Build Your Swimming Power and Endurance with the Roman Ropes Workout

March 15, 2013 | Steve Ball

Must See Conditioning Videos

Swimmers must have extreme upper-body power and endurance to propel themselves through the water. They rely heavily on their latissimus dorsi—commonly referred to as the lats—to extend and adduct their upper arms during the swimming stroke, creating the primary driving force in the water (3, 4, 5, 6). These muscles are commonly developed with Lat Pulldowns, Pull-Ups or Bent-Arm Pullovers; however, there is a better way. (Watch U.S. Olympian Nathan Adrian train in the pool.)

Swimmers need to generate power from the lats while also flutter-kicking and keeping their torso firm (3, 4). Training the body in a way that mimics this movement pattern can be difficult in the weight room, especially for the butterfly stroke, which involves the entire body (6). Traditional weight-training exercises are commonly performed upright, or in a locked position on the floor. This is not optimal for swimmers because the swimming strokes use many muscle groups simultaneously in a rhythmic and coordinated fashion (3, 4, 6).

The solution to improving the efficacy of a weightroom swimming workout is to perform heavy rope exercises on a Roman chair. (Check out this USA Swimming ab routine.)

For those of you who are not familiar, heavy ropes (a.k.a. battle ropes) are about 1.5 to two inches in diameter, and anywhere from 25 to 100 feet long. They are swung in an undulating fashion to repeatedly make up-and-down, side-to-side or any creative wave pattern. The continuous muscle tension challenges your strength and endurance.

Battle rope exercises are typically performed standing up, but swimmers should try doing them with a Roman chair. This allows a swimmer to hold a supine position (i.e., facing the ground with a straight body) while simultaneously engaging every active swimming muscle. The waves of the rope challenge the swimming stroke muscles, and swimmers can generate power from the hips in a dolphin kick motion. The core must stabilize and the entire body must work together to help swing the ropes. The harder you swing, the more difficult the exercise becomes.

If swimmers want to get faster in the pool, they must do these exercises. Perform the "Roman Ropes" workout two to three times per week for best results.

Roman Ropes Workout

Exercises

  • Slam - This is a wave-like motion of the body and arms with power coming from the glutes.  Start down and move your body and arms upward and downward quickly in one powerful motion to slam the rope on the ground.Roman Rope Slam
  • Dual Wave – This move involves keeping the body straight with the head down and the arms out straight. Make alternating waves by moving your arms in an alternating pattern.
Rome Rope Dual Wave
  • Rotating Slam – This movement is similar to the slam where the body moves in a wave-like motion; however, on the way up the arms start in and go up and out in large circles.
Roman Ropes Rotating Slam
  • Horizontal Wave – This move is similar to the dual wave because the body is straight with arms out in front and head down; however, the arms move laterally making alternating flat waves.

Note: It is ideal to complete the movements in this order to avoid low-back fatigue.

Workout #1 - Power

  • Slam – 2x10 seconds with 30 seconds rest
  • 1 minute rest
  • Dual Wave – 2x10 seconds with 30 seconds rest
  • 1 min rest
  • Rotating Slam – 2x10 seconds with 30 seconds rest
  • 1 min rest
  • Horizontal Wave – 2x10 seconds with 30 seconds rest

Workout #2 - Muscular Endurance

Repeat two times

  • Slam - 20 seconds
  • 10 seconds rest
  • Dual Wave - 20 seconds
  • 10 seconds rest
  • Rotating Slam - 20 seconds
  • 10 seconds rest
  • Horizontal Wave - 20 seconds maximal
  • 10 seconds rest

Check out the video below to learn how to perform the exercises.

Sources

1) Champagne, A, Descarreaux, M, and Lafond, D. "Back and hip extensor muscle fatigue in healthy subjects: task-dependency effect of two variants of the Sorensen test." Eur Spine J 17: 1721-1726, 2008.

