The Top 6 Core Exercises for Swimmers

Michael Butler
Written by
Last update:

The Plank.

The classic plank is an easy, low-modification exercise for beginners. For a stronger core, be sure to contract your stomach muscles, not just your arms and shoulders.

This exercise is a classic core building exercise for swimmers, and it is something you should keep in your routine.

There are hundreds of ways to perform a plank. Here are some of the variations we use in our training programs:

Extended Plank

This is where you put your hands further in front of you and extend your feet.

Bird Dog Plank

This is similar to the chest down exercise, but you are in a push up position with only your left hand and right foot touching the ground. This places more pressure on one side of your chest than the other, which is why we give it a variation.

Single Leg Plank

This is just like the standard plank, but using only one hand and foot. You leave one hand and one foot on the ground, then you put one hand and foot on the side of your body as if you are climbing a rope. This is a very difficult exercise.

Chest Down Plank

Start by laying on your back, then lift your chest off the ground using your arms and legs, keeping your back straight.

Weighted Plank

Hold a dumbbell between your feet.

Hip Bridges

Hip bridges are an effective exercise for developing a stronger core. Hip bridges can strengthen your glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps and abdominal muscles and are an excellent exercise to perform after your swimming workout to further condition your hips and glutes.

Hip bridges require your legs to be bent, with your heels pressing into the ground. You should also have one arm reaching towards the ceiling. The objective of this exercise is to bring your hips up toward the ceiling, while simultaneously moving your arm towards the ceiling. You should maintain proper form throughout the duration of this exercise.

This is an exercise that should be done in sets of 10-15 repetitions. You can try to alternate between straightening and bending your knees and try various forms of this exercise to ensure maximum benefit. A wide leg variation of the hip bridge will target your outer glute muscles, whereas a close leg variation will target your inner glutes, which is helpful for swimmers who tend to be inflexible.


The Ultimate Exercise for Strengthening the Core.

The Superman is one of the most effective exercises to strengthen the lower back.

Draw a line along the ground with each extended leg.

Extend your arms above your head as you raise your hips and torso off the ground.

Hold for about five seconds then lower slowly.

Repeat 3 sets of 8-15 reps daily.

V-Sit Kicking

One of the most common complaint of pool swimmers is back pain during and after swim practice.

Your core (i.e., abs and back) is designed to support the weight of your upper body. If your abs and lower back are too weak or your form is off, it will put more burden on them and ultimately lead to back pain.

V-sit kicking is one of the simplest but most effective exercises to strengthen your abs. The motion involves kicking your legs while lying on your back and contracting your abs as if you were doing a crunch.

In an ideal world, this is an exercise that should be performed regularly. But there is a simple way to integrate this core exercise into your pool practices. Here’s how you do it.

{1}. Assume a sitting position in the water, with both your legs and arms straight.
{2}. Keeping your arms straight, lift your legs until they are vertical.
{3}. Start kicking using an exaggerated flutter kick.
{4}. Contract your abs as if you were doing a crunch.
{5}. Repeat sets of 25 kicks.

Cable Push-pull

I love this one because it’s so versatile. You can use it to strengthen your back muscles while also improving your core stability.

It works by eliminating the rotational forces in your core. Rotational forces are bad for swimmers and divers because they can affect your body line and create a wobble that’s pretty easy to spot. So, this exercise helps you work on your rotational awareness and improve how you swim.

Slip your feet through the loops of the cable and grab the handle in front of you. Make sure you get a full grip on the handle, because you’re going to be pushing/pulling later.

Keep your spine as flat as you can.

Push the handle away from you so that the cable extends behind you in a straight line.

Tighten your core and involve your back muscles as you push. You want to feel the contraction in the back and stretching of your spine. This provides stability to your core and helps you swim in a straighter line.

With a slow and steady movement, bring the handle back to your starting position.

Russian Twists

With the exception of swimmers, athletes, and the more daring gym goers, this exercise is rarely performed.

Limited space, airborne germs, and low return on investment all contribute to this exercise’s limited appeal.

In the below video the exercise is called the”Russian Twist,” but notice that it’s executed on a table.

How and why it works:

If you’ve ever lifted weights, you’ve done a twist. The Russian twist is a little different because rather than focusing on your biceps, it focuses on your obliques (if your abdomen has any muscle definition at all). The obliques run lengthwise along both sides of your stomach.

Twists aren’t a new exercise. They’ve been around (and popular) for centuries. Check out this clip from a movie from the 1920’s:

The Takeaway

Not surprisingly, one of the best ways to improve your swimming performance is to get in better shape. Yet you don’t have to spend hours on the treadmill to start feeling the benefits. In fact, it’s possible to make great strides by hitting the pool, doing nothing more than strengthening your core. Stronger core muscles will help boost power, improve body control and enhance balance. Here are the top six core exercises recommended by experts for swimmers:

  • Arm Plank
  • Chinese
  • Curl-ups
  • Russian Twists
  • Leg Lifts

See Also:

Strength is one of the most important qualities that any competitive swimmer must develop. The strongest swimmers can overpower the weakest, whether in drills or in races. Increased strength means longer, more powerful strokes and a stronger kick to propel you forward.

Most swimmers spend their time doing laps or stroke drills. While these are both vital to your training, good core strength is essential for every stroke style. If you’re struggling to develop this strength, the following six exercises will help you achieve it.

The Plank

The plank is a great exercise to strengthen your core muscles. To perform it, rest on your forearms and toes, with your stomach and back in the same line. Try to hold it for 60 seconds.

Back Extension

As the name suggests, the back extension exercise focuses on the muscles of the back. To perform it, lie flat on the floor with your toes on a 3-6-inch step or bench. Hold a dumbbell in each hand. Lift your hips until you are in a straight line with your shoulders and legs. Squeeze your back muscles and hold for a few seconds. Return to the floor while breathing naturally. Repeat 10 times.

Plank jack