weight-lifting-helps-swimming-workout-tipsSwimming is a sport and much like other sports, your work shouldn’t end in the pool. All sports require strong, healthy, and balanced bones and muscles to ward off injury and to make sure your body is capable of bearing the load you are subjecting it to. It is for this reason, that in addition to what you do in the pool, what you do in the weight room is just as important. This isn’t to say you should be spending as much time in the weight room as the pool, because you shouldn’t, but you should at the very least build regular weight training into your overall training plan.

Swimming is a unique sport in that it uses just about every muscle in the body, from the very top of your head through your tippy toes. To make the most of your time in the weight room, you should focus on the major muscles groups, all of which are engaged when swimming. Targeting these muscles should help build your strength in the pool.

There are a myriad of weight training plans to choose from, but my personal favorite and the one I have seen the most benefit from is Strong Lifts 5×5’s, which is a program built on the “5×5″ principle, where you do each exercise for 5 sets of 5 repetitions. This veers from the traditional 3 sets of 8-12 of reps training programs, but I have found that 5×5’s has helped me lift heavier, more explosively and more often than a traditional 3 sets approach, and that over time I have become much stronger because of it.

In a nut shell it’s actually a very basic approach, sticking to pure Olympic weight lifting movements, uses only a barbell and plates and takes less than an hour each session. Engaging in these 5 movements hits ALL your major muscles and much like swimming it is a complete body workout.

So what do I do? This is an example of what some of my 5×5 weight training workouts look like:

StrongLifts 5×5 Workout  variation #1

StrongLifts 5×5 Workout  variation #2

Squat 5×5

Squat 5×5

Bench Press 5×5

Overhead Press 5×5

Barbell Rows 5×5

Deadlift 5×5

I always aim to weight train at least 3 days a week, with the option of adding in some extra core exercises on one of these days, or I save that for another day and do that on it’s own. Each week I try to increase the amount I am lifting but never hesitate to keep it the same or even lessen the load if I am feeling tired or taxed. Your body is good at telling you when to cut it a break, so listen!

Here are some things to consider when first getting started:

  • Form is KING. In my opinion you should spend your first month focusing purely on form, because if your form is lousy it doesn’t matter how much you lift – you will eventually end up injured.
  • Start slow and light. When you first start out, there is really no such thing as light and as a rule of thumb. When I first started, all I used was the barbell. That’s it.
  • If it seems too heavy, it is! Drop some weight and again, focus on form.
  • Wear flat shoes or go barefoot. Weight lifting barefoot will increase balance in the foot as well as throughout your entire body. It also improves postural alignment of the lower limb and spine, and increases activation of intrinsic foot muscles, and therefore improved strength of these muscles. This occurs because there is no shoe on the foot, thus, the muscles need to work harder to keep the foot balanced. I always weight train barefoot for this reason.
  • During peak training season, I tend to lift lighter than I would in the off-season. This is because my goal during the season is to maintain my strength and avoid injury. In the off-season, my shift focuses to lifting heavier to build additional muscle and lay down a foundation for when the training season starts. It’s also VERY hard to gain a lot of muscle when you’re putting in 16-18 hours of cardio a week. In the off season, this is not an issue.

I cannot stress enough how important weight training is in terms of adequately supporting your sport. Put it this way: Weight training is all the maintenance work that swimming requires. Neglect to maintain your body, and it will break down on you. Keep it strong and it will be strong.

More: How swimming can improve your climbing

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