As we are now moving into winter, here are some tips to helping you with your core strength.
Swimming Developing Core Strength
Developing your core strength is vital when putting all that work in the pool to practise in the open water on race day.
Many triathletes who, given the choice, would prefer to do the swim leg of a race in the comfort and safety of their local swimming pool, who carve up the pool with great times.
When it comes to race day, however, it's a totally different story and they struggle to beat those they can smash in the pool at training. The reason for this is often attributable to their lack of swimming strength.
Open water swimming requires you to engage your core muscles in a greater capacity than you would ordinarily in pool swimming. This is due to the fact that during an open water swim you have to contend with chop and not just the calm and flat water in the pool.
You should be looking at a minimum of one swim session a week with a strength-based component to it. Triathletes will most often benefit from spending more time on strength-based training than a pure swimmer, so if you train with a swimming squad, you might need to add a strength component into your usual program. The simplest and easiest way to make up your strength-focussed swim session is to incorporate specific core work. The tried and tested formula involves a combination of both strength-specific swimming sessions and dry land strength work.
Swim strength work
The best investment you can make is in a set of swim paddles, a pull buoy and an ankle band. Many athletes simply use an old bike inner tube tied together as an ankle band. Using this equipment, especially during short rest sets, will engage your core to stabilise you in the water. It's often hard at first to stop the side-to-side motion that your legs want to do to help counteract your swim strokes. You will have to concentrate quite hard at first but you will be able to reduce this leg action by engaging and tightening your core muscles. If you find that the band is a little too challenging at first, then stick to just the pull buoy and paddles, then move onto the band once you are comfortable. Alternatively, if you find using the paddle and the pull buoy too easy, take them off and try swimming with just the band alone. The aim is to use your core and arms and to create a strong catch with your hands without kicking or letting your feet drop down in the water. A great session I regularly do is 10 x 50-metre lengths with five seconds rest at each end then 10 x 100 metres with 10 seconds rest at each end.
Dry land core work
Dry land core exercises are a great habit to get into before jumping into the water to start your swim session. You don't need to spend lots of time on this; just five to 10 minutes of specific core work before each session is enough to achieve the desired effects. A great way to do this is to start with some front, right side, and left side bridging. Your back should remain straight and you should feel your stomach muscles working. Thirty seconds in each position is more than sufficient for most people. For a bit more of a challenge, you can raise one foot up and down during a 30-second period of doing the exercise.