The best way to build one’s strength and endurance as a swimmer is to plan a series of swimming conditioning workouts. These swimming conditioning workouts should contain a balance between different strokes including freestyle or front crawl, breaststroke, backstroke, sidestroke, and for the more advanced swimmers, the butterfly. By incorporating a variety of strokes into the swimming conditioning workouts, the swimmer works different muscle groups for an overall strengthening effect.
Mastering the Technique
When swimming for fitness, always concentrate on performing the strokes correctly as opposed to quickly. Not only does using improper stroke technique increase the chance of accruing injury, it also hinders future progress for increasing speed and agility.
Proper swimming technique includes maintaining a streamlined body during both the stroke and the follow through after the stroke, and rotating from the hips when performing the backstroke or freestyle to create a rotational force that helps pull the swimmer through the water.
Covering All the Bases
Here’s an example of an excellent sample swimming workout for a beginner to intermediate swimmer designed to improve technique on a variety of strokes. All distances are given in meters.
Always begin any swimming conditioning workout a short warm-up to get the body ready to swim. For this workout, the warm-up consists of 250 to 400 meters of a slow-paced mix of freestyle, breaststroke and backstroke.
Next, perform four 50 meter sets of scissor kick with both arms extended to the front without a kickboard, pausing every 25-50 meters to take a breather. If this is too difficult, the swimmer may use a kickboard until they develop the necessary strength to perform the drill unaided. Remember to bring the hips up by pressing the upper chest into the water.
Next, perform four 50 meter sets of single arm pulls for the right arm and four 50 meter sets for the left arm. The single arm pulls are performed on the side with the face down. Keep the left arm extended while pulling the right arm through the water and turning the body slightly to the left.
The single arm pulls are followed by four 50 meter sets of double arm pulls. These are executed in a similar manner to the single arm pulls except that the swimmer alternates the pulling arm with each stroke, rotating the body appropriately.
The end of the workout consists of a combination of stokes that are up to the swimmer’s discretion. Make sure to perform at least two 100 meter sets of each stroke- freestyle, backstroke, sidestroke, breaststroke and butterfly.
Some swimmers prefer to incorporate interval training over a shorter distance like 25 or 50 meters. For example, the swimmer could perform ten 50-meter sets of freestyle, counting the strokes needed to achieve the distance and working to reduce the number of strokes by lengthening each individual pull.
Finally, as with any athletic activity, the cool down is equally as important as the warm up to allow the muscles time to readjust to a less active state. For the cool down, perform between 150 and 250 meters of the slow-paced stroke of the swimmer’s choice. Kickboards or floatation devices may be used for a short while here, if desired.