Swimming is an amazing way to keep fit. It’s a great workout in every possible sense, and it has a huge list of benefits. However, when it comes to performance swimming and trying to be the best possible swimmer that you can be, things are a little more complex. Improving your performance in any exercise is difficult enough, and sadly swimming is no different. Practising is the usual route to go down, but if you’re thinking outside of the box, that’s where cross-training comes into play, even with swimming.

It sounds bizarre since swimming is pretty much the only exercise that you can do that involves water, but cross-training can still be a huge help. Using the same muscles as you would do for swimming but in a different scenario is an awesome way to improve. You are shocking your muscles with a new and potentially more beneficial challenge that can directly and indirectly impact. It's tried and tested to be awesome.


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Strength Cross-Training

To get the ball rolling, we’ll start by looking at how strength and weight training can help your swimming performance. Bigger muscles often mean more speed and power, after all, and that’s awesome for swimming. Plyometric exercises are the best way to get that, and that’s the focus of these exercises.

Box Jumps

person in a gym doing box jumps

The first exercise to try and improve swimming is box jumps. Using the legs in an explosive burst to jump high is one of the best ways to add that explosive start to a swim, push off walls, and keep the legs at a strength level to swim better throughout. It's an all-around winner.

Clap Push-Ups

man in the gym doing clap push ups

The pectoral or chest muscles are another big player in swimming performance, and to make sure you're improving your swimming regularly, push-ups are a great way to go about it. Instead of standard push-ups, adding other things into the mix, like clap push-ups again, adds this plyometric feel. You need to thrust yourself through the water repeatedly, and exercises like clap push-ups ensure you can do that frequently (but any push up will help).

Pull-Ups/ChinUps

woman using a gym machine to do pull ups

The last cross-training strength exercise we suggest that will help here is pull-ups or chin-ups if they are too difficult right now. Even lat pulldowns can bridge the gap. Anything that's really getting your lats involved in as natural a way as possible really. Your lats are involved massively in swimming as you pull your arms back through the water. Improving your upper back strength will give you an awesome edge that you might not think you need.

Cardio Cross-Training

Aside from using your muscles more or building strength, using other cardio is a great way to go about things here too. Cardio is never one to forget about, even if it seems less useful. Remember, though, swimming is pretty unique, and it’s hard to replicate the same kind of motion, unlike running, which is much easier (as we know).

Rowing

Close up of the main body of a rowing machine, being used by a man who is blurred out in the background

One of the best ways that you can find for this in the first place is by using full-body cardio. A perfect example of doing that is rowing. Rowing is using both resistance and cardio in harmony, just like swimming does. Add that to the similar motion style (kind of), and you're going to be a better swimmer. It does make sense if you can picture how you move.

Cross-Training

woman sweating using a cross trainer

The last cross-training exercise we'll look at to improve your swimming is… well… cross-training. Using a cross trainer is pretty much the universal cardio. It has a little bit of everything, and since again it uses your whole body, it's going to help swimming. You use just about everything equally, and when it comes to swimming, that's about the best you can get. As another plus here, cross trainers are low impact too, which is another winner, especially for more relaxed or even active rest.

Ultimately, it's always better to experiment and see what works the best for you. Different exercises have different benefits, and they all come together in different ways. These are some of the best things you can do for your swimming performance as a whole, but nothing beats practise, this is just a great plateau buster or boost on top of all that. Good luck!


Before beginning any exercise or nutrition program, consult your physician, doctor or other professional. This is especially important for individuals over the age of 35 or persons with pre-existing health problems. Exercise.co.uk assumes no responsibility for personal injury or property damage sustained using our advice.

If you experience dizziness, nausea, chest pain, or any other abnormal symptoms, stop the workout at once and consult a physician or doctor immediately.