Question is quite simple. I'm looking for gym-specific bunch of exercises which can help me to build up swimming performance/endurance/speed.

So, when I'm not in the water I can still be continuously improving my swimming. Of course I know that I need to go into water because of technique training, feel of water etc.

Edit: focused on crawl performance. Not interested in strength improvement in other styles at this moment.

  • 1
    Do you intend to replace swimming with gym sessions (eg. because of bad weather) or do you want to add the gym workouts to your schedule? In the latter case it might be good to know how often you are swimming as there might be a risk of overtraining.
    – Baarn
    Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 11:23
  • I used to swim 7 days per week. Now it's about 3-4 times per week because I've started to get bored by swimming and that's why I want to replace it by gym workout. To do something else but still something which is able to improve my swimming performance.
    – tsykora
    Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 12:35
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    @LegoStormtroopr I disagree with duplicate, this question is about improving swimming by gym training, the other one is about targeting the counter-muscles. I think both questions might need an edit, but even in their original form they were quite different.
    – Baarn
    Commented Jun 28, 2013 at 8:12
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    I strongly disagree with marking this as a duplicate. These 2 questions were intentionally asked as opposites.
    – tsykora
    Commented Jun 28, 2013 at 9:14
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    This answer about dryland exercises for swimming includes links for resistance training specific to your swim stroke with swim cords or resistance bands, a vasa trainer, and dynamic gym circuit strengthening and conditioning exercises using intervals. Although most gyms do not have vasa trainers, you can use a total gym to simulate your stroke as you would on a vasa trainer. Commented Aug 18, 2013 at 10:51

2 Answers 2


I found huge improvements from taking on gyming while swimming - specifically muscular strength and endurance. That is, until I overtrained and heavily damaged my back. Be wise and know your limits!

How often?

I think two to three swim sessions to one gym session is a good ratio. If you're a sprinter, maybe more towards two to one swim sessions to one gym session.

How many sessions a week that ends up being depends on how into the sport you are! A competitive swimmer may be doing 7-10 swim sessions a week, coupled with 3-4 gym sessions would be a nice mix.

Make sure you give enough time for your muscles to recover. Throwing gym into the mix puts a much higher demand on your muscles.

Sets and Reps

I did freestyle mid-distance events, 200 m up to 800 m, so my focus was more on endurance reps.

For standard workouts, I would do 3 sets of 20, and gradually increased weights accordingly. I did them at a similar speed to swimming stroke rate, except for legs of course.

I frequently did circuit training - 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off, go to the next exercise, around 70% of my max or greater. This was the money, I loved these workouts!

One stupid set I frequently did was pyramid sets on quads until muscle strain. 20 reps, climb weight until you injure your muscles, then climb back down. I actually didn't realise that I was straining my muscles, the 5+ days for my quads to recover despite my well conditioned muscles should have been an obvious clue!


Think through what muscles hold you back the most, and focus on them.

  1. Cable flys - these were my favourite! Go for pulling from full extension, this is great for having a powerful pull at maximum reach. Slight bend in the elbow, just like your initial underwater pull.
  2. Biceps curls - pretty boring, but important
  3. Triceps - use free weights, extend from half to full. Heaps of ways to do this and they're all pretty similar.
  4. Shoulders - free weights, extend to horizontal on your side and front
  5. Rows - your traps are helpful in the pull sequence, but more so it's just good to work the opposite muscles so you keep your muscle development equal.
  6. Bench press - covers the above muscles quite well.
  7. Pull ups/machine pull downs - real important
  8. Abs with weights - whether it be sit ups with plates or pulling on a cable, it's all good - gives your off the wall dolphin kicks more grunt
  9. Back extensions with weights - just as important as the abs

I know some people like to throw squats in the mix for more off the wall push power, but I'd say that it's lesser importance unless you're in some serious competitions. In which case, you would have asked this question to your team physio/gym trainer!

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    Thank you! Especially for your own experience sharing... it's very valuable for me ;)
    – tsykora
    Commented Aug 17, 2013 at 19:17

Since you describe yourself as a sprinter in another question I'd like to add explosive exercises like Olympic lifts and box jumps to the advice you already received.

I would also recommend a short swimming session after a hard gym session, if your gym is at the pool. It feels so much better afterwards, I promise.

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