Will strength training help my swimming?

Darin Padua
Sports Medicine
The majority of ACL injuries occur due to a non-contact injury mechanism, which means that there was no physical contact with another individual at the time of injury. Research indicates that non-contact ACL injuries can be prevented through an appropriately designed exercise program. An injury prevention program can be performed as part of your pre-training exercise regimen that takes 10-15 minutes to complete and typically involves exercises aimed at improving balance, body control, strength of select muscles, and flexibility of select muscles. Research from the University of North Carolina's Sports Medicine Research Laboratory indicates the following exercises can be used as part of an ACL injury prevention program.
  1. 10-15 repetitions of dynamic stretches for the following muscle groups:  hamstring, calves, hip adductors (groin), and hip flexors (takes approximately 3 minutes)
  2. Hip bridges (10-15 repetitions)
  3. Prone Iso-Ab (Prone Plank) (30-60 seconds)
  4. Side Lying Iso-Ab (Side Lying Plank) (30-60 seconds)
  5. Single leg balance with reaching of non-stance leg (5 reps forward, 5 reps to the left and back, 5 reps to the right and back)
  6. Single leg squat (10-15 repetitions each leg)
  7. Multi-planar hop to balance (10-15 repetitions each leg)
  8. Squat jumps (10-15 repetitions)
  9. Ice skaters (10-15 repetitions)
  10. Sideways shuffling (15 yards both directions)
  11. High knee skipping (10-15 repetitions each leg)
  12. 45-deg run cutting (25 yards)
The most important thing to consider when performing these exercises is to maintain excellent form/technique. For example, always be sure to land softly (bend the knees and hips). Also, do not let your knees collapse inward (keep your knees over your toes). Finally, keep your toes pointing straight ahead (don't let your toes point in or out). 
Performing these exercise 2-3 times per week as part of your exercise/training program can improve movement quality and help to decrease the risk of future non-contact ACL injury.
Now as a former high school and college swimmer I can tell you that strength training helps.  You must remember that practice and water resistance can only go so far in your training.  Strength training can help build up your muscle endurance and power for better speed and power.  So strength training is essential.
The sport enthusiast and professional alike can benefit from strength training. Specifically, Blackburn et al, have found that the “enhancement of proprioception and muscular strength are equally effective in promoting joint stability and balance maintenance. In addition, no 1 type of training program is superior to another for these purposes." Joint stability is imperative for a successful prolonged athletic career; particularly when endurance training has been shown to decrease proprioception. References: Blackburn, T.; Guskiewicz, K.M.; Petschauer, M.A.; Prentice, W.E. “Balance and joint stability: the relative contributions of proprioception and muscular strength.” / (Equilibre et stability articulaire: les contributions relatives de la proprioception et de la force muscular.) Journal of sport rehabilitation (Champaign, Ill.), Nov 2000: 9 (4). p. 315-328.
Yusuf Boyd, NASM Elite Trainer
Athletic Training
Strength training will definitely help with swimming. With strength training, you will increase your muscular strength and endurance, which can transfer to your swimming.

Absolutely! Strength training will help improve performance in any sport, competative or recreational. It is vital that the workouts focus on core strength, power, injury prevention and proper body mechanics. Winning and losing in swimming is decided by fractions of a second so minute improvements can make all the difference.

Strength training will produce the best performance related results when the workouts (commonly called dryland training) compliment the work being done in the pool. This means the dryland training needs to taper as the swimmer is approaching big meets. The workouts should definitely focus on exercises that keep the joints healthy by increasing range of motion and stabilization strength. It is also important to continuously work on body mechanics and posture.

I personally had a lot of success training high school swimmers using a circuit style program that involved body weight exercises, plyometrics, barbell complexes and unstable environments. As with any athlete, nutrition is paramount for performing optimally. Competitive swimmers burn a lot of calories so make sure you are replenishing the body with the proper amount of macronutrients to support the workouts!

Strength training will help you swim faster as well as for longer so the answer to this question is,  "YES." Not only strength training through the shoulders and back but also focusing on flexibility. Strong, flexible shoulders as well as proper nutrition are the key components to becoming a swimmer that reaches the optimum level of performance. 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.