Strong abdominal muscles can improve stroke balance.
When strength training for swimming, most think of the shoulders, back and legs. One of the most important body parts that may be overlooked is the mid-section.
Strong abdominals allow for fast, tight flip turns, which in a race of any length could mean the difference between you and your closest competitor. They also keep the body balanced in the water and facilitate rotation with each stroke.
But swimming benefits aside, most people long for a firm "washboard" stomach, and will try just about any health-and-fitness gimmick to attain it.
Abdominal strength training routines are everywhere. While most magazines trumpet "Six-pack abs in 10 minutes or less!" and offer up a variety of flashy, complicated workouts, my suggested workout is simple.
It doesn't require gym-like contraptions and can be done anywhere (business travelers can do it in their hotel rooms), so following through with it on a consistent basis is easy.
This 25-minute abdominal workout, when done at least three times a week and matched with proper diet habits and consistent dedication, will offer you the results you are looking for in a matter of weeks. You should feel the difference in your swimming as well.
The workout consists of six sets of 50 sit-ups, with 15 push-ups and a seal-press in between each set.
Set 1: Regular Sit-Ups
Lie down on your back (on a comfortable but firm surface) with your feet flat on the ground and your knees about 6 inches off the ground. The small of your back should always remain in contact with the floor. Place your hands behind your head and slowly curl your upper body towards your knees.
When you've raised your upper back as far as you can, bring yourself back down slowly in a controlled motion. This is a regular sit-up, and as you complete the set make sure you don't pull/jerk your head up with your hands but rather keep a controlled rhythm with each rep.
When finished, flip over on your stomach and do 15 push-ups. Then get into a seal-press position to stretch your stomach muscles before the next set (a seal press is like a push-up only with your waist and legs flat on the ground with your arms holding up your upper-body).
Set 2: Right/Left Sit-Ups
Right/left sit-ups are like regular ones, only you bring your right elbow towards your left knee and vice-versa on each alternating sit-up. Remember to ease your body back down with each repetition without falling back to the floor, and don't jerk your head up with your hands as you start to feel the burn. From sets two to five continue the 15 push-ups.
Set 3: Side-Ups
Lie on your right side with your knees at a right angle, then flatten your shoulder blades so that they are both flush against the floor (you should be in a twisted position).