By Dirk Smith, MSc, SDL (He/Him).
Swimming is considered a low-impact sport, meaning that there are few forces either from ground contact or other players and the risk of developing a traumatic injury is low. The kind of injuries most commonly seen in swimmers are overuse injuries which are injuries that result from repetitive movements. Overuse injuries are caused by the repeated stress and tension on muscles, tendons and ligaments that without proper strength and tension can lead to inflammation and pressure build up within the tissue.
Inflammation and pressure can lead to pain, reduced flexibility, mobility and strength while impeding general performance that could lead to a prolong recovery period in which you will not be able to continue training or competing. This is why it is crucial for athletes to include training exercises that reduce the risk of developing overuse injuries.
Common injuries that swimmers experience include...
So, to keep you in the pool and minimize the risk of developing an injury, here are some dryland exercises you can incorporate into your training program that are easy to include. The exercises are all based on building muscular strength and endurance, as swimming is an “endurance” sport, it is important to train to perform multiple repetitions. For the exercises using an external weight, select a weight that allows you to perform the minimum number of repetitions with challenge but while also maintaining form. If your form breaks down, then select a lighter weight. If you are able to complete the maximum number of repetitions at the end of your last set without challenge, then select a higher weight at the next session. These exercises should be performed at least two to three times per week.
Core/ Posture- Mobility
Core/ Posture- Stability
Core/ Posture- Strength
It is important to recognizing the distinction between “mobility” and “flexibility.” Mobility is defined as how freely a joint can move through its own range of motion via muscle contraction. Whereas flexibility is about increasing the overall length and stretch capabilities of the muscle passively. So, for this context, the mobility exercises are dynamic stretches, which means that they move through a range of motion actively as opposed to static stretching which is about passively pulling on the muscle to increase the length. In a follow up article, Coach Dirk will go into more detail about stretch training for swimmers to improve overall flexibility.
If these exercises seem like a lot, don’t worry! These exercises are not just exclusive toward injury prevention either and carry over other benefits that we will explore in other articles. By building your mobility, stability and strength with these exercise, you will see improvements in your own performance as well as daily life. As we do more articles that dive into (pun intended) strength and conditioning for swimmers, you will see these exercises and variations commonly used in a variety of applications that will serve to improve your performance, strength and capabilities as an athlete.
By Dirk Smith
David "Dirk" Smith M.Sc, SDL, CSCS, (He/Him) is a sport psychology expert, strength & conditioning coach, swimming coach, sports diversity leader, published research scientist, teacher, writer, journalist, and athlete. He brings over 12 years of experience, education, and training to empower athletes to build self efficacy, strength, confidence, and express themselves through sport.