Sunday, January 04, 2009

Swimming Advice

Ok, to all of our loyal followers who swim, I need some advice. I am finally to the point where there's no longer any real threat of drowning, so I can concentrate on swimming a little more. The other day, I was asking the lifeguard for some advice on breathing and stuff, and one of the comments he made while watching me swim was that I use my legs a lot. I didn't think I was, but I wasn't really thinking about it much, as I was more focused on breathing air instead of water, etc.

Today, I felt comfortable enough that I could think about something other than breathing, and I realized that I was indeed using my legs a lot. I tried to use them less, and found that I got tired really quickly. My upper body is apparently weak. So, assuming I try to incorporate some gym time into my workout routine (which right now consists of swimming and watching Netflix movies from the couch), what should I concentrate on trying to strengthen to help improve swimming?

11 comments:

Jenny Davidson said...

Sad but true: when it comes to swimming, there is nothing you need to worry about strength-wise until you continue to do a lot of technique work! If you can find some kind of a group swim class/clinic, possibly one for triathletes, it will be very helpful. That said, it is always a good idea to do basic core and upper-body exercises: if you do push-ups and crunches, plus the most obvious upper-body exercises (biceps and triceps with free weights, shoulder press, lats, lower back - can do front and side raises too if you want to get fancy!) it will not hurt. But really - best thing will be to find someone to help you work on technique stuff in the pool. It sounds to me more a question of body position and working on the 'catch' in the water - try doing some swimming with a pull buoy, which immobilizes your legs but keeps them pretty high up in the water, and thinking about your body rotation and the feel of the pull. All of this cannot really be done by a relative beginner without input from a teacher, though! (Sorry for long comment - having gone through all this myself, I have thought much about the problem!)

Joe said...

thanks, jenny. i won't dispute that someone helping me with technique would help, but i have four weeks until surgery and just want to stay moderately active in that time.

after surgery and rehab, if i decide to continue swimming and move into tris, lessons/clinics will probably be something i'll look into, but right now, i'm just wondering what i can do to get stronger in the muscles one uses swimming, which i've never really used before (and thus, aren't quite sure exactly which ones are most important).

Duane said...

Do a lot of Pulls for your upper body strength in the pool, and swim without using your legs at all for a while, that's how I did it and my back is really strong. Also lat pull downs, low pulley rows, and grab the lat pull down bar with your arms straight and you standing. Let the bar go up above shoulder height and bring it down to your thighs with your arms straight using only your lats, it's a great exercise!

Kevin said...

You may want to do pulls with paddles. The paddles create extra resistance which helps improve strength, but be careful about doing too much with them too quickly, because overdoing it can hurt your shoulders

Wendy said...

Welcome to the pool side!!!

Jenny is right -- overuse of legs is usually a technique issue.

Kevin is also right -- paddles can result in shoulder injuries, particularly if technique is lacking in the first place.

Runners and cyclists who come to the pool as an alternative often kick with too much knee bend instead of from the hip, and often too deeply. Kicking from the hip works your long axis rotation, kicking from the knee impedes it, and also creates drag. (I tell folks that their knees should be soft, they do bend of course.)

Here's an odd thing -- swimming freestyle properly does use your arm muscles, but really you want to be engaging your big back muscles.

Finally, it is important to work the complementary muscles to avoid imbalances, so folks who do a lot of freestyle should also do some backstroke. If full backstroke is not your thing, double arm back is a good alternative!

Amy said...

Some nice advice there... I SUCK at swimming, and was interested in what advice others would give you...

Although... at this point, I guess i'd have to actually join a gym to do any swimming and I think I'll just continue to put that off for another year or so...

Good luck with it though!

sherri said...

if you do really want help or advice on technique, ask adrienne. she's planning on coming to use my pool too, see if you can arrange schedules - i'm sure she'd help and be able to watch/offer advice.

Joe said...

thanks for the great info, everyone. i found that there is a swim buoy at the pool, so i think i'm going to experiment with that when in the pool, and try some of the suggestions duane made if i can drag myself to the gym. i also talked to a friend who has previously given swim lessons and she said she'd be happy to work with me.

hopefully this will make the next month tolerable. :)

M said...

hey joe - all those comments are excellent, and the bouy will definately help stablize the legs and force you to use your upper body. A couple other things:

Make sure your head is down, and not (as a common mistake) up and looking forward. With your head down looking at the ground, your body naturally balences itself.

Also, with each stroke, try to rotate your body at the hips. So everytime you pull your right arm up and out in front of you, twist your hips in the same direction.

You will find that, with the momentum of your arms forward and your rotating hips, you won't need your legs as much.

Finally, to get an idea of what I am talking about, go to YouTube and try to look up Total Immersion swimming, or any other swim technique to get the general idea.

Weights will help with stregnth, but improved form (with just these minor little adjustments) will help much more.

Steve Stenzel said...

Yep, I agree with Jenny. I would emphasis core work more. A lot of good side-to-side propulsion comes from the core.

When people see me in the pool, they say I don't use my legs enough! Once they hear I'm a triathlete, then it all makes sense to them - saving my legs a little for what's to come...

Good luck!

Swimming for ME said...

Use the therabands for strengthening. There have been some studies -- which I think are cited in the most recent or next to most recent USMS Swimmer magazine -- that show that weights DO NOT improve swimming times but that training with therabands does. ANd have someone videotape you so you can analyze your stroke. Makes a huge difference. You will see yourself doing things you did not think you were doing. Good luck!