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Stoke Your Stroke

by ScottG. on January 26, 2012

Swimming is great exercise that uses most of the muscles in the body - some of the biggies are the back muscles. To help you swim stronger, longer and faster, you'll find it helpful to do some training on dry land.

Here are three gym exercises that will help you strengthen the muscles used in the pool.

 

LAT PULL DOWN
This exercise is similar to a pull up. As an alternate, you can substitute pull ups (or assisted pull ups if you can't lift your body weight... yet) for these to keep your workouts fresh.

  • Grab the bar of a lat pull down station with a wide, overhand grip (palms facing away from you). Relax your shoulders, pull your shoulder blades together and keep your neck in a neutral position throughout the exercise.
  • Tighten your core and pull the bar down to your chest. To keep my form, I like to envision strings attached to my elbows, pulling them down towards the floor.
  • Slowly return to the starting position, keeping your shoulder blades together at the top of the movement.
  • Do three sets of 15 reps at a moderate weight.

THE H2O CONNECTION: Lats are the major muscle group used in all freestyle, breast, side and butterfly strokes. When your arms pull through a stroke, your lats provide the power.

SEATED ROW
This exercise can be done using machines, a low pulley cable or even bent over with a dumbbell. We're using a free weight rowing machine.

  • Grab the handles of seated row machine with your favorite grip (most machines offer wide-grip, close grip, neutral grip, etc.). Keep your chest in contact with the chest pad and your neck in a neutral position throughout the exercise. Pull your shoulder blades together throughout the exercise.
  • Pull the handles towards your chest, keeping your elbows close to your body. Again, I like to visualize strings on my elbows pulling my elbows behind me.
  • Slowly return to the starting position, keeping your shoulder blades together.
  • Do three sets of 15 reps at a moderate weight.

H2O CONNECTION: This exercise focuses on the mid- and lower trapezius as well as the rhomboids, which are activated throughout every phase of the stroke.

BALL COBRA & LAT RAISE
This is one of my trainer Franks favorites because you're engaging your lower back and hamstrings throughout the exercise to keep your body positioned on the ball.

  • Lay face down on with your rib cage supported by a stability ball. Your feet should be about shoulder width apart. You can wedge your feet against a wall if your feet are sliding away from you.
  • Grab a light pair of dumbbells with your palms facing down.
  • Lift your upper body off the ball and raise your arms out to your sides as high as you can without arching your back.
  • Slowly lower your arms and torso to the starting position.
  • Do three sets of 15 reps each.

H2O CONNECTION: This move mimics a breaststroke and works your deltoids, which are used in every part of your stroke.

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