3 Out-Of-The-Water Exercises that Strengthen Your Swimming Muscles

Protect your joints and muscles by keeping them strong and long out of the water. Here are three tips to help strengthen some of the most important muscles for swimmers.

1. Scapular Pushups

You can perform this exercise from a plank position on your elbow, on your knees, or in a standard push up position on your hands and toes.

This is a small movement controlled exercise with big benefits. To start squeeze your shoulder blades together, this will lower your torso slightly. Squeeze as close as you can and then return to your starting position. If you are having difficulties a buddy can be a big help. Have a workout partner place their hand (thumb up pinkie down) on your spine in-between your shoulder blades and then try to squeeze their hand. Up for a challenge? Perform this exercise on your toes with your hands on a medicine ball.

This exercise helps with posture and range of motion in your shoulders and upper back. Most swimmers tend to shrug inwardly due to over development.

Planking Exercises Swimming2. Planking

Basic Plank position is on your toes and elbows. The goal is to keep your body in a straight line. Keep your eyes looking down and hips low to feel the burn. Planking is not solely a core exercise. You will feel it all over!

Variations include raising a leg or an arm, or opposing leg and arm at the same time. You can take this exercise to your side by turning on one elbow and taking the other arm up so your fingers are pointed to the sky.

A standard core killer, but swimmers need a strong core to protect their lower back from damage and extra strength to propel kicking. The best thing about planks is the variety and modifications you can use to make it easier, harder, or just different.

3. Heavy Rope Training/Rope Battling

All you need is rope and an anchor. Wrap the rope around a sturdy pole, large tree, etc and you are ready to go.

A basic beginner exercise would be waves. Hold an end of the rope in each hand and alternate moving your hands up and down to create a ripple through the rope. Check your stance, wide legs, slight bend at the knees. Keep your back straight!

Interval training with ropes is a killer workout that can help build muscles and improve posture. If you don’t have one at your gym or pool, head to the hardware store and snag about 50 feet of manila rope in 1-2 inch thickness depending on your personal needs.


Have fun trying new exercises and stay fit in and out of the water.

About Emily Milak

Emily Milak is a lifetime competitive swimmer living in Southeastern Wisconsin. Emily is a US National Team champion, NCAA champion, and USMS champion with extensive coaching experience. She is a product development consultant at Kiefer.

7 Comments on “3 Out-Of-The-Water Exercises that Strengthen Your Swimming Muscles”

  1. Swimming pool exercises suits most age-groups and tailor-made for people suffering from specific conditions such as fibromyalgia and arthritis. Also, it is great for enhancing your balance, endurance, and flexibility. Just a short workout in the pool and you will be done and dusted for the day!

  2. Thank you! I will be instructing an indoor cycling/conditioning course for 12-18yr old swimmers while they are on break from swim. Definitely incorporating these exercises. Any other suggestions?

    • Hi Shelley! I’m on a little bit of a dry land kick myself and have enjoyed building strength doing hanging toe touches: wider grip than pull up position, thumbs wrapped around the bar, and bring your legs up as high as you can to touch the bar if possible. Another is using kettle bells and doing a ‘death march’. So kettle bell in each hand, taking little steps forward, smaller than a lunge. Back leg stays straight, front leg bends at the knee, weights touch the ground, and as you stand back up to take another step the back leg stays straight and heel down until you are fully upright. Jogging/running/sprints are always good conditioners too.

    • Hi Valerie! Honestly it depends on your current fitness level and experience. You can be self taught, I do believe that. But what I would recommend is researching. Find video of someone doing it and doing it well. I saw someone else using them and just joined in, now they are part of my weekly routines. Important things to remember are keeping your core tight and your back straight. Pinch your shoulder blades together and start with low volume repeats.

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