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Supersets for Swimmers

The best place to improve your strokes may be on the pool deck.

From deep water running to swimming, the water is every athlete's ally. It provides resistance without stressing the joints and functions as both a strength-building and fat-burning workout. To get the most out of your sessions in the pool, though, you should complement them with land-based moves, says Mackenzie Rae Wickliffe, Equinox Century City Tier 3+ trainer. “Research has shown that strength training increases both stroke rate and distance traveled per stroke,” she says. For example, in a study of middle-distance swimmers, two strength sessions a week improved their force in the pool.

You don’t even have to leave the pool deck to do this routine, created by Wickliffe. Just grab at a kettlebell*, a set of dumbbells*, and a yoga mat and work through it before or after a swim.

“Almost all muscles in the body are utilized while swimming, but certain muscle groups will fire a bit more than others depending on which stroke you are performing,” Wickliffe adds. That’s why she’s selected two exercises for each stroke. Here’s the logic beyond her choices:

Freestyle: “Pushing and pulling strength and power is most dominant during the freestyle stroke. The renegade rows provide the pull while the push-ups, of course, are a great upper-body pushing movement.”

Butterfly: “Lower-body strength and power is essential for functional kicking during the butterfly stroke. The lunges work your shoulders in addition to giving you that lower-body work and the squat jumps will help with the power component.”

Back Stroke: “Pushing and pulling strength and power is also most dominant during the back stroke. Both the superman and kettlebell snatch help with strength while the latter move is particularly great for power.”

Breast Stroke: “Lower-body strength and power is also essential for functional kicking during the breast stroke. The loaded lateral lunges and wood chops are both solid lower-body moves; the latter also targets your shoulders and core.” 

*Choose weights appropriate for your skill level with these particular moves. You should be able to perform all the reps with proper form, but feel as if you couldn’t do many more.

The Workout:

Perform three rounds of each superset. Complete four to six repetitions (on each side if applicable) if your goals are more strength-related. If they are more endurance-based, do 10 to 12 reps. *Alternatively, move through the entire list of exercises as a circuit (using the same rep ranges). Take a short rest, and then repeat the entire circuit two more times.