A while ago I met a guy who was representing his country in swimming as junior. He said, that for every swimming season (6 times per week) they have session in gym, because, in his words:

Swimming is about strength!

I do some swimming for many years (once a week of so). And in my experience, I think he was right (at least partially).

So I wonder, what swimmers do in the gym. I search for some routines but first links contain stuff like from $5 DVD about bodybuilding in 90s. Including biceps curls, seated exercises, exercises with low weight for high repetitions, "core" exercises on swiss ball and lines like "it is great for trices!".

I am not surprised, it is hard to find out what the professionals actually do also in other sports - short distance running and combat sports are prime example.

Where I can find out, what the good swimmers actually do or should do in gym?

  • 2
    Depends on what stroke and distance. There are core exercises common to all, but a 1500m freestyler will train much differently than a 200m fly competitor.
    – JohnP
    Apr 14, 2017 at 15:40
  • @JohnP Thank for response! But in general I am not sure about that. Strength is strength, "pulling water" is still "pulling water" no matter what stroke you use. I would think that distance will also not play a big role (their endurance training is swimming, not lifting). General strength training for MMA fighters is the same no matter what tactics/style they prefer or what events they attend. But maybe I am wrong.
    – matousc
    Apr 14, 2017 at 16:54
  • You somewhat are. :) The shorter the distance, the more the emphasis on speed and explosiveness. Also, the longer the distance esp for freestylers, the legs are less for propulsion and more for balance and driving beathing. The larger the leg muscles the more O2 they take. In a shorter race the drive they provide offsets this.
    – JohnP
    Apr 14, 2017 at 18:49

2 Answers 2


I competed at national level in my youth, and when we did our dry resistance training, it was almost always compound movements with a few isolation exercises focusing on explosiveness.

The sprinters (such as myself) would focus more on the explosive stuff, and do the compound movements with a medium-heavy load for strength/power. The distance guys would focus less on explosive and do more high rep training for endurance.

From memory my resistance training looked like this:

Lower body: Squat (medium-heavy), leg extensions/ham curls (low weight high rep, but explosive on the lifting phase)

Upper body: Bench (medium-heavy), bar/cable rows (high rep), wide grip lat pulldowns (low weight high rep explosive on lifting phase), Tricep rope pulldowns (low weight high rep explosive on lifting phase), endless chinups/pullups to failure.

Core: Russian twists, medicine ball sit-up-throws with a partner

We only did this once/twice a week - our coaches wanted us sleek and strong, but not to bulk and lose flexibility.


High level competitive swimmers do a little bit of everything in the gym. The focus is always on core strength (tons of abdominal and lower back work, lots of resistance added), range of motion exercises, and body resistance (pushups, pullups, squats, lunges).

Upperbody and leg work is mostly lots of high rep, low weight stuff. Strength is important, but there's also a lot of emphasis just on generating lactic acid.

Swimming itself is most of the cardio swimmers need, but in between strength exercises, good programs will keep the athlete active with something to keep the heartrate up like jumping rope or yoga poses.

  • Please provide some references or source (you can say it is you experience, if it is so).
    – matousc
    Apr 21, 2017 at 5:35
  • Just personal experience. I was a four year NCAA D3 swimmer.
    – zigzag
    Apr 21, 2017 at 14:23
  • Fair enough. I up-voted your answer.
    – matousc
    Apr 21, 2017 at 16:05

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