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S&C TRAINING FOR SWIMMERS Recommendations & Concepts

By Zied Abbes


In swimming, performance is highly dependent on strength and muscular power(1, 2) being the ability to exert force in the water a decisive factor, specifically in short distances (3, 4)

The main aim of the mechanical work performed by a swimmer is to overcome hydrodynamic resistance, which increases proportionally with the square of velocity.

Strength training is employed to manipulate the force-velocity curve and the ability to apply large amounts of muscular force under sport-specific conditions.

A positive transfer to swimming performance should be achieved through improvements in both physiological and biomechanical parameters5. An adequate programme incorporating the right exercises can improve the in-water results attainable from strength and power training (6)

Figure1: Illustration of the strength training methods prescribed to improve swimming performance and results from the literature (Mujika, I. and Crowley, E. 2019)


The coach should be aware of several considerations when designing a dryland program (9):

1) Proper exercise:

2) Nature of the exercise:

The repetitive nature of swimming predisposes swimmers to developing muscle imbalances:

Example: latissimus dorsi and pectoralis major become overdeveloped in relation to the smaller muscles that make up the scapular stabilizers.

--> These muscle imbalances not only lead to strength imbalances but also may create flexibility and postural imbalances that can predispose you to injury and inhibit optimal performance.

III. Methods of training:

A Dryland program should include a flexibility component:

-Dynamic movements and stretches can be designed as an effective low intensity warm-up

-Static stretching at the conclusion of the dryland program.

1) Circuit-training programs

Circuit-training programs: strength and aerobic stimulus. It is a series of exercises performed one after another. brief rest intervals and repeated circuits. Ideal when:

1) Performed on a pool deck.

2) Large group of swimmers

3) Younger group of swimmers

Untrained individuals show large improvements in VO2max as a result of this type of training, but trained athletes show no improvement7. Similar outcomes are seen for power and strength measure.

2) Traditional weight-training programs

Gym-based strength training exercises (bench press, latissimus pull-downs, triceps extensions…)

The practical application of traditional strength training programmes should be sport specific (e.g. joint angular ranges, muscles recruited, contraction mode, strength quality required), but specific training for muscular endurance (better with in-water swim training), which is a critical component of swimming performance, does not need to be part of a strength training programme for swimmers.

3) Plyometric

Plyometric training is a sport-specific practice used across a wide range of sports that utilize the stretch-shortening cycle to produce high levels of force. Plyometrics can improve swimming start performance and may also improve turning performance. It may also aid in kicking performance. it is important to include gradual progressions when prescribing plyometric training and the exercises should be specific and progressive in both intensity and volume (8).

4) Core Training

should be considered part of any strength training programme. Swimming performance requires a unique balance and stability in order to overcome the unstable and dynamic nature of water.

To overcome the instability in the water, swimmers requires a high level of core strength and stability.

In the following diagram, Mujika and Crowley (2019) tried to identify the 4 training practices with common themes (themes that apply to ≥ 2 training modalities).

RFD = rate of force development; ROM = range of motion; SSC = stretch-shortening cycle

specific training practice themes. RFD = rate of force development; ROM = range of motion; SSC = stretch-shortening cycle


The number of repetitions is dictated by the inverse relationship between volume and intensity

Exercise volume is equal to the total number of repetitions performed.

Intensity is a measure of the effort being exerted when performing a given exercise

As you increase the number of repetitions of a given exercise, the overall intensity at which you will be able to perform that exercise will decrease = Important according to your training Goals

Muscular endurance: A Weight that allows you to do 15 to 20 repetitions - two / three sets

Strength: A Weight that allows you to do only 5 to 8 repetitions - four / five sets

Circuit-training programs: the number of repetitions can be either predetermined or time dependent – Example: One station – 30 rep and next station 1min: Max repetition


The coach’s training goal in regard to endurance versus strength will depend on which period of the season. The goal is to prevent overtraining and maximize performance and Divide training objectives into consecutive phases to gain morphological adaptations (hypertrophy phase) and neural adaptations (strength and power phases).

Newton et al. (6) suggested that in a periodized progression, the training programme should change before competition to emphasize neural activation and help swimmers in the taper process to be more coordinated and be able to deliver forces where they need to. Taper periods leading to major competitions are known to induce gains in swimming force and power10, even in the absence of dry-land strength and power training stimuli

A well-planned and periodized strength training programme should adequately complement swim training throughout a season, allow proper long-term athlete development, limit the risk of injury, and eventually maximize competition performance (5).


1. Barbosaa , J., M, Costa b, Marinhoc, DA. Proposal of a deterministic model to explain swimming performance International Journal of Swimming Kinetics 2013;

2. Girold, S, Maurin, D, Dugue ´, B, Chatard, J-C, and Millet, G. Effects of dry-land vs. resisted and assisted sprint exercises on swimming sprint performances. J Strength Cond Res. 2007;599–605.

3. Morouco, P, Neiva H Fau - Gonzalez-Badillo, JJ, Gonzalez-Badillo Jj Fau - Garrido, N, Garrido N Fau - Marinho, DA, Marinho Da Fau - Marques, MC, Marques, MC. Associations between dry land strength and power measurements with swimming performance in elite athletes: a pilot study. 2011;1640-5544 (Print)): 2011 Sep

4. Stager, JM, Coyle, MA. Handbook of Sports Medicine and Science Swimming -second edition

5. Mujika I., E., C. Strength Training for Swimmers. . Springer, Cham

6. Newton RU, Jones J, Kraemer WJ, H. , W. Strength and power training in Asutralian Olympic swimmers. . Strength Cond J. 2002;24(7–15.

7. La Torre A, Vernillo G, Fiorella P, Mauri C, L., A, . Combined endurance and resistance circuit training in highly trained/top-level female race walkers: a case report. Sport Sci Health. 2008;4(51-58.

8. Rebutini VZ, Pereira G, Bohrer RC, Ugrinowitsch C, AL., R. Plyometric long jump training with progressive loading improves kinetic and kinematic swimming start parameters. J Strength Cond Res. 2016;30(2392–2398.

9. McLeod, I. Swimming anatomy: Your illustrated guide for swimming strength, speed and endurance. Champaig: Human kinetics.

10. Papoti M, Martins LEB, Cunha SA, Zagatto AM, CA. , G. Effects of taper on swimming force and swimmer performance after an experimental ten-week training program. J Strength Cond Res. 2007;21(538–542.


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