In my previous articles I talked about how I thought the weighted overhand pull-up could be a very useful and specific lift for swimmers to develop shoulder strength in the relevant movement patterns. I proposed that a swimmer’s strength in this lift could be an indicator for their speed performance in the pool for certain strokes, like the butterfly or breaststroke.
There are also other ways for swimmers to develop strength in the right places. I would invite swimmers to try the T-bar row, exhibited by Arnold on the right.
This lift is one of my personal favourites. Personally I prefer the variation where the palms are facing each other rather than downward, as it resembles the seated horizontal row, but this is up to you. I just find it a really fun lift, and I love the upper back and rear deltoid strength that it develops. As a sprinter, these areas are important for me due to the requirements of the powerful piston movement of the shoulders in the acceleration phase. For swimmers specifically, these strength gains will pay dividends to your sports performance as well, as the deltoids are the prime movers in the pool, and the upper back will help to stabilise your body at high speeds.
Side note: if done with hypertrophy in mind, this lift is incredibly effective for develop a big shield of upper back muscles, due to the constant tension and hormonal effect that this elicits.
I recommend that swimmers do three sets of 10 reps with this lift after a few warm up sets. As a swimmer, the weight training should always be secondary to time in the pool, and you should save your energy for those workouts instead of the weight room. In addition, the low volume means you won’t stimulate too much hypertrophy. That might be seem like odd advice for a blog about muscle growth, but in swimming, power-to-weight ratios are vital, and having too much excess body mass is detrimental when you’re expending twice as much energy than on land to travel the same distance.
Finally, as I’ve said before in my previous swimming articles with the WOPU, it’s important to balance these movements with upper body push lifts to maintain shoulder health. The stresses of daily swimming will tax your shoulders greatly, make sure you stretch and foam roll every day before training.