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Six Essential Exercises for Swimmers and Triathletes

Author: Tim Crowley

When triathletes and open water swimmers think of Vasa, for many, it’s the Vasa SwimErg product that comes to mind. In 1990, Rob Sleamaker invented the Vasa Trainer Pro model and unveiled it to swimming coaches at the ASCA World Clinic.  It quickly became a “must-have” training tool for swim coaches worldwide.  As a long-time strength and conditioning coach, triathlon coach, and triathlete, I can see why it did. 

Six Essential Exercises for Swimmers and Triathletes
Tim Crowley at the 2016 USA Swimming Olympic Trials and Coach Matt Kredich, University of Tennessee Swimming, teaching the catch with Vasa

The Vasa Trainer Pro (VT) is a versatile training tool effective for developing swimming strength and power and as a home gym. This article will highlight six exercises to help you become a powerful, resilient swimmer.

There are three common ways to increase each exercise’s Vasa Trainer resistance or load. You can change the slope angle of the monorail using one of the 15 settings. You can pull using the Pulley Cable System or adjustable length webbing straps, doubling the resistance at any slope angle selected. 

Below is a brief description and video of each exercise.

  1. Pull-ups – Many athletes do not have the strength to do many traditional pull-ups with total body weight. Gradually, you can increase the load to build more muscle. Using the Vasa Trainer, anyone can find a challenging resistance level to achieve the number of desired repetitions.

(Note: This exercise can also be done as a one-arm version, requiring higher levels of strength and core stability.)

2. Single-arm swim stroke pulls – This is great for building specific swim strength and form. A lower velocity allows you to focus on using an excellent technique. Usually, power paddles are best for this exercise, and forearm cuffs work well, too.

  1. 2-arm power pulls – This exercise simulates a butterfly pull. Use it for building strength and increasing pulling power. It’s a simple, highly effective exercise to build high levels of swim-specific force in butterfly and freestyle strokes.

4. Single-leg squat – Note: the Leg Power Platform or a solid wall is necessary for this exercise. For resistance, raise the angle of the monorail and attach multiple resistance cords.  The single-leg squat works well for rehab and building specific leg strength. It allows you to use less than body weight, which makes it very useful for lower-body warm-ups or rehabilitation.

Strength and power

Increasing the load allows for a deep hip angle necessary for a powerful wall push-off in swimming or a cycling pedal stroke when in the aero position. As with pull-ups, changing the monorail slope incline and adding power cords allow you to work on strength and power.

5. One-arm row – This is similar to a 1-arm cable row. Horizontal pulling exercises help create muscle balance to offset the internal shoulder rotation from swimming and riding in the aero position. Additionally, the one-arm row is an excellent anti-rotation core exercise.

6. Chest press ( 1 and 2 arms)- you can do the chest press at any load or speed. If you want added core work, switch to 1 arm to increase the challenge.

Switching between exercises is simple and efficient. As a result, the Vasa Trainer performs equally well as a strength and swim-specific training machine. After all, it is portable and gives you a swim training option at home when you are time-crunched or cannot get to the pool. It’s the perfect addition to any athlete’s home performance center.

Vasa SwimErg Users 

With the addition of the Trainer Strap System and Power Cords, your SwimErg will be equipped, so you will be able to do many of the Vasa Trainer exercises described above. This combination provides a lot of versatility as a swim trainer and strength machine.

About Tim Crowley

Tim Crowley is a well-respected coach and we are privileged to have him as a vital part of the Vasa community.  He has contributed useful dryland for swimmers’ workout and technique videos, which you can find in our Video Library.

Tim Crowley discusses Dryland Training for Swimmers

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