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Swimming Workout – Sport Specific Circuit Training

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This dry-land swimming workout focuses on building both muscular and cardiovascular endurance in addition to strength. The emphasis is on exercising the upper body as strong arms and shoulders play a vital role in improving swimming performance, in terms of both speed and stamina.

The core muscles are also exercised as these muscles are important for maintaining the straight-body water position. It also includes a plyometric exercise for legs to help improve the explosive power needed for push-offs.

Specifics of Swimming Training – Exercises, Repetitions, Sets

To build an all round swimmers physique, do 12-15 reps per set with 30-60 seconds rest in between each set. Sprinters may wish to do fewer reps and use heavier weights to build strength, and long-distance swimmers may wish to do more number of reps, around 15-20.

How much weight should you lift?

The amount of weight should be matched as closely as possibly to the number of reps you are doing. You want to be able to perform all the reps with good form, while at the same time working the muscles to their maximum. Trial and error is really the only way to determine what is right for you.



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Keep a training log so that you know exactly how much weight you are lifting when you either fail a set, or complete too easily.

Muscle Group Exercise Sets Reps
Back Straight-arm pull-down 3 12-15
Dumbbell pull-over 3 12-15
Shoulders Bent-over lateral raise 3 12-15
Dumbbell lateral raise 3 12-15
Biceps Barbell curl 2 12-15
Triceps Triceps press-down 2 12-15
Lower back Back extension 2 12-15
Lower body Squat jumps (with or without dumbbells) 2 10-12
Abdominals Reverse crunch 2 15-20
Alternate twisting 2 15-20

Speed of Lifting is Important

When lifting, count two seconds “up”, and three seconds down. By up we mean the first movement, which can be either pushing/lifting in raises and presses, or pulling in curls and pull-downs.

How Many Sets Should a Swimmer Perform?

It is recommended that you perform three sets of each exercise. Resting between sets is vital, especially if you are looking to build explosive strength for sprinting. Rest for a full 3 minutes if lifting heavier weights.

Frequency of Training

A good guideline is to do this weight training session three times a week with at least a day’s rest in between each session. You should not train to the point that you are too tired to perform your swimming sessions.


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Just before and during the competition season reduce weight training sessions to twice a week and increase the time spent on sport-specific training, i.e. exercises that duplicate the movement patterns of each stroke.

Pool training should be your focus during this period. Also start to include plyometric exercises before strength exercises – such as box jumps. Do approximately 10 reps per set with a 3 to 5minute rest between sets.

Professional swimmers are extremely hard workers. Rebecca Adlington and Michael Phelps train throughout the year for 6 days a week. Remember that diet and nutrition should play a large role in your training and also get plenty of sleep.

Web Resources

Military.com provide a good selection of swimming workouts. They emphasise their use during the winter when it is often too cold to run. www.military.com/military-fitness/workouts/popular-swimming-workouts.

Ruthkazez.com has written Fifty Swim Workouts which provides 50 workouts to improve your swimming performance with several beginners workouts. http://ruthkazez.com/50swimworkouts.html

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  33 comments for “Swimming Workout – Sport Specific Circuit Training

  1. Mohamad
    April 9, 2011 at 7:52 am

    Thanks for your help
    Your advice was so usefull for my training but I need more exact plan

  2. mahmoud
    January 15, 2012 at 10:53 am

    how many kilos should 11 years old water polo swim ??

  3. MotleyHealth
    January 15, 2012 at 4:44 pm

    Sorry Mahmoud, can you re-phrase your question please.

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