all of their lifting which is fine and will work better for some people, but for most they will need to incorporate free weights into their routine. We prefer free weights since they make your body work harder in stabilizing the weight which is more like how your body works naturally. Either way, if you take the time to perform these exercises and stick with a proper diet, you WILL get results. It just takes dedication and hard work.
So what do you need to do all this stuff?
It’s actually pretty simple:
1.You need to find a gym that has free weight equipment so you can lift weights. Gyms usually cost money to join, but if you ask they might have some open membership times available or they might let you in free for a day or two so you can get started. If that doesn’t work, try looking up “community centers” in the phone book since some cities have them and they offer cheap or even free membership to people in the area.
2.You’re going to need some free weights. Most gyms won’t have dumbbells that go past 60 pounds, so the biggest free weight you can use will be 60 pounds. Some gyms though have barbells that go up to 200 or even 400 pounds.
If your town has a university in it, then you’re in luck since universities almost always have really good facilities.
3.You’re going to need access to a bench press. Most gym will have one, but if doesn’t then you’re either going to have to try another gym or improvise and find something to lay down on that’s about the right height.
4.You’re going to need to keep track of your sets, reps, and exercises. We’ve created a spreadsheet for this purpose that you can download for free from our website. Print a couple of copies and fill in what you do each day.
Sources & references used in this article:
Effects of dry-land vs. resisted-and assisted-sprint exercises on swimming sprint performances by B Sweetenham, J Atkinson – 2003 – Human Kinetics
Assisted and resisted sprint training in swimming by S Girold, D Maurin, B Dugue, JC Chatard… – … & Conditioning …, 2007 – researchgate.net
Complete conditioning for swimming by S Girold, P Calmels, D Maurin… – … and Conditioning …, 2006 – memberdesq.sportstg.com
The science of winning: planning, periodizing and optimizing swim training by D Salo, SA Riewald – 2008 – books.google.com