The warm weather is upon us and people are eager to do laps in outdoor pools and long swims unencumbered by lane markers in fresh and salt water. Consider incorporating this strength and stretch workout in between your swims to help improve your speed, form and stamina and stave off overuse injuries.
Activity-Specific Workout of the Month Defined: A 30 minute strength and stretch training workout tailored to benefit those who engage in a particular recreational sport or activity. The workouts will be challenging and safe for the novice but will also offer progressions for the experienced. If your children participate in these activities, know that strength and flexibility training is not only safe for kids but beneficial as well. The workouts will have minimal equipment requirements so they can be done anywhere. The goal is to properly strengthen and stretch the key muscle groups involved in the activity so the participant can achieve performance improvements and reduce the risk of injury. Click on the exercise to link to examples and step-by-step descriptions provided by www.acefitness.org.
Strength and Flexibility Training Workout for Swimming
Concept: The power in swimming comes from the legs. Therefore, primary strength targets are the largest muscles in the legs: quads, hamstrings and glutes. Primary strength targets for your upper body are dependent upon your preferred stroke: shoulder/deltoids for freestyle; upper back/traps & rhomboids for butterfly and backstroke; and chest/pecs for breaststroke. I’ve included strengthening moves for all upper body muscle groups so the workout would be relevant for any swim stroke. Good form and powerful kicks and strokes aren’t possible without a strong core, so core strengthening is also included. The flexibility training portion concentrates on the shoulders, chest, back and hips. Progressions are intended to be increasingly challenging so you can continue to build strength throughout the season. Be sure you can master the base exercise and each subsequent progression with excellent form before advancing to the next progression. Perform this workout 1-3 times per week, allowing a minimum of 48 hours rest between workout sessions, starting several weeks before and continuing throughout the season:
Warm-Up: 2-5 minutes of high knee marching, swinging opposing arms to shoulder height as you lift knees to hip height.
Strength Workout: Perform the following exercise circuit in succession with no rest between exercises:
- Squats: 10-20 repetitions. Works quads, hip flexors, glutes, hamstrings. Progression: *add weight by holding free weights, medicine ball or containers filled with water while performing. Start with lighter weights, 1-5 lbs, until you can easily perform 20+ squats in a set before progressing to heavier weights.
- Push-Ups on Knees: 8-16 repetitions. Works arms, chest and upper back. Progression: perform on toes
- Forward Lunge: 10-20 repetitions each side. Works quads, hip flexors, glutes, hamstrings. Progression 1: add weight according to the protocol for squats above* Progression 2: Walking Lunge with a Twist
- Bird-dog: 10-20 repetitions each side. Works core (abs & back), hamstrings, glutes. Progression: Bear Crawl: 8-16 repetitions each side
- After performing each exercise once, rest for 1-2 minutes and repeat the circuit (downward dog through bird-dog) for a second set of each exercise. After performing the circuit twice, perform the flexibility workout.
Flexibility Workout: Hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds:
- Triceps-Rotator Cuff Combo: stretches upper arm on one side while stretching the rotator cuff muscles on the opposite side. Begin with an Overhead Triceps Stretch with the right arm; with the left arm, bend at the elbow, reach behind your back, place back of left hand against back and slide up to reach and clasp the fingers of both hands together. [Modification: if you’re unable to clasp hands together, use a strap or belt to bridge the gap between the hands.] Repeat on opposite side.
- Standing Chest Stretch: exercise provides progression for deeper stretch
- Side-Lying Quad Stretch: Stretches hip flexors & quads. This stretch may also be done while standing (runner’s stretch); grasp top of foot with hand to point toes toward ceiling to stretch the shins as well.
- Seated Toe Touch: Stretches entire back of leg: glutes, hamstrings and calves
- Childs Pose: targets core and provides instant relaxation to end your workout
The keys to safe and effective strength training are the same regardless of gender or age – proper warm-up, form, breathing, load, progressions and stretching. The cues for these exercises provided by ACE Fitness (via my links) are excellent and, if followed, anyone can perform this workout safely, even a novice. It’s important to focus on your own body’s feedback and listen to the cues your body is providing you. Adults are much better at reading those cues than children. For this reason, if any of these exercises are new to your child, I recommend having a professional (such as your child’s coach, gym teacher or sports trainer) review the proper form for each of these exercises with your student athlete.
Before you go for your next swim, take the plunge and give this targeted strength and stretch workout a try. Then dive in and see how far your newly strengthened legs and shoulders will take you.
Author’s Note: Always consult your physician before beginning any new exercise program.
Click on the link to view previous Activity-Specific Workouts of the Month: Hockey & Cross-Country Skiing, Snowboarding & Figure Skating, Golf & Softball, Distance Running, Racquet Sports, Swimming, Waterskiing & Surfing, Cycling, Rowing & Desk Jockeys, Track, Field & Court Sports, Throwing & Pitching, Dancing, Downhill Skiing