With summer here and longer daylight hours a welcome change, many of us may be hard-pressed to continue our strength training indoors at the local gym.
Warm weather and fresh air beckons, so why spend time lifting weights under the same fluorescent lights that flicker above us in our day jobs?
United States Masters Swimming has addressed a series of pool-based strength-training exercises that should be especially popular during the hot summer months.
The list inspired me to expand upon those exercises and offer a guide to pool-side strength-training drills that could not only double as an effective weight-lifting substitute, but could also provide a safe segue into strength-training for the uninitiated.
All exercises below are to be executed within the confines of a swimming pool, and most do not require a conventional lap pool (hotel-dwellers and kidney-shaped-pool owners take note). In many instances, one does not even need to know how to swim, though the ability to rely on the water's buoyancy is helpful in making some of the exercises easier at first.
1. Tricep Lifts
Sit on the edge of a swimming pool with your legs in the water. Place your hands on either side of your thighs, fingers curled over the edge of the pool. Bracing yourself, lift your body up from its sitting position so that your thighs and backside are raised a few inches from the deck. Remain in this elevated "sitting" position, taking care not to sway back and forth.
Keep your thighs parallel to the deck (you may have a tendency to lean forward as it gets harder to hold the position). Hold the position for 15 seconds, then rest for 15 seconds. Repeat three times (at first). Eventually you can work your way up to longer "holds" and/or more reps.
This exercise strengthens the same muscles used when you practice dumbbell tricep extensions in the weight room. Tricep strength is especially relevant in the freestyle and butterfly strokes, where it is needed in order to lengthen and finish out the end of the underwater pull.
From a sitting position at the edge of the pool (as in the tricep lifts of Exercise 1), slide your body down into the water until your elbows are at a 90-degree angle (with your hands palms-down on the deck), and your spine and legs are flush with the poolside. Slowly raise your body up until your elbows straighten out, then bring your body back down into the water.
Make sure to "dip" up and down slowly and methodically—avoid dipping down so far that it hurts and you can't raise yourself back up (this can cause shoulder strains and muscle tears).
Poolside "dips" are no different than the ones you may have practiced on dry land on a set of raised parallel bars, but the advantage is that your body weight is somewhat reduced by the water and you are at less risk of injury.
You can also repeat more reps more easily, strengthening and toning your shoulders without breaking them down as much as you would in the gym.
Depending on your strength and comfort level in the water, start this exercise in shallow or deep water (four feet deep or six feet deep, respectively), facing the pool's gutter. Placing your hands shoulder-width apart on the deck above you, pull your body straight out of the water, keeping your elbows high.