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Improve Your Swimming Performance In and Out of the Water

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Improve Your Swimming Performance In and Out of the Water

Swimming is a universal sport that can be enjoyed by the young and old, the fit and unfit and everyone in between. The pool, lake or ocean can be a peaceful getaway and, simultaneously, a challenging workout. The health benefits of swimming are numerous, and the sport is considered to be one of the top five aerobic exercises.

Cooper Fitness Center Swim Pro Marni Kerner and Professional Fitness Trainer Christian Mazur explain how to get the most out of your swim workouts both in the gym and in the water.

Health Benefits of Swimming

Swimming is a form of low-impact exercise that can build both cardiovascular and muscular strength. It requires a high level of endurance and uses more muscles than other forms of aerobic exercise. “Swimming has multiple health benefits, including increasing lung capacity and aerobic threshold,” explains Mazur. “The sport can improve cardiovascular fitness, improve full body circulation, help with stress management and provide full body mobility training, all of which help improve one’s overall fitness level.”

Water provides a low-impact exercise environment, which is ideal for people who need a joint-friendly workout. People who are recovering from an injury, have limitations due to years of wear and tear, people who are overweight and women who are pregnant may find water exercise the easiest and safest form of exercise.

"Swimming lowers blood pressure and heart rate, and provides a direct benefit to cardiac health," explains Kerner. "I have cardiac patients under my instruction as well as people working through injuries, and swimming helps them get back into exercise without overworking their bodies."

Training on Land

While actually swimming is the best way to improve at the sport, some dry land drills and exercises can be done to help improve joint mobility in order to be efficient in the water. “The best things you can do in the gym to improve your swimming include building your core and joint stabilizer muscles, including your hips and shoulders,” says Mazur.

If you don’t always have access to a pool or body of water, endurance and strength exercises of the lats, triceps, shoulders, core and hip and leg extensors and flexors are cross-training activities that will help improve your performance. 

Additionally, it's beneficial to include stretching exercises on land before and after your swim workouts. After a quick in-pool warm-up, take time for light stretching to mobilize the shoulders and neck. Foam rolling after swimming helps relieve muscles and keep your body loose.

Training in Water

Some people may find swimming intimidating due to its difference from other cardiovascular activities, specifically working horizontally instead of vertically, as with running and cycling. Learning proper breathing techniques can also be challenging for some. "I recommend working with a qualified instructor when you begin swim training," says Kerner. "The instructor will look at your mechanics and give proper training instruction, as well as guide you toward reaching your exercise goals."

Depending on your goals, your swim training can vary. Beginner swimmers may choose to start by swimming laps a few days a week. Intermediate swimmers may look to train for triathlons to add additional challenges to their swimming routines by incorporating regular cycling and running. Experienced swimmers who take to open water must learn additional survival skills, including adjusted strokes and breathing techniques, in order to maintain proper form and strength while facing wind, waves and currents. “Triathlon training is a more structured approach to increasing volume, duration and intensity,” explains Mazur. “Open water swimming is entirely different–currents and waves can cause more stress and fatigue when battling against them than when swimming in a pool.”

Avoiding Injury

Shoulder injuries can be common in swimmers due to impingement of the shoulder joint from crossing the center line while swimming freestyle. Strengthening the shoulder and fine-tuning your stroke can help avoid this issue. Additionally, neck tightness can take place from continually taking a breath on the same side of the body. Mazur suggests trying to breathe on alternating sides to reduce fatigue.

For more information about swim programs at Cooper Fitness Center, visit or call Marni Kerner at 972.233.4832, ext. 5447.

Article provided by Cooper Aerobics Marketing and Communications