T Nation

Swimming Programs

I’ve developed DeQuervain’s Tendonitis in my right wrist. My doc tells me I must rest my hands for at least six weeks or I have to have surgery. When I thought about it, I realized that over the past couple years I’ve sustained injuries to my shoulder, ankle, both wrists and my sternum. Apparently, after 16 years of lacrosse and 12 years of lifting, my body is trying to tell me something. I’m trying to keep a positive attitude about this forced layoff. I’ve heard that swimming isn’t too great for people who want to stay lean and hold onto as much muscle as possible. But it is my only option for a couple months. Does anybody have any tips on designing a swimming program? My Web research has been sort of unsuccessful. I haven’t been in a pool for 10 years, but I was a strong swimmer in high school. Thanks in advance.

Personally I think swimming is an excellent form of cardio, and I think you will enjoy it once you get into it. While it is true some may not get to ultra-ripped single digit bf% swimming, you can easily get to 12 or even 10% with it, which in my opinion is plenty ripped. Just look at the physiques of the swimmers at the olympics - most of them are very lean, with visible abs, and some, like the South Africans who won the relay, are pretty buffed up too.

As for muscle, swimming is cardio, so you aren’t going to add a ton of muscle with it. That said, I think it recruits and uses more muscles than any other form of cardio and is an excellent full body workout. That is why, in my mind, swimming is perhaps an ideal form of cardio for many T-men (excepting those going on a competition cut) - it makes much more use of your muscles than other cardio.

So, I think you are in a not so bad situation here - I think you will enjoy swimming, probably get ripped up with it, and lose little if any muscle mass!

I realize I didn’t lay out a program for you here, but I hope I was encouraging, as that was my goal :).


Check out this book, the 12 weeks to BUD/S navy seal training guide. this guy used to be a seal and he put together a program that would kick anyone’s butt on here (except maybe if you already are a SEAL!!) he has swimming workouts that will definately challenge you. for example, a pyramid of laps with decreasing amounts of strokes/breath as you go up. so, 2 laps with 2 strokes per breath, then 4, then 6, then 8, then 10. one stroke being one arm pull. he also has sprint workouts and intervals. it’s really cool. if you can do any other stuff, you can add it in (alternate laps with situps, pushups, pullups).

I tried some of the workouts, you get your lungs in shape FAST with this program.

Kudos to the Post referencing Stew Smith’s SEAL training book as it has some very interesting pyramiding workout concepts using body weight exercises and swimming plans. Only caveat to it in my mind is that he sticks to functional stoked for being a combat swimmer: Freestyle and Side Stroke.

You only have to turn on the Olympics to see the physical benefits of the other classic strokes, Butterfly, breaststroke, and Backstroke.

Check out Total Immersion Swimming @ http://www.totalimmersion.net/ for some great technical info on the clasic swimming strokes as well as programs to use for training.


I don’t think I have the exact kind of information you’re looking for, but hopefully this’ll help. Most of these are from various scuba classes.

Swim in the ocean, if possible. A good current is about as close to adding resistance as you can get, and without fins you’ve got to swim pretty hard to catch a rideable wave.

Here’s a conditioning drill we did: get a weight belt and add 8 or 10 pounds to it. Drape it over your shoulders (please not around your neck) and tread water for as long as you can. You’ll be huffin & puffin in no time; when your calves cramp up into little balls and you sink to the bottom, you’ll know you’re doing it right!

Another one that really helped my lung capacity (best with fins): start at one end of the pool. Swim halfway across, then pike yourself underwater and swim the second half underwater. After two of these you’ll be thinking “no problem,” but they catch up to you quick.

And a page from the rescue diver class: carrying somebody through the water is HARD. Find a “victim,” grab them around the head by the chin, support their weight on your body, and tow them from one end of the pool to the other without dipping their face in the water. Switch arms at the end of the pool and go back. You’ll end up using a goofy one-armed combination back- and sidestroke, as well as a strange sort of frog-kick since you’re trying not to kick the person you’re “rescuing.”

For added fun, find a willing T-vixen to be your victim and practice CPR. Tell her it could save her life some day.

Everyone, this is great. I have a lot of reading to do, a lot more ideas on how to structure a program, and a much better attitude about the next few weeks. Thanks!

Hey man, a little off topic, but where do you play lax? I been playing since 3rd grade, just finished up soph year at CW Post, and am transfering to Hofstra this fall.

Duece, I am a lifelong Colorado lax player. I played at Colo. St. U. in college. And I play(ed) in the men’s leagues out here. It’s pretty competitive, but when someone drops in who’s played at Syracuse or even Gettysburg, you can tell a difference. How are you training for lax? Renegade style?

Also, a quick update on the swimming thing. It is much harder than I suspected! I was panting after about 150 yards. I think it’s going to take me a few sessions before I can even begin to think about training in any serious sense of the word. The upside is that my wrist’s range of motion has improved after only six days out of the gym. Hopefully it’ll be healthy soon and I can get back to lifting. Thanks again to all those who helped.

I am a swimmer, and I can attest it makes a great form of cardio. I suppose it may depend on how much time you really have, because I swim for up to 3 hours a day, and usually around 2, sometimes less, so 45 minutes might not be as good. That also depends on what intensity of swimming you are doing, how large of breaks, which stroke you swim, etc.

If you have a limited amount of time, I would recommend keeping a brisk pace, breathing every 3rd stroke, keeping open turns to a minimum, etc. In freestyle, of course. If I had a pic of me since the season started, you would see you can get great results from swimming, and it actually did help me build muscle as well. I put on 4 lbs. and cut a few % in bodyfat in 3 weeks or so.