Ask the Dryland Coach: Core Exercises
By Mike Mejia, M.S, C.S.C.S
Question: My coach has been killing us lately with lots of crunches and flutter kicks, but are there any other good exercises that work the abs?
Sarah, age 16. Rockville, Maryland
Answer: Not only are there lots of other exercises, Sarah, but in my opinion, there are lots of better exercises. I've just never been a big fan of any drill that works muscles through such a limited range of motion. In my experience they usually only end up contributing to postural imbalances and muscular dysfunction. Because when you add up the amount of time these muscles are already being shortened through repetitive use in the water, with more high repetition isolation work, you're setting the stage for potential problems.
In my view, swimmers would be better off focusing on drills that strengthen the entire core (not just the abdominals), through a much larger range of motion. So, I've put together the following workout of four really challenging drills for you to try. As I'm sure you'll notice, they're not the standard types of strengthening exercises you'll see being done on a pool deck, but they all have tremendous application to swimming. Have your coach give them a look and see if he, or she would be willing to work them into your existing dryland format.
Instead of just that numbing abdominal burn you get from flutter kicks and crunches, these drills will help you build a strong base of support from which your limbs can generate the force to propel you though the water. They'll also help improve things like shoulder stability, gluteal strength and the last one has the potential to do wonders for your flip turns. All in all, I think they'll give you a whole new appreciation of what it means to train your "abs".