Now that we're all inspired by the swims -- and, yes, the abs -- of Dana Vollmer, Michael Phelps, and Missy Franklin, it's time to jump into the pool and get your swim on! With a busy schedule and scattered recreational swim hours, it can be hard to fit in a pool workout. Luckily, you can still improve your stroke and technique in the gym by incorporating these upper-body exercises into your next weight-room session. Soon, you will begin to notice better balance, rotation, and strength in the water.
Medicine Ball Push-ups
Benefits: Strengthens your overall body, placing specific emphasis on the arms and core. Focusing on one side of your body at a time, and then all parts together, will help with overall body connection, balance, and awareness in all four swimming strokes.
Gear: One medium-sized, hard medicine ball.
• Start in a plank position with your right hand on the medicine ball. The wider your feet, the easier the exercise. Remember, you can always try this on your knees.
• Bend your elbows, lowering yourself toward the ground. Push yourself up returning to plank.
• Do five to seven reps for a set. Then repeat the same motions on your left side.
• To complete the round, move the medicine ball off to the side and do five to seven basic push-ups, focusing totally on body connection and technique.
Benefits: Similar to a freestyle and butterfly catch, use this exercise to target your latissimi dorsi (lats). Focusing on your catch, the bar will have a similar role and resistance to the water. In this exercise, it is not so much the amount of weight you are working with, but your technique and form, making you more aware of the connection between your catch and lat muscles.
Gear: Your gym's basic lat pull-down machine.
• Set up your machine with a light weight. Start with around 10-15 pounds (you can always move up). Remember, this exercise is highly specific to your catch — awareness is more important than weight.
• Standing, not sitting, extend your arms with a slight bend in the elbow and place your hands on the bar a bit wider than shoulder-distance apart. Release your grip to where only the palms of your hands are on the the bar (this helps direct the exercise to your lats).
• Standing tall, slowly lower the bar down with control to hip level. Raise the bar with the same control back up to ear level.
• Do 15 to 20 reps to complete a set.
Traditional Lat Pull-Up
Benefits: Strengthens your entire upper body and improve core stability.
Gear: Pull-up bar, superband (optional), assisted pull-up machine (optional).
• Gripping the pull-up bar, face your palms away from you, relying on your back muscles to pull your chin to the bar.
• Lower yourself with control and repeat the exercise, bringing your chin back up to the bar. Do as many as you can until you lose proper form.