2) Clark, BC, Manini, TM, Mayer, JM, Ploutz-Snyder, LL, and Graves, JE. "Electromyographic Activity of the Lumbar and Hip Extensors During Dynamic Trunk Extension Exercise." Arch Phys Med Rehabil 83:1547-1552, 2002.

3) Clarys, JP, Rouard, AH. "The frontcrawl downsweep: Shoulder protection and/or performance inhibition." J Sport Med Phys Fit 36: 121-126, 1996.

4) Ikuta, Y, Matsuda, Y, Yamada, Y, Kida, N, Oda, S, and Moritani, T. "Relationship between decreased swimming velocity and muscle activity during 200-m front crawl." Eur J Appl Physiol 112: 3417-3429, 2012.

5) Nuber, GW, Jobe, FW, Perry, J, Moynes, DR, and Antonelli, D. "Fine wire electromyography analysis of muscles of the shoulder during swimming." Am J Sport Med 14: 7-11, 1986.

6) Vitti, M, and Dalla Pria Bankoff, A. "Simultaneous EMG of Latissimus Dorsi and Sternocostal Portion of Pectoralis Major Muscles During Butterfly Natatory Stroke." Electromyo Clin Neur. 24: 117-120, 1984.

Topics: SWIMMING
Steve Ball
- Steve Ball is a performance coach at Borgess Athletic Performance and a personal trainer at Borgess Health and Fitness Center (Kalamazoo, Mich.). He earned...
Steve Ball
- Steve Ball is a performance coach at Borgess Athletic Performance and a personal trainer at Borgess Health and Fitness Center (Kalamazoo, Mich.). He earned...
Must See
Dwyane Wade Leads by Example Dwyane Wade Leads by Example
Views: 8,039,197
Derrick Rose Explains How He Stays Positive Derrick Rose Explains How He Stays Positive
Views: 7,238,668
Michael Jordan: Mind of a Champion Michael Jordan: Mind of a Champion
Views: 548,329

Featured Videos

Kevin Love's In-Season Basketball Workout Kevin Love's In-Season Basketball Workout Views: 1,018,026
A Day in the Life With Kansas City Chiefs Tight End Travis Kelce A Day in the Life With Kansas City Chiefs Tight End Travis Kelce Views: 15,983
Path to the Pros 2015: Shaq Thompson Path to the Pros 2015: Shaq Thompson Views: 70,834
Load More

Resources

STACK Fitness

Everything you need to be fitter than ever

STACK Conditioning

Sport-specific conditioning programs

Coaches and Trainers

Tips and advice for coaches and trainers

Magazine

Latest issues of STACK Magazine

STACK 4W

Women's sports workout, nutrition and lifestyle advice

Gamer

Gaming, entertainment and tech news

Basic Training

Military-style training for athletes

News

Find the latest news relevant to athletes

Most Popular Videos

Two-Ball Dribbling Drill With John Wall Two-Ball Dribbling Drill With John Wall
Views: 3,362,770
Paul Rabil's Box Jumps Paul Rabil's Box Jumps
Views: 851,480
Roy Hibbert 540 lbs Deadlift Roy Hibbert 540 lbs Deadlift
Views: 1,577,083
Dribbling Drills for Tighter Handles Dribbling Drills for Tighter Handles
Views: 4,333,163
Ohio State Football Open Field Plyo Drill Ohio State Football Open Field Plyo Drill
Views: 9,499,164

Load More
More Cool Stuff You'll Like
ZSeries 10-Minute Workouts: The Hill

ZSeries 10-Minute Workouts: The Hill

ZSeries 10-Minute Workouts: Interval Sprints

ZSeries 10-Minute Workouts: Interval Sprints

ZSeries 10-Minute Workouts: Fartlek Run

ZSeries 10-Minute Workouts: Fartlek Run

Win the Fourth Quarter With These Basketball Sled Push Finishers

Win the Fourth Quarter With These Basketball Sled Push Finishers

Get in Football Shape Fast With Metabolic Runs

Get in Football Shape Fast With Metabolic Runs

Get in Basketball Shape With the Right Workout

Get in Basketball Shape With the Right Workout

Get in Shape With This Basketball Conditioning Workout

Get in Shape With This Basketball Conditioning Workout

STACK Challenge: 500-Meter Row

STACK Challenge: 500-Meter Row

Can You Pass Drew Brees' Conditioning Test?

