One goal of dryland exercise for swimming is to increase flexibility.

The Best Exercise for Young Swimmers

by Jim Sloan

While land-based exercise can never fully replace water work for young swimmers, a regimen of dryland training can help them improve their strength, flexibility and immunity to injuries. The best exercise session is one that strengthens their core muscles, improves their overall body strength and expands their range of motion. The main goal is the even development of all muscle groups used in swimming.

1. Weights and Measures

Many of the best exercise routines involve using simple equipment, such as a stability ball -- also known as a Swiss ball or fitness ball -- hand-held weights, a medicine ball, jump rope and stretch cords. Most exercises involves a series of repetitions -- usually 10 or 12 -- called a set, and a group of sets is called a circuit. Young swimmers will typically do three circuits for a complete workout, although the number of repetitions or weight used in the exercise increases as they become stronger.

2. A Balancing Act

Jason Dierking, assistant director of Olympic Sports Performance at the University of Louisville, says dryland exercise creates muscle balance by targeting muscle groups not used in swimming. This balance, which Dierking helps his swimmers achieve by climbing rope, doing pushups with various grips and doing overhead presses with kettlebells, helps prevent injury. Scott Hedges, the former swim coach at Cranbrook Schools in Michigan, says the bench press, lat pull-downs and overhead extensions with weights help young swimmers get strong and improves their balance.

3. Finding Time

Young swimmers are often pressed for time, balancing school, homework and swimming practices. So the best exercise is also time efficient. Mike Mejia, a strength and conditioning specialist with USA Swimming, promotes a circuit that includes five exercises -- the plank, stability ball reverse flyes, goblet squats, stability ball Russian twists with a medicine ball and pushups. All five exercises are done in that order and in succession, without rest, with a short rest of 30 to 60 seconds between each circuit. If you’re doing 10 to 12 reps each set, the whole routine should take no more than 20 minutes.

4. Your Core Strategy

The plank improves a young swimmer’s core stability, one of the most important aspects of good swimming. Swimmers can perform the plank on their hands or elbows, or both, as long as they keep their spine and neck in a neutral position. This is also important in the pushup, although Mejia recommends swimmers round their upper back and shoulder blades at the top of the pushup as a way of developing muscles that maintain shoulder joint mechanics.

5. Having a Ball

Reverse flyes on a stability ball involve leaning over the ball with your stomach against the ball, feet against the wall and spine and neck in a neutral position. Facing the floor, you lift two light weights in each hand outward in a wide arc, pinching the shoulder blades together. Another exercise involves turning over and resting your head, neck and shoulders on the ball while extending a medicine ball over your chest with both hands. You roll to one side until your shoulders are stacked vertically. Roll to the other side in the same motion.

6. Goblet Squats

In goblet squats, you hold a light dumbbell to your chest with your elbows held in while doing a squat. Your feet should be wider than your shoulders and you should jut your hips back as you squeeze into the squat. Pause at the bottom before driving up and through to a standing position. Always keep the dumbbell in contact with your chest and your elbows tight to your body.

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