Winter Conditioning Tips for Swimmers

January 29, 2021

During the cold winter months, it’s far more tempting for swimmers to hibernate than stay active.

However, according to Columbia Clippers coach Kelsey Lord, the winter is a prime opportunity for dryland training (also known as strength and conditioning). Maximizing the “off-season” will improve your power, speed and overall performance in the pool come summer. You don’t necessarily need any special equipment, either — there’s plenty of bodyweight exercises and low-maintenance ways to stay in shape.

Below, check out some of Lord’s favorite ways to keep moving in the winter! 


Aerobic Exercise 

Swimming itself is an aerobic activity that keeps your heart pumping, so it’s essential to keep up with a cardiovascular fitness routine. 

There’s plenty of options: You can choose to run, power walk, cycle, skip, spin or jump rope. Running in particular is a challenging form of cross-training, while jumping rope has the added benefit of increasing your ankle flexibility and mobility.

The goal is simply to get your heart rate up, since improving your aerobic capacity will help you go further and faster in the pool. Plus, you’ll strengthen your legs simultaneously.


Yoga and Pilates 

Yoga and Pilates are different forms of exercise, but according to Lord, they boast similar benefits, especially when it comes to “increasing flexibility and creating a long body line that you want in the water.” 

Yoga and Pilates help you build lean muscle, rather than bulking up. They also improve coordination, balance, core strength, range of motion, flexibility and breathing. Both workouts also offer the unique benefit of enhancing body awareness, which is crucial for helping swimmers move as efficiently as possible in the water, as well as shoulder-opening actions that can improve your strokes.


Core Strength Moves

A strong core is key to maintaining a streamlined body position and minimizing drag. There are countless bodyweight moves that can increase your core strength crunches, planks, push -ups, leg raises, flutter kicks, dolphin kicks, jackknifes, etc. Plus, within the “plank” family there are tons of variations to keep things fresh, from side planks to forearm planks to walking planks.

Here’s a proper plank with level hips and full-body engagement.

You can also enlist medicine balls to do chest passes with a partner, which Lord says “also builds arm strength and explosiveness.”



Just like with planks, there are countless ways to switch up squats. Doing so offers swim-specific benefits, since practicing squats helps you power off of your turns.

Wondering about the keys to a proper squat? Pretend like you’re sitting back into a chair: legs come to a 90-degree angle, keep the weight in your heels, keep your knees from floating over your toes and maintain a long spine. 

Once Lord’s swimmers have mastered the traditional squat, she progresses the movement by doing jump squats, which mimics how swimmers squat and push off the wall, and then a squat jump with a streamline. 


Resistance Band Training

When it comes to dryland training, resistance bands and stress cords are amazing allies that offer tons of room for creativity. Just make sure to wrap them around something heavy and stable! (Lord suggested this helpful article for inspiration on resistance band exercises.)

“It’s fun because you can mimic some of the swim strokes,” said Lord. “For instance, you can wrap the bands around a pole and step back so they’re fully extended. Then, hold your arms out and mimic a freestyle pull or breaststroke pull. It keeps your muscle memory strong since you’re pulling and scooping in the same motion.” 

In addition, resistance bands help reduce the risk of overuse injuries. An article in Swimming World explains:

“Bands allow you to perform strength-training exercises in the way that they provide a force against which your muscles must work. This action has a very different impact on the way your muscles will contract, which stimulates bone as well as muscle growth. Muscle imbalances in swimmers usually stem from the fact that swimming works all major muscle groups, but fails to work the smaller supportive muscle groups equally. Strengthening these supportive muscle groups is the best way to not only aid injury prevention, but improve stroke mechanics as well.”


Get Stronger With CA

At CA, our three state-of-the-art fitness clubs include everything you need to stay strong this winter. Learn more on our website!

Share this post