Why Swimmers Shouldn't Overtrain Their Quads

Swimmers: give your quads a break, says STACK Expert G. John Mullen.

You have to propel yourself through the water faster than other swimmers, so you work hard on your quads and arms, right? Wrong. Swimmers love to train their quads, but it is becoming more of a syndrome than an effective training strategy.

Give your quads a break. Here is a rundown about why swimmers need to stop overtraining their quads.

RELATED: 3 Quad Exercises for Athletes, Not Bodybuilders

What Role Do Quadriceps Play in Swimming?


Certainly, the quadriceps play a significant role in swimming. The quadriceps are the group of muscles on the front of your thighs. No, they are not a single muscle. Four muscles make up the quads—the rectus femoris, vastus intermedius, vastus medialis and vastus lateralis. The quads are responsible for knee extension and hip flexion. When you kick, much of the power comes from your quads.

How to Properly Strengthen Your Quadriceps


Swimmers engage their quads not only to kick but also to start and turn. The quads are important for swim performance, but they are not the only muscles that make it possible to swim fast. Swimmers also use their glutes, calves, hamstrings and the muscles in their feet and ankles. Now you see the problem with focusing solely on the quads. It's a disservice to your body and your swim. Overtraining the quads can do more harm than good.

You do not need to perform a leg day every day. Give yourself a break and work the rest of your body. Swimming is a total-body sport. Too many overprescribed dryland workouts are ineffective and put swimmers at an increased risk for injury. You need to re-evaluate your dryland training program or seek help from a personal trainer who has experience working with swimmers.

RELATED: 10 Tips for Effective Strength Training Programs for Swimming

If you want to strengthen your quads to improve your kicks, consider these important tips.

1. When you work the front, balance the back

You can't focus solely on your quadriceps just because you found some quad moves in a magazine or an online bodybuilding forum. You're a swimmer, not a bodybuilder. There must be balance in your dryland program. When you work the front (your quads), you must also work the back (your hamstrings). Hamstring workouts will help you balance your quad program

Kneeling Fallbacks

Nordic Hamstrings Curls

2. Activate the glutes

Glute activation is necessary for stability when swimming. When you work your glutes and hamstrings, your leg muscles can effectively complete what is called co-contraction. This means the muscles in both the front and back of your legs work together to maximize your kick and stabilize your joints. The following exercises will help you to activate your glutes in the pool.

Prone Glute Squeeze

Alternate Arm and Leg Raise

3. Avoid unnecessary exercises


For stronger quads, you may have to stop doing what you're doing to bulk them up. Avoiding unnecessary quad exercises can improve your strength—and prevent exhaustion and injury. Here are the exercises you must avoid when working your quads.

Distance or recreational running 

Everyone who wants to get in shape or stay in shape turns to running. It is one of the most popular exercises, but it does not make the quads stronger. You can't get stronger if you do only one type of training. Recreational running can improve endurance when running, but it won't promote strength gains. You need a comprehensive dryland program, and many swimmers discover that running isn't even on the agenda.

RELATED: Swimmers: Use This Metabolic Dryland Workout to Build Endurance


If you are going to do Lunges, you'd better make them good ones. The problem with Lunges is that more often than not, they are done incorrectly. Usually, no one is watching your form, and Lunges are not progressive. As a result, swimmers can experience injuries. For Lunges to be effective, they must be done properly.

For effective quad strength, give them a break. Work with a professional dryland coach who knows what swimmers need, what they don't, and how they can progress through individualized programs. Poor dryland programs can lead to overtraining, injury, exhaustion and frustration—you name it.

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