How to improve your swimming out of the water

Try these tips if you can't get to the pool as often as you would like but need to work on your swimming muscles and technique


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Swim training is best done in the pool for specificity and developing the muscular endurance required for tri (says Fiona Ford). But sometimes it’s not possible to swim regularly, so here are some options you could try to help maintain movement patterns and swim fitness if you’re unable to take the plunge.

Indoor rowing

Replicating a classic, pool 200m or 400m rep session with 6-10 x 3min or 5-6 x 6min efforts at or just under threshold effort. Use short recoveries as you would with CSS (Critical Swim Speed) training, up to 30secs between 6min reps and 15secs on the 3min efforts.

Strength and conditioning circuits

Create a 30-40min, swim-specific strength circuit. If you have access to a gym, work through a range of exercises designed to target lats, back and shoulder muscles as well as core and hip range. You can do this with minimal equipment or in a gym. Do 15-20 reps of each exercise and up to three times through the circuit, including exercises like lat pull-downs, push-ups, pull-ups, back extensions, lateral arm raises, plank on front and left/right sides with left/right leg up for up to 30secs, back- bridging with single leg lift and glute extension.

Swim bench or land swimming

Use a Vasa Trainer or simulate swimming movement with the use of cables and a bench. Anchor cables at waist height and create an upper-body position parallel with the floor, lying on a bench or bending forward with cables in each hand. Perform freestyle with light resistance, and work to timed intervals to replicate pool-based sessions. Work in drills like single- arm, doggy paddle and broken arrow, or other strokes like butterfly and breast stroke to develop strength and technique.

Yoga and pilates classes

Both are excellent for developing an excellent range of shoulder movement, back mobility and rotation, hip flexion for an optimal stream line and developing core strength for swimming.

Spend your first few sessions back in the pool regaining your ‘feel’

You can do this by performing a range of sculling and doggy paddle drills with a pull buoy. Focus less on distance/duration and more on re-establishing a purposeful catch and pull. Optimising the underwater phase will offset the inevitable loss in your swim fitness and technique after time spent out of the water.

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