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Nathan Adrian's Three Favorite Strength Exercises | BridgeAthletic

Posted by Nick Folker on Aug 21, 2014 8:23:00 PM

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Download Take Your Shot at Greatness Today we will feature BridgeAthlete and Olympic Gold Medalist, Nathan Adrian.  Nathan is the best power sprinter in the world. He is currently training to defend his London Olympic performance where he won three gold medals.   His three favorite Bridge exercises are the Weighted Pull Up, the Hex Bar Dead Lift and the Disc Freestyle slide.  


Weighted Pullups

Equipment: For this exercise you will need a pull up bar, as well as a weighted vest or belt.

Starting Position: Start standing with your arms extended upwards. Rest your hands in wide grip position on the pull up bar above you.


  • Keeping your hands in the resting wide grip position, pull upwards until your chin is above the bar. Keep your core tight and avoid leg thrusts and movement.
  • Once your chin is above the bar, begin lowering your body until your arms are fully extended upwards. Avoid letting your feet touch the ground.
  • Repeat these steps in order to reach your rep goals.
  • To make this exercise more difficult consider adding more weight to your vest or belt.

Nathan is a power swimmer and the weighted pull is by far one of his most impressive strengths in the weight room. He can do pull ups with upwards of 60 kilos on a given day, which is really impressive for a swimmer of his size. Nathan has worked on this movement for the last 5-6 years and credits this exercise with his ability to build a more powerful catch. “The weighted pull up is very important for sprinters,” Adrian says. “We need to generate a lot of power to sprint, so strength to weight ratio crucial. This exercise helps increase my strength to weight ratio in a movement that directly translates to the pool.”



Trap / Hex Bar Deadlift –

Equipment: You will need a hex bar and weighted plates for additional weight.

Starting Position: Start standing in an athletic position inside of the hex bar with your arms at your side.


  • To begin, bend at the hip and knee while keeping a straight back until you can grab onto the hex bar.
  • Gripping the handles of the hex bar, return to a standing position remembering to use your legs to facilitate the upward movement.
  • Once at the top, bend at the hip and knee again until you can lightly touch the weight to the ground.
  • Repeat this controlled movement until you reach your desired number of reps.
  •  Add more weight to the hex bar as you become more comfortable with the movement.

The deadlift is a fantastic compound movement that focuses on working the larger muscles like the quads, hamstrings, glutes and lower back while also activating the shoulders traps and lats. The motion of the dead lift emphasizes pushing away from the floor, which almost perfectly replicates starts and turns – a critical aspect of any sprinter’s race. For Nathan, the hex bar allows him to take some of the load off of his spine (as opposed to using a barbell), while maintaining perfect technique. “As a taller athlete,” Adrian says, “I prefer to use the Trap Bar. The Deadlift sets a great foundation for my starts and all of my Olympic lifts.”



Disc Freestyle –

Equipment: You will need two sliding discs and a flat smooth surface.

Starting Position:  Start in pushup position with your arms fully extended and your hands on the two sliding discs.


  • From your starting position, move your right arm forward and your left arm backwards. Extend as far forward as you can while maintaining a proper plank position and a straight arm. Your left arm will move backwards and bend at your elbow.
  • Once you have extended all the way forward, you are going to alternate your arms. Bring your left arm forward as you move your right arm back.
  • Alternate until you have reached your desired number of reps.
  • Be sure to maintain a tight core and a flat back. Extend further forward as you become more comfortable with the movement.

The Disc Freestyle is an exercise you can do anywhere—on the pool deck, at a yoga studio, or just on the kitchen floor—using discs on a slide board. Don’t have a slide board? Use towels and a smooth surface. This movement is all about moving your own bodyweight and staying connected through the motion. This connection is important Adrian says, “because it facilitates a transfer of power from the large core and leg muscles into the extremities. I like to work on some body weight freestyle-specific work in the weight room I can feel the connection from fingertips to toes doing this, and I really feel the transfer of power when I’m in the pool”.

That transfer of power is how we generate swim speed. By focusing on staying connected from core to extremities, Nathan and our athletes have discovered there’s more to strength training than lifting heavy loads.



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Swimming Strength and Conditioning - BridgeAthletic


Topics: Performance Trends