Total Immersion swim coach and video analysis specialist James Ewart shares some straightforward exercises to help strengthen your core and keep you swim-fit.
You’ve probably heard people say or already know that the core is super important when swimming… but why?
The role of the core is to help stabilise the pelvis and spine to keep us balanced and aligned. Correctly used, the core can also create forwards propulsion. More specifically we need to be using our anterior and posterior oblique ‘sling systems’. These are the muscle groups running diagonally across the front and back of our bodies. It’s where great golfers, tennis players, boxers and swimmers generate a lot of their power from.
While we are notable to swim we need to try and work these systems so that we are in the best shape possible when we get back in the water.
The front sling is the exterior oblique, the interior oblique and the hip adductor. On your back it’s the lats, the thoracolumbar fascia and the glutes. Think of them as your stabilisers and your engine room. By stretching them you can help stabilise the hips and pelvis and then you release them to assist rotation and drive forwards – a bit like like firing a catapult.
Traditionally we have worked work on our core muscles in isolation: crunches, planks, leg raises, sit ups etc. But they are of limited value when it comes to strengthening the sling systems. And for swimming and pretty much anything other than aesthetic body building, that’s pointless. Much better to work on the group of muscles so they get used to working together.
Here are six simple exercises you can do at home to help strengthen your anterior and posterior oblique sling systems.
No band resistance
All these exercises can be done on their own in sets of three of combined with others as a “circuit” to make it more interesting.
Start with 10 reps and build to 20 (or 30 seconds building to a minute)
1 – Dead Bugs
Lie on your back, knees bent at 90 degrees with back straight, arms straight up in front of shoulders. Lower opposite arm and leg and hold just above the ground for a second coming back to the neutral position and then repeating on the opposite side.
2 – Wood choppers
Kneel side on with extended leg on side you are going to pull, hold band with extended arms and draw across body from high to low position, look to keep arms straight and rotate with your shoulders and not your hips then control return to start and repeat. Keep the core engaged.
3 – Bird Dog
Kneeling make sure knees are below your hips and hands are below shoulders, hips are neutral and head is neutral and not hanging, lift opposite arms and legs to full extended parallel. Make sure tummy is tucked in back remains straight.
4 – Advanced Bird Dog
Same thing but starting in a press up position. Hold extended arm and leg for a second and alternate.
1 – Pallof Press
Stand tall and evenly balanced side on to band with slight bend in knee, pelvis neutral, clasp band at centre of chest, take a breath, engage your core and press band away. Draw band back towards chest, avoiding the rotational pull of the band throughout.
2 – Staggered single arm press
In a lunge position, push forwards against band secured at shoulder height pushing left arm forwards when right leg is forwards and vice versa. Keep core engaged.
3 – Staggered single arm pull
In a lunge position, pull backwards against band secured at shoulder height pulling left arm forwards when right leg is forwards and vice versa. Keep core engaged.