Simple Swim-Specific Poolside Exercises

Once your arms are extended and your upper body is perpendicular to the deck (which should now be at waist-level), lower yourself back down into the water with a controlled motion. Repeat in rapid succession, 10 times. Rest. Repeat again as necessary.

This exercise mimics the underwater pull of both freestyle and butterfly, with an emphasis on correct form if you remember to keep your elbows high. At the fully elevated level, you are also working your triceps as in Exercise 1, which will help you to finish your stroke rather than cut it short when you're fatigued.

4. Abdominal Crunches

For this exercise, locate a pool where the deck is a foot above water level (this is pretty standard). Lying on your back and floating in the water (perpendicular to the poolside), put your legs from the knees down up on the deck, so you are in a sitting position. This way, your backside should be "sitting" against the poolside wall while your back is floating parallel to the bottom of the pool.

Begin doing wet "abdominal crunches," or sit-ups, curling your chest up toward your knees as far as you can go. Return to your starting position in a controlled motion, taking care not to crash back into the water. You can keep your hands crossed over your chest. Do several sets of 15, then work your way up to six sets of 25 or four sets of 50.

This exercise strengthens the abdominal core, and helps improve overall body position while maximizing flip-turn efficiency. It is also a stretching exercise for your lower back/spine, and you will feel it elongating your vertebrae especially if you spend your days sitting at a desk.

5. Swim With Paddles

This exercise requires swimming ability. Add wearing a pair of hand paddles to your existing swim regimen, for 25 percent to 30 percent of your daily yardage. Training with paddles tones shoulders and upper arms, resulting in that sought-after "swimmer's physique" (while avoiding a bulky body-building look).

Be careful not to use large paddles too soon (they come in many different sizes), as this can contribute to shoulder problems (rotator cuff inflammation, tendonitis).

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Dolphin kicking on your back is a great way to strengthen abs while toning gluteal and thigh muscles. With your arms in a streamline position, push off the wall and dolphin kick on your back with your legs together, moving as one, in an undulating motion.

You can vary the exercise by dolphin-kicking on your side and adding fins to the drill. Fins (Zoomers, Hydrofinz, etc.) lengthen the undulating motion and place more emphasis on strengthening the quad muscles. This is also a good way to stretch cycling- and running-fatigued leg muscles that have a tendency to cramp up and result in IT-band problems for triathletes.

While these drills may not cover the broad range of machine-based exercises found in your local weight room, they offer an alternative to strength-training in the summer months. These exercises are also a safe way to develop certain muscles for those individuals looking to start a weight-training program.

By using the water's buoyancy to help you execute the drills in a methodical, controlled and correct way, you learn the importance of proper form and muscle control; two elements necessary for effective and injury-free strength-training.


A former swimmer at Stanford University, Alex Kostich has stayed strong in the sport at the elite level even while maintaining a day job. The three-time Pan-American Games gold medalist still competes in - and wins - numerous open-water races around the world each year, as well as competing in the occasional triathlon and running race.

Related Articles:

    • Stretch Cords: The Key to Off-season Swim Training

    • How to Use Your Core in Freestyle

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