Jen Rulon

Strength training has played a HUGE role in my life, and how it has changed my body from a triathlete to an everyday healthy human. If you are looking for a TON of strength training workouts, such as HIIT, LIVE, body weight, and warm-ups, head to my APP!

As I looked at my blogs, I realized that the swimming information is what I am lacking. So, I wanted you to re-share and update this week’s blog!

In this blog,  I will chat about swimmers and strength training. Swimmers, this is a mistake if you are NOT in a weight room. EVERYONE needs to be in the weight room (Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, etc.) BTW. So, I present to you the following: 

Top 5 Strength Training Exercises for Swimmers

1. Pull-Ups/Weighted Pull-Ups/Negative Pull-Ups

Either you LOVE pull-ups, or you HATE pull-ups. I love strict pull-ups being used as part of the strength portion of your workout. Why? I ask: “What muscles do swimmers use for the front crawl swim stroke?”

The same muscles are used: trapezius, deltoid, pectorals major, triceps, and Latissimus Dorsi.

Pull-ups are hard for a lot of athletes, so here is my suggestion:

You CAN do a Strict Pull-Up

If you can do a strict pull-up, I would like you to do at least ten. Too easy? Challenge yourself and start adding some weight to your pull-ups. Place a dumbbell between your feet or your knees. Start small: 5 – 10 lbs of weight, and knock out five pull-ups. If you can knock out five pull-ups, increase them to 6, 7, etc. Up to 10 pull-ups with the weight that you started with.**

You CAN NOT do a Strict Pull-Up

Negative Pull-Ups. Ensure your grip is pronated, jump up to the bar, and your chin is over the bar. Then slowly lower yourself: 10-20 seconds of lowering.**

Check out this great article from Breaking Muscle. I used to do many banded pull-ups with my clients and me, but I have changed my ways.

2. Dumbbell Rows

I LOVE this exercise! I have seen so many people be able to do pull-ups, chin-ups, and toe 2 bars, just by doing this exercise. Not only will it help you in the gym, but it will also help you in the pool! (Thanks to Dan from King William District CrossFit, who showed me the light!)

What muscles are being used in the dumbbell rows? To name a few: Trapezius, rhomboids, Latissimus dorsi, deltoid (Posterior), and brachialis.

Make sure you activate the scapula versus using your whole body. Your torso should be horizontal to the floor. Check this video!

3. Back Extension (Weighted or Non-Weighted)

What gets fatigued when a triathlete is in their wetsuit for an extended period? Their lower back. Being in a wetsuit can be very “unnatural” for an extended period.

This exercise will target the erector spinae, glutes, hamstrings, and adductors.

You can do the back extension on the GHD machine (CrossFit gym) or the Roman Chair in a global gym.

Here is a decent video to see how to do it properly. If you don’t have this machine, check out how to do it at home.

4. Squats

What’s not to love about the squat? You can do air squats, Back squats, dumbbell squats, Overhead Squats, Front Squats, and Goblet Squats. There are endless kinds of squats.

It is an entire lower body exercise that works the hip and knee joints, along with the numerous muscles on the anterior (front) and posterior (back) of the leg and the butt.

We want to increase the strength of the knee extensors since this will improve both force and endurance when kicking, whether it is the butterfly stroke or the front crawl.

Some swimmers will do a flat start in a competition; what muscles would you use? Very much the same as in a squat.

5. Barbell Windshield Wipers (Core Work)

We hear this from our swim coaches: Use your core; turn more by using your body. How do we get that strong? So many great core exercises, but I like this one. (Hollow Rocks, V-Ups, Strict Toes to Bar, to name a few others)

We are using our abs for this type of work and tapping into our hip flexors.

Click HERE on how to do floor wipers.

Here is a FANTASTIC photo of what muscles are used for in ALL the strokes!

Building strength for athletes, whether you are a swimmer, cyclist, runner, or triathlete, is an ABSOLUTE must. Start looking around at who is lifting more. They may be the ones passing you in the pool.

Need Swim Workouts? 

Swimming Workout Examples:

Speed it Up!

300 Warm Up

3 x 100 kick drills with fins

3x 100 arm drills with fins

Main Set:

10 x 100 with a:10 rest

100 cool down

2000 total

Work That Endurance!

300 warm-up

3x 100 kick drills with fins

3x 100 arm drills with fins

Main Set:

5 x 200 with a:15 rest

100 cool down

2000 total

Get After It!

300 Warm-up

6 x 50 Kick with board and fins

6 x 50 Arm Drill (25 Catch Up/25 Swim)

Main Set: (3 – 5 Rounds)

1 x 200 Free,

2 x 100 Pull buoy and Paddles

100 cool down

2200 – 3000 Total


AUTHOR: Jen Rulon

I have been coaching triathletes, runners, and cyclists for over 21+ years; I received my Master's Degree in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Exercise Science. And as you may have learned, there is more to life than swimming, biking, and running. It is a lifestyle, and I am here to help you cross that finish line with a smile, whether it is an Ironman Triathlon or the Ironman of Life. You can find my knowledge shared in Triathlete Magazine, Runners World, on the TEDx Stage, the Health and Wellness Expo in San Antonio, TX, Southwest Research Institute Human Performance Summit, Training Peaks Workshops, "Self Motivation Strategies for Women" on Amazon, Men's Journal Online, and the New York Times. I also practice what I preach—she's a 15x Ironman Triathlete who participated in the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, on October 14, 2017.

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