Six key exercises for sharpening swim speed

Coach Simon Ward provides stability, movement and core drills to do on dry land – and gives walkthrough videos on how to do them


For many triathlon novices, swimming is the most challenging discipline. We asked coach Simon Ward to provide a set of exercises to do outside of the pool that will help slash your splits…


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Consistency is the key to success and swimming faster takes time. You can only be consistent if you remain uninjured. Rather than building muscle and strength to get faster, I suggest a more subtle approach, developing the following areas:

Stability around the shoulder girdle

There are three exercises that you can do before every swim session. Performed regularly they will strengthen the rotator cuff muscles and those of the entire shoulder girdle, helping to keep the ‘ball’ in the ‘socket’ so that there’s a strong stable platform from which the arms can do their work.

You will need a Thera-Band to perform these:

Range of movement at the shoulder and hip

The next area that hinders the average triathlete is body position – the ability to maintain a streamlined position is fundamental to faster swimming.

Core strength is important but I recommend starting with hip flexor tightness. A simple kneeling hip flexor stretch every day is all that’s required:

Add in some other upper-body stretches for the lats, pecs and the obliques/quadratus lumborum. You can do most of these in the shower after your swim.

Focus on the core

With increased stability and better range of movement you can now focus on the core. Here is a 2min set that you can do before or after your pool workout: 1 x plank; 1 x side bridge (left); 1 x supine bridge; 1 x side bridge (right); 1 x kneeling woodchop.

The first four are static holds for 30secs while the fifth is a dynamic exercise. Because these will take just 5mins before and after every pool session there’s no excuse for you not to do them. Given time they will help your swimming. Just be patient.

For lots more performance advice and drills, head to our Triathlon training section



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