Welcome to the freestyle installment of our BridgeAthletic swim building blocks. While every swimmer pumps out countless yards of freestyle, those who compete in freestyle events the most require stroke specific exercises. Sprinters and distance freestylers may have different tempos, distance per stroke, and breathing patterns, but the basic biomechanics of their stroke remains the same. Incorporate the following exercises into your strength training to harness more power in your freestyle.
To maximize efficiency in freestyle, swimmers need a strong core to keep the body connected from fingertips to toes. This enables a more efficient transfer of energy as the swimmer catches the water and rotates the hips. Side Bridge Leg Raises challenge the athlete’s stability, calling upon the core and lateral leg muscles to keep the body in a straight line. In general, exercises that focus on one side of the body at a time will help the athlete be more stable in the extended single-sided positions of freestyle and backstroke.
Power in freestyle is generated through the hips. It therefore follows that any exercises that boost hip rotation can be beneficial to your freestyle. The Burpee Spider Pushup is an excellent way to build strength through the oblique muscles. This is not only great for cardiovascular endurance, but also challenging for the core and chest. Technique here is critical to getting the most out of each repetition. Do a spiderman pushup by engaging your obliques to draw your knee closer to your elbow in the same horizontal plane. The biggest gains from this exercise are achieved by maintaining a strong bridge throughout the pushup.
The Lateral Pullup is a twist on the traditional exercise. At the top of the bar, the side-to-side movement engages the small stabilizer muscles in the shoulders and the upper back muscles. This is an efficient way to build the strength you need for a powerful catch without adding on unnecessary bulk in the water. Pullups are always full-body exercises, so it won’t just be your shoulders that are sore the next day.
The MB Single Leg Deadlift is another exercise that isolates one side of the body at a time. Although single-sided exercises load one leg at a time, the contralateral side of the body is busy stabilizing the imbalance that the exercise creates. Much like in the extended position of freestyle, the Single Leg Deadlift teaches the body how to engage muscles to bring the body back to neutral position. Move through this exercise smoothly and steadily, as going through the movement too fast will prevent you from working on your balance.
Another full body exercise for freestylers involves a figure 8 pattern on the ropes. Again, the side-to-side movement creates an unstable environment that athletes must overcome by engaging a combination of core, shoulder, glute and quad muscles. The rapid rotation replicates the cadence of a freestyle stroke and helps athletes change direction quickly in the water.
Adopt these exercises into your dryland routine to optimize your strength training for freestyle. By replicating the demands of freestyle in the weight room, you can build the exact strength you need to succeed. For more tips in training, check out our other articles around the BridgeBlog. Stay tuned for our next building block for backstrokers!