Why Squats Are So Great For Swimmers
It’s no secret that dryland training has a huge pay-off for swimmers. Dryland training makes you a more well-rounded and resilient athlete overall, and improves your reaction time and coordination in the pool as well.
One infamous move — and for good reason — is the squat.
“Doing squats on land offers so many swim-specific benefits,” said Columbia Clippers coach Kelsey Lord. “One big benefit is that they build strength in the quads, which helps you power off of your turns with more explosiveness and speed.”
Benefits of the Squat
Wondering why it’s important for swimmers to build strength in the first place? An article on Swimswam.com summed up the injury prevention benefits nicely:
“Fortifying the musculoskeletal system by increasing it’s resiliency to imposed demand will greatly affect the body’s ability to prevent injury before it happens. The better the suspension is on your car the smoother the ride and longer the life of the car.”
Squats are a functional movement. In fact, you squat each day without realizing it. Practicing your form improves your strength and mobility, which keeps you healthy and strong first and foremost as a human and also as a swimmer. They’re also a compound movement, meaning they work multiple muscle groups across multiple joints.
While the legs are working hard, there’s also an incredible amount of core activation happening. A strong core benefits your spine and reduces the chance of lower back pain. That’s the beauty of compound movements: It’s all connected!
“A good set of squats build strength in your knees, hamstrings, quads and glutes, and increase your endurance,” said CA personal trainer Charlie Dennis. “Plus, they can be done at home or at the gym with no equipment required.”
How to Do a Squat
Okay, let’s now get into proper squat form! Below, Dennis shares how to become a super squatter.
- Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart, feet flat on the floor.
- Imagine you are sitting down in a chair: Push your hips and butt backwards.
- Keep your core strong and back straight.
- Pause for a moment when your thighs are parallel to the ground. NOTE: They may not be parallel due to a lack of mobility or past injury, and that’s okay! Find a pain-free depth that works for you.
- Straighten your legs to lift back up to standing.
To give you a visual, here’s Dennis doing a squat…
- The positioning of your feet depends on your unique body. They’ll turn out slightly, but the extent that they turn out can vary (between five and 30 degrees is a good guideline).
- Make sure your knees don’t cave or collapse into each other. This common problem is known as “knee valgus.”
- Keep your chest lifted to prevent the shoulders from rounding.
- Maintain a long spine, instead of hunching over.
- Keep your core braced throughout the entire movement.
While bodyweight squats offer tons of benefits on their own, there’s also endless options to switch things up. One challenging variation is a goblet squat.
“Hold a dumbbell or medicine ball with both hands to your chest and squat. This is a great exercise to work the core and arms,” said Dennis, who was kind enough to demo the goblet squat below. “Keep your elbows and wrists stacked vertically, so that elbows don’t flare out.”
Once Lord’s swimmers have mastered the traditional squat, she offers the following two progressions:
- Jump Squats: This move mimics how swimmers squat and push off the wall. To do it, start by doing a regular squat. Once your thighs are parallel to the floor, press your feet down to explode off the floor and jump as high as you can. Allow your knees to bend 45 degrees when you land, and then drop back down into a squat, and jump again.
- Streamline Squat: This squat practices the streamline position. Do a regular squat, but keep your arms up and pressed against your ears. Your legs are the only part of your body moving. Do this check-in: Hands over hands, fingers over fingers, arms above the head!
Get Stronger With CA
At CA, our three state-of-the-art fitness clubs include everything a swimmer needs to stay strong and work on their squat mechanics. Learn more on our website!