Effective strength training for the competitive swimmer requires an approach that may be summarized by the expression, "the three Cs"—careful, considered, and comprehensive.
Swim strength training must be carefully planned. The regular training required of a swimmer is demanding on its own, with many hours per week spent in the pool in a variety of endurance and sprint drills. The physical requirements of swimming are such that strength training is essential to both the improvement and the maintenance of strong swimming form. The balance between regular swim training and additional strength training can only be achieved through attention to the swimmers competitive schedule and intervals of scheduled "down time."
The swimming strength program must take into consideration the precise nature of the event to be supported and enhanced. All swimming involves the use of every part of the musculoskeletal structure, from the start of a race until the finish. Swimmers must place particular emphasis upon their shoulders, core strength (abdominal, gluteal, groin, and low back muscles), and legs. As an example, for a freestyle swimmer, the strength exercises to advance the full range of shoulder motion necessary to perform the stroke may include the pull down motions of a cable machine or an overhand medicine ball throw. Core strength muscles can be isolated using a Swiss ball or similar device to create resistance during push ups or other stretching motions that require the movement of the entire body, as does the swim motion.
The leg power utilized by a swimmer from the starting block is developed by various forms of plyometric training, techniques which aid in the development of the fast twitch muscle fibers in the legs, with a goal of more explosive movement.
Comprehensive strength exercise programs include not only specific strength exercises, but also stretching exercises that permit the swimmer to both utilize all available muscle strength developed in the gym. Stretching exercises are essential to the maintenance of the athlete's range of motion in all joints. If the athlete is hindered in the ability to take a particular structure through its natural range of motion, it is doubtful that the athlete can achieve the best athletic success. Swimming, as a sport of significant repetition of movement, requires the combined excellent joint strength and range of motion to prevent injury.