Summer’s here! All exercise between the hours of 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. is going to feel best if it’s inside the air conditioning or outside in some cool water. Pure Austin coaching director Shawn Bostad took some time to show us how to get stronger for swimming on those days when we’re out of the water and in the gym. Swimming is such a cool, complex action and a phenomenal summer workout. Read on and get strong!
The first exercise is a warm-up, a great core stabilizing, thoracic spine stabilizing and swimming-specific intrinsic stabilizer movement.
Swimming requires a tremendous amount of core stabilization and forward arm support strength. This forward arm support strength allows us to maintain a high position in the water during the catch phase of our swim stroke. We’ll use the walking plank to help stimulate and strengthen in this forward arm support position. To perform the walking plank exercise, first lower yourself into a very controlled hamstring stretch. Knees can be bent if a flat back cannot be realized while lowering your body into the hamstring stretch positions. Keep the hands firmly placed on the ground and maintain a neutral head position. Once stable through the core, slowly start walking your hands forward with limited lateral or rotational movement through the torso. Continue to walk your hands out in front of you until you find a solid plank position with the hands directly beneath the shoulders. This position is engaging many muscle groups: abs, obliques, erectors, glutes, quads and shoulders. Try not to let your thoracic spine sink below your shoulders. Keep it elevated. Once stable, keep walking your hands past the plank position until you find a challenging yet comfortable position that requires you to contract and stabilize through the shoulders, back and triceps to maintain a solid position similar to a superman position. This is very similar to the pull phase and catch phase of your swim stroke and teaches you how to maintain support under your body. Your arms have to support your body while swimming in the water, and this helps strengthen those muscles vital to this support mechanism. Once your arms are as far out as is comfortable for you to maintain a proper position, slowly walk your feet back up, using your calves pushing off into plantar flexion. Eventually, you end up in your starting position with your legs vertical and your hands on the ground in a hamstring stretch position. Repeat as many times as you can while maintaining impeccable form.
Hip Rotations With Triple Extension:
When performing a proper swim stroke, you should never forget to use your hips and engage your core for better balance and power through the water. Most people new to the swimming world assume that the freestyle swim stroke is very flat in nature or done solely with the belly facing the bottom of the pool. Actually, the opposite is true. If you are going to truly capitalize on your swimming stroke, you should be progressing through the stroke by rotating your torso and hips from one side to the other and never really maintaining a flat position on top of the water. The hips will rotate as much as 45 degrees from right to left. Hip rotations with triple extension help us to focus on engaging our core and initiating a rotational movement through our hips and torso. This will help you make a neuromuscular connection between your brain and the muscles needed to elicit that hip rotation during swimming. To perform the movement, you will first align your feet about shoulder width. The arms will be extended in front of you parallel to the ground with your palms facing each other. You can hold on to a weighted ball for an added challenge, which will make shoulder stabilization much more pronounced. Before you start the movement, make sure your head is in a neutral position and in line with your spine. Take a deep breath and exhale as you initiate a rotational movement with your left and right hips turning to the right. As you rotate, pivot your back foot and straighten your back leg completely so that it follows the line of your torso. Squeeze your left glute as you straighten that back leg. This is the triple extension portion of the movement. Once you are about 45 degrees rotated, come back to your starting position and repeat the same pattern in the opposite direction. Perform the movement 10 times on each side or as many times as you can while maintaining flawless form.
Pull Up Or Lat Pull Down:
This movement is very important as it relates to swimming. Swimming hinges heavily on technique and maintaining impeccable form in the water. Water is a medium that we are not accustomed to moving in. it is dense and requires us to manipulate our bodies so that we mimic the smallest and most hydrodynamic positions to move comfortably through the water. However, since we are aware that water is such a dense medium, we can assume that it requires a fair amount of strength to move ourselves through the water. That being said, you need to start thinking of the water as something you can actually grab onto and use as an anchor point for your hands and arms. When we extend our arm and hand in front of us, we should literally think about anchoring it and pulling ourselves up and over that anchor point. During this anchoring phase, you should think about engaging your lats and pulling your body forward, which is very similar to performing a pull-up. So, by performing a pull-up outside of the water, we strengthen the muscles associated with the pull phase of our swim stroke. You’ll first lower your body into a fully stretched position while holding onto a pull-up bar and letting your legs hang relaxed below you. This will allow you to engage your lats during the pull-up from a stretched position, which is very similar to how we engage the lats while swimming. Arms should be just outside of shoulder width. Before the pull-up, breathe in. As you pull up, exhale and pull through the lats, finishing the movement as high and as close to the chest as possible. Slowly lower yourself back down to the stretched position and repeat. The eccentric movement (lowering) is just as important as the concentric (raising). Keep it controlled and fluid. If you cannot perform a pull-up, use a lat pull-down machine or assisted pull -up machine to mimic the pull-up movement.
Swimming in a pool requires balance and strength. Every time you make it to the opposite end of the pool, you will have to turn around and swim back in the opposite direction. This requires you to push off the wall with some amount of explosive force. Advanced swimmers are usually coming into the wall at a fairly substantial pace, performing a flip turn, planting their feet onto the wall in a squat position and then pushing off the wall in an explosive manner. They do this while maintaining a nice streamline position. The plyometric jump on land will help with your explosive strength off the wall by strengthening the quads, calves, solei and very important glute muscles. Start in a position with your hands at your side and feet shoulder width apart. Your head should be neutral. eccentrically load your legs into a squat with your knees bent at about 90 degrees. Reach back with your hands and prepare to transition into a jumping movement. Try to limit the amount of time spent in the amortization phase (the split second between going into a squat and exploding into a jump) by quickly moving from a squat position into an explosive concentric squat and then jump. When you jump, extend your hands over your head, keep the head neutral, and make sure to use your calves and solei to get as much power out of the jump as possible. As you come back down to the ground, don’t forget to sink back down into a deep squat the minute your feet impact the ground. This eccentric loading squat is very important. The tension produced on the muscle tissue during this phase far outperforms the tension produced on the muscle during the concentric phase (explosive upward movement). Repeat 10 times or as many as you can while maintaining perfect form.