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Back squat to improve swimming

This is an excerpt from Swimming Anatomy by Ian McLeod.


1. Rest the barbell across your upper back and position your feet shoulder-width apart.

2. Initiating the movement with your hips, squat down until your thighs are parallel to the ground.

3. Return to the starting position by straightening your legs.

Muscles Involved

Primary: Rectus femoris, vastus medialis, vastus intermedius, vastus lateralis, gluteus maximus, gluteus medius

Secondary: Erector spinae, biceps femoris, semitendinosus, semimembranosus, adductor magnus, adductor longus, adductor brevis, pectineus, sartorius, gracilis, transversus abdominis, external oblique, internal oblique

Swimming Focus

Squats are a good all-around exercise because they recruit all major muscles groups of the lower extremity. Increasing the strength of the knee extensors transfers to improved force generation and endurance when kicking, regardless of stroke. Strengthening of the gluteal muscles, specifically the gluteus maximus, helps to improve the force that is generated with the extension of the hip during the breaststroke kick. Because of the similarities in the movements performed in squats and starts, particularly flat starts, squats should be a mainstay exercise for enhancing a swimmer’s start.

Extra caution should be used because of the potential for injury to the low back or knees. To protect the low back, beginners should start with just the bar until they are fully comfortable with the exercise. Emphasizing tightening of the core musculature, as described in the introduction to chapter 5, will also help protect the low back. The most common causes for injury to the knee are shifting of the knees forward past the toes or allowing the knees to collapse inward when squatting down.



This is an excerpt from Swimming Anatomy.