I started swimming at the age of 5 and swam competitively from the ages of 12-16. In this time I qualified for
Nationals representing England in the 100m breaststroke. My favourte event was 50m breaststroke: an all out sprint event. I stopped swimming at the age of 17. 10 years on I got back into swimming and approached the training in a different way. I focused more on strength training and less pool time. The event I wanted to compete in was 50m breaststroke. The reason for my return - I wanted to see if I could challenge the usual norm of 10+ swimming sessions per week and still be fast in the water. I swam for 6 months, 2-3 sprint focused pool sessions: Dive starts, turns, explosive power, 35m sprints at most. Along side this, I trained 4 days per week in the gym focusing on the compound lifts, and other movements that are specific to improving my swimming speed. Monday - Squat focus Tuesday - Bench focus Thursday - Deadlift focus Friday - Overhead press focus I stuck to a lower rep range for the compound lifts to help increase my overall strength. I also made sure I was progressively overloading my body each week, increasing either the reps or weights. This ensured that I was getting stronger. Here is an example of the Squat focus day:
I also focused a lot on shoulder health to prevent injury. If you're a swimmer you will already know how tight those shoulders can get. Activating the shoulders before the sessions helped, and also adding in some specific exercise such as DB external rotations to increase the strength of my rotator cuff muscles kept me in working order. Here is an example of an Overhead Press day:
Within 6 months, I raced twice, breaking the Australian National Record for 25m breaststroke (25-29yrs) and the QLD State Record for 50m breaststroke (25-29yrs). Also breaking my personal best from when I used to swim 10+ sessions a week. I'm not saying dramatically decrease your time in the pool. What I've gathered from this is that it's not just about the swimming. Weight training could benefit many swimmers if they are not already doing it. And perhaps having more of a structured strength training program could improve their explosiveness off the block, increase their pulling power, accelerate their kick and could potentially give them the edge over their competitors. Below is a link to the strength program I created and followed during this time which gave me swimming power like never before. If you're a sprint swimmer (25m-50m events) after more speed in the water and an intermediate/advanced level lifter, then I recommend this program. It's been tried and tested.