How to Swim Faster

Want to swim faster? Before you jump in the pool, perform this strength training program.

How do you get better at running? You run. Enhancing your sport performance isn't rocket science. You just need to practice. So what do you need to do if you want to improve your time in the water? You need to swim. But not just swim. You're a competitive athlete, so you want to swim faster. This article will teach you how to do it. (See also Designing a Swim Training Program: the BTRE Protocol.)

Before you jump in the pool right away, hold on. There is an overlooked aspect in all sports, but especially swimming, that you need to address. Strength training, when incorporated properly, will fortify your muscles, increase your power output, and, most important, help you improve your times. We move our bodies with muscles controlled by the nervous system; e.g., in swimming, shoulder movements, primarily humeral extension (the arm going backwards) and strong and powerful legs are important.

If you want to catch Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin, you need to start lifting weights ASAP. By implementing this program three times a week, you'll develop all aspects of force production and power output. It will help you swim faster and shave seconds off your personal best.


Back Squats

  • 4 waterfall sets of increasing repetitions (6, 8, 10, 12)
  • After your warm-up, begin with a weight you can do for 6 reps
  • Take some weight off and increase the reps each set
  • Example: first set at 100 pounds for six repetitions, second set at 90 pounds for eight reps, etc.

Chin-Ups and Push-Ups

  • 4xMax of each, with two minutes rest

Straight-Arm Pull Downs

  • 4 waterfall sets of increasing repetitions (6, 8, 10, 12) with one minute rest between sets
  • Follow the same protocol as with Squats


Broad Jumps

  • Sets/Reps: 5x5
  • Rest two minutes between sets

Bench Press

  • Sets/Reps: 4x10 to 15
  • Rest one minute between sets

Cable Rows

  • Sets/Reps: 4x10 to 15
  • Rest one minute between sets


  • Sets/Duration:  5x15 seconds
  • Contract your glutes during each set


Friday is circuit day. Do all five exercises in order without rest. Rest for one minute, then repeat four more times.

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