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Author: Tim Crowley

It is widely accepted that core training is essential to swimming performance and efficiency. In most sports, athletes have their feet anchored on the ground, making power transfer from the ground up easy to train. In contrast, the swimmer is in a fluid medium where the core controls and coordinates movements from the legs and arms while simultaneously attempting to stay streamlined and powerful. The shoulders and hips must rotate and deliver power with each stroke, complicating matters. Strength endurance is also required to improve your swim for longer-distance events and triathlons.

Three Key Functions of the Core in Swimming

  1. Connect and coordinate the upper and lower body movements
  2. Maintain posture in a streamlined position with a taut core that allows for controlled movement.
  3. Execute a powerful pull while maintaining both of the above functions.

The 5 Essential Core Exercises to Improve Your Swim

I have chosen to highlight five key core exercises that will positively impact your swim. These exercises each have multiple body positions allowing for a great amount of variety and progressions. In addition, the speed of movement can be adjusted to train strength, muscle endurance, or power. These are a good starting point and by no means an exhaustive list. They can all be done using a cable column. A cable system such as Keiser or Ancore is optimal for high-speed power movements.

  1. Anti–rotational press- This is a great exercise to learn how to control unwanted rotational movements.

  1. Cable lift- This diagonal pattern goes low to high, requiring some controlled movement of the core.

  1. Cable chop- Similar to the lift but this movement goes high to low.

  1. Off-set march- This lateral stabilizer is excellent for both swimmers and runners. It requires control in an outstretched position.

  1. Rotational pulls- This exercise requires a powerful hip drive with a 1-arm row.

Body Position Progression to Improve Your Swim

Several progressive body positions can be used with lift, chop, anti-rotational press, and rotational pulls. The general order of progression is as follows:

  •   Tall kneeling
  •   Half kneel
  •   Standing
  •   Split stance

Final thoughts

Start with slow controlled movements to master each exercise. Then begin to increase the resistance to increase strength. To develop power, use moderate resistance at high speeds. Start with 2-3 sets of 5-6 repetitions on each side, then progress to 3 sets of 10. You can easily include 2 or 3 of these exercises in your strength training plan at any given time. 

Creating a stronger core to control movement and produce a powerful stroke will help you stay healthy and perform at your highest level.

About Tim Crowley

Tim Crowley, CSCS, is the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at Montverde Academy. He is also an Olympic and USAT level III coach. He is the owner of TC2 Coaching LLC and a strength expert on the app,  AnyQuestion? 

Tim Crowley discusses how to Improve your swim

Tim Crowley
Head Strength & Conditioning Coach at Montverde Academy
Author: High-Performance Aging & The Powerful Triathlete