Core strength has been one of the buzz terms that has flourished on pool decks in the past 15 years. More than just a fad, core strength is something that swimmers from Ryan Lochte to Roland Schoeman have all said are essential cogs in their training wheel.
Strength and conditioning specialist – and former Olympic swimmer – Nick Folker of Bridge Athletic talks about the necessity of having a strong core often in working with athletes such as Nathan Adrian, Anthony Ervin and Natalie Coughlin.
Whether we are talking about improving your dolphin kick, your start, or the amount of propulsion generated through your pull, it all originates from one place – the power plant of your body, the core.
Movement begins at the core, at the centre, and moves outwards from there. When you rotate side to side while doing freestyle, when you are pulling your heels to your butt during a breaststroke kick; each of these movements uses your core to initiate and execute.
The benefits of having a strong core go far beyond the pool, as you will learn briefly.
Here are 4 ways that improved core strength will help you perform better in the water (and in life!)—
Stability and balance in the water.
A strong core gives you greater stability and balance. This occurs because the core acts as a stabilizer to the pelvis and spine. As mentioned previously, any and all movements – and we are talking non-swimming movements as well such as walking, running, and lifting – pass through the centre of your body.
Keeps you streamlined.
Try streamlining with a loose (unflexed) mid-section. Now do it while sucking in your belly button and engaging your glutes. Feel the difference? You should! Having an engaged mid-section puts you in a rigid streamline. Beyond the pool this means that you will have improved posture, something that most swimmers I know could benefit from.
(On a personal note, I suffered from swimmer’s shoulder for years. I saw several different physical therapists and chiropractors, who prescribed painful deep tissue massage and various mobility exercises. It wasn’t until a grad student at UVic suggested I simply try to have better posture. Sometimes it literally is the simple answer that is the correct one.)
Nothing ruins a swimmer’s day faster than a sharp pang in one of the shoulder joints. Having a developed core means the body is straight and aligned, reducing the stress on joints and muscles.
Whether it is providing a stable platform for your pulling motion (to help avoid swimmer’s shoulder, for instance), or helping strengthen your hip movements and thereby helping avoid breaststroker knee issues as well.
More power, for longer.
The benefit that will most appeal to you is this one. A strong core allows greater power from the outer muscles and limbs, including the arms for the pull, and the legs for your kick.
Having increased core strength will come in very helpful for when you become fatigued in your swimming.
One of my favorite core exercises is the almighty (and challenging) ab roller wheel. When you think about the full extension required to complete the exercise, the overhead extension, the bracing of the lower back, you can start to see how it transfers to swimming strongly in the water.
Keeping the glutes engaged will keep your kick going, and the improved body position will help you keep your stroke together for longer.
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