9 leg workouts for swimmers to extend swimming efficiency
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When you think of a swimmer's body, you probably picture broad shoulders, large lats, and well-defined abs, but something that many overlook is the leg muscles. Just as the upper body plays an essential role in swimming, so does the lower half. And it's probably no surprise that at some swimming events, the legs are even more dominant than the upper body.
So if you want to become a better and faster swimmer, optimizing the strength and strength of your leg muscles is vital. Because of this, in today's article, we're focusing on some of the best leg exercises for swimmers to help strengthen all of the leg muscles. We'll also briefly look at a few other aspects, such as the crucial role the legs play in swimming.
9 best leg exercises for swimmers.
1. One-legged Romanian deadlift.
What the exercise does: The one-legged Romanian deadlift primarily strengthens your glutes, hamstrings, calves, and oblique muscles, as well as some of your back muscles. The exercise also improves balance and posture while developing a powerful kick and good posture in the pool.
How it goes: Hold a weight like a dumbbell or kettlebell in one or both hands, whichever you find most comfortable. Then, pull your shoulder blades together and down, supporting your core.
Next, lift one leg slightly off the floor. While you focus on maintaining a neutral neck position and a straight back, bend your hips forward so your torso moves toward the floor. Your only leg will of course extend behind you.
Move toward the floor as far as you can while making sure your shoulder blades stay back and your chest is sticking out slightly. You should feel a nice stretch in your glutes and hamstrings.
Once the weight is just above the ground, move back up. You can briefly touch the floor with your foot to restore balance before starting the next rep. Remember to repeat the exercise on both legs.
Representatives and sets: 8-15 reps per leg for 3-4 sets.
2. Box jumps.
What the exercise does: Primarily builds explosive strength in the quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves, and core while adding some strength. Very important for developing solid starts and kicks, as well as a quick and powerful kick and underwater.
How it goes: Stand on a plyometric box with your feet hip-width apart. Tense your core, lower yourself into a half-squat, and tilt your upper body slightly forward. When jumping on the box, be sure to use your arms for swing and balance.
Use a lower box first and work towards more height as you improve on the exercise. Make sure you land with both feet at the same time and make sure the full length of your feet is on the box when you land.
Make it a goal to land as quietly as possible, as this means your muscles will absorb most of the impact, not your joints.
Representatives and sets: 6-10 repetitions for 2-3 sets.
What the exercise does: Strengthens the entire posterior chain including glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves, and core. Builds strength and strength and provides strong kicks, kicks, underwater and starts.
How it goes: Crouch in a comfortable and sturdy position with your feet about shoulder width apart. Make sure your hands are straight on either side of the bar. Take a deep breath, prop up your core, lift your chest, and release the bar.
Then go back 1-2 steps and make sure that all of your muscles are still tight and tense. Next, crouch down until the bottom of your glutes is just below your knees. Then press back to the starting position and repeat.
Make sure your back stays straight and your core is tight throughout the exercise. Also, make sure that your knee doesn't move over your toes while doing the exercise.
I recommend starting with a lighter load or just the bar as you perfect your technique. Once your shape is in good shape, slowly add weight as you get stronger. If you don't have the equipment you need, you can try bodyweight squats or cup squats.
Representatives and sets: 5-12 repetitions for 3-4 sets.
4. Body weight in side lunge.
What the exercise does: Strengthens the abductors, adductors, quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves. It also opens the groin and hip flexors and improves the hip rotation that is important in swimming, especially during strokes like the breaststroke.
How it goes: Stand on the floor with your feet flat and wider than shoulder width apart while pointing your toes forward. Squat on one leg, keeping the other leg straight, and placing the weight on the metatarsus of the squatting leg up to the heel.
Make sure that your butt is moving back just behind your body, rather than to the side, like a normal squat. Go down as low as you can, but no lower than the standard squatting position. Also, make sure that your knee never goes over your toes.
Press back to the starting position there, making sure that the opposite leg remains completely straight. Repeat for several reps, then switch legs.
If you find it difficult at first, squat in a chair as you learn the pros and cons of the exercise.
Representatives and sets: 8-15 reps per leg for 3-4 sets.
5. Hamstring Curls.
What the exercise does: Strengthens the hamstrings, glutes, lower back, and hip flexors. These muscles play an essential role for a strong kick and optimal posture in the water.
How it goes: We'll be using the Physioball hamstring curl, but you can also use the machine variant if you have access to it and prefer it.
The mechanics are very similar – only the other way around on the stomach.
Begin the exercise by placing your heels on an exercise ball. Place your arms next to your sides for support. Activate your core and glutes to lift your lower body off the floor while ensuring that your body is in a straight line.
Next, contract your hamstrings and bend your knees as you roll the ball toward your butt with your heels. Make sure your hamstrings reach maximum flexion before reversing and repeating the movement back to the starting position.
Make sure the hamstrings do most of the work by actively engaging them and keeping your butt high in the air throughout the movement. To make the exercise more difficult, you can do it with one leg at a time.
Representatives and sets: 12-15 reps for 3-4 sets.
6. Hip bridge.
What the exercise does: Strengthens the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back. It also contributes to better posture in the water, better uptrend and stronger underwater.
How it goes: First, lie on your back with both feet flat on the floor and about hip-width apart. Put your arms by your sides for extra support. The further you place them from your body, the less support they will provide and the more balance you need to maintain.
Next, activate your core and glutes as you push through your heels to lift your hips off the floor. Push your hips in the air until you create a 90-degree bend with your knees, or just walk as high as you think is comfortable. Then slowly lower yourself back down until your hips are just off the floor and repeat the movement.
