How can Swimmers Train without a Pool?

 

Right now is a challenging time for swimmers. Pools are closed and most people don’t have access to a large enough pool in their homes to continue training as normal. But this does not mean that you can’t continue to train. In this post, we will discuss some of the opportunities that come with not being able to access a pool. We’ll also look at things you need to be doing now to improve your swimming later on.

 

Opportunities you say?

 

It might sound like a strange thing to say, but a slow-down actually provides an opportunity to address things we often overlook. One of the most important of these is preventing injury. We all know we should be doing what we can, in an out of the water, to protect ourselves from injuries. But if we’re honest, most of us don’t pay enough attention to this. Various studies have established that having a good strength program on dry land can reduce swimming-related injuries to a significant extent. This study focused on a problem many swimmers are familiar with: shoulder pain, or “swimmer’s shoulder”. 

Bodyweight Exercise

A well-designed bodyweight exercise program can yield significant long-term benefits for young swimmers. These are the things you need to get out of your program:

Core strength 

Your core includes your abdominals and your lower back. A swimmer’s core needs to be strong and taut. This is the only way to develop the correct swimming posture. If your core is weak, other muscle groups (such as the shoulder) will have to work too hard, which is how injury happens. So it’s essential that you get comfortable with exercises such as:

  • Planks
  • Squats
  • Thrusts

Flexibility

It’s something we all know we should be doing, but let’s face it: most of us don’t stretch enough. This is especially relevant to shoulder health. Here’s something you can do, right now, to check up on your shoulders and see if they’re mobile enough:

  1. Stand up straight
  2. Lift one arm up above your head and bend the elbow
  3. Now reach down your back with that hand
  4. Take your other arm and bend it behind your back
  5. Make your hands touch

How did you do? If you had any difficulty bringing your hands together in this position, you need to improve the range of motion in your shoulder joint. You can address this by trying out some wall angels:

Stand straight with your back against a wall. Try to keep in contact with the wall with as much of your body as possible. Now place your arms against the wall, bent at the elbow at 90 degrees. The backs of your hands should be against the wall. Now squeeze your shoulder blades together and move your arms upwards until they are straight, then move them back to the bent position. Repeat slowly.

Variety

One of the main causes of injuries in the water is repetitive motion. When we swim, we execute complicated but precise motions, over and over again. This is how we build speed. But the tradeoff is that our muscles can take strain from doing the same thing repetitively. Bodyweight training allows us to mix things up and avoid overworking certain muscles. If we are consistent, we can strengthen the muscles we need in the pool, so that they can take more repetitive motion without getting hurt. 

Training on land with bodyweight exercises can be a lot of fun and it will make you stronger if you do it right. But remember: don’t treat it exactly the same as training in water. You should not aim to get as many repetitions (reps) as possible. Instead, focus on getting the form of each exercise right.

Bodyweight Workout Routine

Here is an excellent workout routine to get you started. It will target all the areas we’ve discussed: core strength and flexibility while allowing for enough variety to prevent fatigue. You can do all of the exercises in the comfort of your own home and no equipment is needed!

 

  1. Squat hip opener
  2. Side-to-side touches
  3. Sumo squat calf raises
  4. Pushups
  5. 1 leg hip thrust
  6. Plank (up and down)
  7. Dips
  8. Calf raises

 

Cardiovascular Fitness

Another thing that we can start working on while we are unable to swim is your cardiovascular fitness. This is your ability to sustain an elevated heart rate during exercise. If you are fit, your heart and blood vessels are able to move oxygen around your bloodstream quickly enough to keep your muscles going. This is something that can be improved through consistent practice. The ideal cardiovascular exercise for the housebound is the burpee. In this respect, it is very much like swimming, which is also a full-body workout. Another advantage of the burpee is that it does not require large open spaces. 

How to do Burpees (with variations)

A basic burpee combines some simple movements:

  1. Stand up straight
  2. Squat down and place your hands flat on the ground between your feet
  3. Keep your hands on the floor and shoot your feet backwards and land in a plank position
  4. Now push your feet off the floor and return to the position in (2)
  5. Stand up again

Do ten reps and then rest for a minute.

To add some difficulty, you can include a jump after step (4) above. This will increase the cardiovascular impact of the exercise greatly:

  1. Stand up straight
  2. Squat down and place your hands flat on the ground between your feet
  3. Keep your hands on the floor and shoot your feet backwards and land in a plank position
  4. Now push your feet off the floor and return to the position in (2)
  5. Push off with both feet and jump up, with your arms extended straight upwards
  6. Go back to (1)

Do ten reps with the jump, then rest.

Now if you’re up for a real challenge, add a pushup after step (3). You’re already in front plank position, so why not?

  1. Stand up straight
  2. Squat down and place your hands flat on the ground in front of your feet
  3. Keep your hands on the floor and shoot your feet backwards and land in a push-up position
  4. Execute a slow, deep pushup
  5. Now push your feet off the floor and return to the position in (2)
  6. Push off with both feet and jump up, with your arms extended straight upwards
  7. Go back to (1)

 

Photo Reference: https://pixabay.com/images/search/burpee/)

 

Get Started Today

Living in a sub-tropical climate, we South Africans are really spoiled. We are accustomed to being able to swim outdoors all year round. In many places around the world, this isn’t possible. So we should embrace the opportunity to address things that we tend to neglect when the sun is shining and everything is going according to plan. Wherever you are, you can make use of the bodyweight exercises to strengthen muscles against injury, improve flexibility and enhance your cardiovascular fitness. When the time comes to get back in the pool, you’ll be bullet-proof!