The Best Cross Training Exercise for Swimmers and Former Swimmers

Whether you swam competitively in high school or simply prefer to work out submerged below water with a refreshing set of strokes in your local pool, good for you! Swimming is one of the best forms of exercise since it utilizes nearly all of the muscles in your body, many of which are difficult to work out through on-land exercises alone.

The best workouts for swimmers

But if your access to a pool has run dry, fear not. You can still score the same body power benefits on land. In fact, certain fitness moves involving weights that might be difficult to do underwater may even enhance your performance in the pool.


You might not think to put rowing and swimming in the same exercise category, but the movements and technique involved in each are similar. You’re moving your arms in a similar motion against a similar resistance (though you can up the resistance level on the rowing machine). You can row at a fast speed on your own accord, just as you can swim faster on your own accord, or row more slowly as you’d swim more slowly. Just make sure to warm up before hitting the rowing machine, just the way you’d warm up before setting out to master your laps.

High intensity interval training

This is one fitness trend that doesn’t look like it’s going away anytime soon. HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, combines short, intense bursts of exercise with moderate, sometimes low, recovery periods. By keeping your heart rate up high for longer than you’d experience from a more moderate exercise, like light jogging or on the elliptical, you’re burning more fat in shorter periods of time. This is great for someone who’s used to the bursts of energy expelled during swimming sprints since it’s a very similar type of aerobic activity.


You cannot discount the importance of core strength when it comes to swimming, and Pilates is one type of exercise that incorporates lots of seated ab work that targets all of your abdominal muscles, including your obliques. When you hit the water, you’ll feel stronger and will gain a more explosive start and finish to your laps.

Strength training

Building your muscle mass in any capacity will go a long way in improving your strokes and your endurance, helping you swim faster and longer. In strength training classes, you can expect to lunge, squat, push-up and more, all of which build muscles in different areas of your body. If you’re looking for something a bit more niche, try LES MILLS®, a signature strength training workout that gives you a full-body workout incorporating low to moderate weights with a ton of repetition.  


If you’re a swimmer who hasn’t given barre a try, you’re missing out. The balance-oriented, resistance training exercise incorporates the movements of classically trained ballet dancers. Why would a swimmer need to take ballet? Well, for anyone who hasn’t tried ballet before, it’s hard stuff! The movements are very small and fine-tuned, so they focus on smaller muscles you hardly use on a daily basis, in a very similar fashion to swimming. Barre can also help loosen your muscles and enhance flexibility, which naturally occurs for swimmers the longer they train in the water.

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