Can You Pass Drew Brees' Conditioning Test?

Off-Season Conditioning: Full-Body Med Ball Workout

Off-Season Conditioning: Full-Body Med Ball Workout

In Defense of Cardio

In Defense of Cardio

Advanced High School Football Summer Conditioning Program

Advanced High School Football Summer Conditioning Program

LaTroy Hawkins' Epic Battle Ropes Workout

LaTroy Hawkins' Epic Battle Ropes Workout

WATCH: Ronda Rousey's Intense New Bag Drill

WATCH: Ronda Rousey's Intense New Bag Drill

A Slo-Mo Must-See: Ike Taylor's 4-Man Battle Rope Squats

A Slo-Mo Must-See: Ike Taylor's 4-Man Battle Rope Squats

How to Build Soccer-Specific Conditioning

How to Build Soccer-Specific Conditioning

Test Your Toughness With the Who Dat? Challenge

Test Your Toughness With the Who Dat? Challenge

Why Better Conditioned Athletes Have Fewer Injuries

Why Better Conditioned Athletes Have Fewer Injuries

4 HIIT Workouts That Will Get You in Shape Fast

4 HIIT Workouts That Will Get You in Shape Fast

Get in Shape With 5 Intense Lower-Body Finishers

Get in Shape With 5 Intense Lower-Body Finishers

Adeline Gray Is Going for Gold

Adeline Gray Is Going for Gold

Prepare for Your Season With These Conditioning Drills

Prepare for Your Season With These Conditioning Drills

4 Simple Drills to Improve Your Endurance

4 Simple Drills to Improve Your Endurance

Baseball Conditioning: Why You Need an Aerobic Base

Baseball Conditioning: Why You Need an Aerobic Base

Alternatives to Boring Cardio Training

Alternatives to Boring Cardio Training

5 Brutal Sprint Drills That Push the Lactic Threshold

5 Brutal Sprint Drills That Push the Lactic Threshold

Improve Your Aerobic Fitness in the Off-Season

Improve Your Aerobic Fitness in the Off-Season

STACK Challenge: Finish Strong

STACK Challenge: Finish Strong

Can You Handle the Husker Toughness Test?

Can You Handle the Husker Toughness Test?

Can You Survive the 100 Bears Challenge?

Can You Survive the

Who Invented the Burpee?

Who Invented the Burpee?

The Mount Everest Treadmill Challenge

The Mount Everest Treadmill Challenge

How Sporting Kansas City Stays 'Sporting Fit'

How Sporting Kansas City Stays 'Sporting Fit'

How to Avoid Hockey Conditioning That Slows You Down

How to Avoid Hockey Conditioning That Slows You Down

LeBron James's Insane Conditioning Drill

LeBron James's Insane Conditioning Drill

Get in Shape Fast With Todd Durkin's 5 Intense Workout Finishers

Get in Shape Fast With Todd Durkin's 5 Intense Workout Finishers

5 NBA Players Who Found Their Game After Losing Weight

5 NBA Players Who Found Their Game After Losing Weight

7 Footwork Drills That Give You an Advantage

7 Footwork Drills That Give You an Advantage

Obstacle Race Training: Get in Shape With This Finisher

Obstacle Race Training: Get in Shape With This Finisher

Training with the Elevation Training Mask 2.0

Training with the Elevation Training Mask 2.0

Understanding the Benefits and Risks of Altitude Training

Understanding the Benefits and Risks of Altitude Training

High-Intensity Interval Training: How Much Is Too Much?

High-Intensity Interval Training: How Much Is Too Much?

YardBarker