As you get stronger, you can make the exercise more difficult by lifting one foot slightly off the floor and only pushing down with the other leg. Make sure you work both legs equally.
If you have the equipment available, you can also opt for the weighted version of this exercise. Everything stays the same except that you are now laying your back on a bench with a weighted barbell poking over your hips.
Representatives and sets: 8-15 reps (each leg) for 3-4 sets.
7. Single-leg split squat.
What the exercise does: Excellent exercise that develops strength and strength especially in the quads and glutes, while also engaging the hamstrings, calves, adductors and core muscles. In addition, it helps develop a strong kick, takeoff, and push off.
How it goes: Stand about half a meter in front of a bench facing away from you. You can do the exercise with just your body weight or you can hold a dumbbell in each hand to make it more difficult.
Place one leg on the bench with the top of your foot behind you and point straight back. Maintaining good posture, pull your shoulders back and keep your chest high.
Then, prop up your core and crouch with your front leg until your back knee is just above the floor. Make sure your front knee doesn't go over your toes. Push back and repeat all of the repetitions on one leg before switching to the other.
Representatives and sets: 8-12 repetitions for 3-4 sets.
8. Jumping squats.
What the exercise does: Develops explosive power and strength in the quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves. Great for getting off to a great start and getting started. It also helps build fast and powerful underwater.
How it goes: With your hands behind your head, place your feet a little wider than shoulder width apart or lock them right in front of your chest. Tense your core and crouch down until the bottom of your butt is just below the knee joint while making sure your knees stay behind your toes throughout the movement.
Once you get to the bottom position, jump vertically up as explosively as possible. Make sure to position your feet for landing while in the air.
On landing, crouch down and explode again. Repeat for a few sets. Be sure to land gently and gracefully, with your muscles absorbing most of the impact.
Representatives and sets: 12-20 repetitions for 3-4 sets.
9. Forward lunging steps.
What the exercise does: It's an excellent all-around leg exercise that strengthens the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves as you train your balance. Additionally, it helps to develop a strong kick.
How it goes: Stand in good posture with your feet about shoulder width apart. You can put your hands on your hips or hold a dumbbell at a time to make the exercise more difficult. You can also opt for a barbell if you have access to it.
Next, you prop up your core and if you've chosen to use dumbbells, make sure to pull your shoulder blades back and down.
Take an exaggerated step forward, about half a meter, then lower your hips until your foreleg is parallel to the floor or as far down as you feel comfortable and your back knee is just above the floor. Make sure your front knee doesn't go over your toes as you step forward.
Then step up so that both legs are next to each other again. From there, step forward with the opposite leg so that it is now the front leg. Alternate with each step until you have completed your sentence.
Representatives and sets: 8-15 reps per leg for 3-4 sets.
Role of legs in swimming.
The leg muscles play many important roles in swimming – more than you might think at first. Let's look at some of them.
One of the most important and important roles of the legs in swimming is the kick. Whether you are a sprinter or a long distance swimmer, a quick and robust step into the water is crucial to achieve maximum speed and performance.
A study published in the BioMed Research Journal found that kicking alone an average of 31% of the force generated for a 30-second freestyle swim with a fully bound swim. This could be a little lower than expected. Even so, it's still a significant contributor to overall strength. And it can have a significant impact on swimming speed when maximized.
It's also important to remember that the legs are most likely to contribute a higher percentage of strength depending on the stroke and event. Additionally, they'll also come into play in things like takeoffs, turns, and underwater, which we'll cover in a moment.
For example, breaststroke swimming is much more dominant than freestyle. In another example – during a 200m freestyle, the legs are most likely to contribute more overall strength compared to a 50m freestyle.
On the contrary, another study found that the legs were able to sustain far greater power than the arms during a simulated dryland isokinetic exercise test, with the legs generating an average total power of 435W compared to the 304W of the arms.
Strong starts have become far more dominant in modern swimming, with some swimmers like Caeleb Dressel dominating the rest of the field simply because of his start.
The start is a full body movement and can also get very complicated technically. One thing is certain, though: strong and powerful legs play an important role in developing a great start that will put you way ahead of the rest of the field.
The ability to take powerful prints after every turn is a surefire way to improve your swimming performance. Almost every swimmer can improve their prints. By developing strength and explosiveness in the legs, you can push off any wall with maximum force, which almost always guarantees you a competitive advantage in the water – especially when swimming short distances.
One of the most technically important aspects of any swim is maintaining good posture while swimming. As with most things in swimming, good posture requires the contribution of the entire body.
That said, developing strong glutes, hamstrings, and hip flexors will make it easier for you to maintain a high posture in the water with your lower body.
Good underwater alone is one of the most important aspects to be able to swim faster and better. Top trainers around the world use various tactics and training techniques to improve their swimmers' underwater conditions.
Underwater dolphin kicks, in turn, consist of a whole body movement. There is no doubt that the legs still play an essential role in developing a fast and powerful underwater dolphin kick.
Fun fact: Did you know that the underwater dolphin kick is faster than any of the four swimming strokes? – Granted, you are actually good at underwater.
Leg exercises are a great way to increase your swimming performance and become a more rounded swimmer. Remember to always warm up properly before any dry or strength training and use the correct technique for each exercise to avoid injury.
In addition, I recommend focusing more on exercises that work the glutes and hamstrings than on quad-dominant exercises, as swimmers often lack the strength in these muscles.
Try to maintain a ratio of at least 1: 1 between hip dominant exercises like the deadlift in Romania and knee dominant exercises like squats. However, depending on the swimmer, a ratio of 2: 1 may sometimes be preferable.