Are Pull Ups Good for Swimmers?

To improve your performance in the pool, it’s crucial to incorporate supplementary exercises, such as pull-ups, into your training routine. Pull-ups are an excellent option for swimmers, as they target the upper body muscles responsible for driving you through the water.

are pull ups good for swimmers

Pull ups directly strengthen your core, lats, biceps, and trapezius muscles, which play a critical role in your swimming abilities. These critical muscles are engaged in various swimming strokes and contribute significantly to your overall speed and endurance. So, incorporating pull-ups into your training can lead to noticeable improvements when it’s time to dive into the water.

In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of pull-ups for swimmers and provide some tips for incorporating them into your workout routine.

The Benefits of Pull-Ups for Swimmers

Improving Swimming Performance

Pull-ups are an excellent addition to your training routine as they can help strengthen your core, back, arms, and traps, all of which play a crucial role in swimming. As a result, you’ll notice improvements in both speed and endurance in the water.

Moreover, pull-ups can have a direct impact on your swimming technique. As you strengthen your arms and shoulders, you’ll be able to maintain an efficient arm pull and proper body positioning, essential for any swimmer.

Strengthening Key Muscle Groups

A primary benefit of pull-ups is their ability to target key muscle groups used in swimming. When you perform pull-ups, you engage several muscles, such as your:

  • Latissimus dorsi (lats): the large muscles on your back that contribute to propulsion in the water.
  • Biceps and forearms: essential for both the initial catch and follow-through phases of a stroke.
  • Rear Deltoids and trapezius: crucial for stabilizing your shoulders and providing power during strokes.
  • Core muscles: Improved stability for speed and efficiency in the water.

These muscle groups allow you to push water more effectively and generate the propulsion needed for faster, more powerful strokes.

Reducing the Risk of Injury

One common issue facing swimmers is the risk of shoulder injuries, often referred to as “swimmer’s shoulder.” Regularly performing pull-ups can help reduce this risk.

Pull ups help in strengthening your rear deltoid muscles and traps, stabilizing your shoulder blades, leading to better support for your rotator cuff muscles.

Moreover, pull-ups also serve as an excellent core exercise, improving the overall stability of your body in the water. A strong core is essential for both injury prevention and executing proper swimming techniques.

How to Get Started and Progress with Pull Ups

As good as pull ups are, they won’t do you any good if you aren’t able to do them. Not everyone can start out pulling their body weight.

Most people have to go through a progression of exercises before they can do bodyweight pull ups without assistance. Below is a sample of what you can do to get there.

Step 1: Begin with bodyweight rows. You may not be able to perform a full pull up yet, but bodyweight rows are an excellent place to start. Set up a bar at waist height and lie down beneath it. Grab the bar with an overhand grip, and pull your chest towards it by engaging your back muscles. As you get stronger, you can move on to inverted bodyweight rows by placing your feet on an elevated surface.

Step 2: Use assisted pull ups. As you gain strength, you can transition to assisted pull ups using a resistance band or an assisted pull-up machine. This will allow you to practice the pull-up form while taking some weight off your arms.

Step 3: Try top holds and bar hangs. This step will help you build grip strength and develop the muscles required for pull ups. Start by hanging onto the pull-up bar with an overhand grip for as long as you can. Additionally, practice top holds by jumping up into the top position of a pull up and holding it for a few seconds before lowering yourself down.

Step 4: Incorporate negative pull ups. Jump or use a stool to get into the top pull-up position. Now, slowly lower yourself down, taking at least five seconds to reach the bottom position. Repeat this process, focusing on controlling your descent.

Step 5: Perform your first unassisted pull up. By now, you should have built the necessary strength to attempt your first pull up. Remember to engage your back muscles and keep your core tight throughout the movement. Don’t be discouraged if it takes multiple attempts to get there—keep practicing, and it will come!

Step 6: Increase set and rep numbers. After you’ve achieved your first pull up, aim to increase your set and repetition numbers. Do as many pull ups as you can, and then go back to doing band-assisted pull ups and negative pull ups. You can also try different grip styles to challenge your muscles in unique ways and target different parts of your back and arms.

Step 7: Advanced pull-up variations. After mastering the standard pull up, you can explore advanced variations like weighted pull-ups, archer pull-ups, and muscle-ups, which will further challenge your strength and improve your swimming performance.

Remember, progress takes time, and consistency is key. Keep working on each stage and track your improvements. Your pull-up skills, along with your swimming performance, will benefit greatly from your dedication.

Why Proper Pull Up Technique is Crucial

Proper pull-up technique is essential for swimmers, as it enables you to effectively target the muscles used during swimming, such as the lats, shoulders, and back muscles.

Not only do pull-ups help to strengthen these critical muscle groups, but they also assist with building your upper body endurance and improving your in-water performance.

For you to get the most out of this exercise, it’s important to maintain the correct form while doing pull-ups. Always start with a full hang, arms extended and shoulders relaxed. This position ensures that you’re engaging the right muscles and effectively working your entire back.

As you begin to pull yourself up, focus on leading with your chest, driving your elbows down and back. A slight arch in your lower back helps maintain proper alignment and prevents unnecessary strain on your shoulders.

Keep your core engaged and avoid swinging your hips or legs. When your chin is above the bar, smoothly lower yourself back down to the starting position.

In addition to the standard pull-up, you can experiment with different hand positions to target specific muscles. For example, a wide grip pull-up will simulate the wider arm position used during the pull phase of a swimming stroke. This variation puts more emphasis on your lats, the largest muscle in your back, and can be especially beneficial for swimmers.

Remember, it’s crucial to practice with proper form, even if it means doing fewer reps initially. Building your strength with good technique ensures that the benefits of pull-ups will directly translate to improved swimming performance.

Incorporating Pull-Ups into Swim Training

Ideal Frequency and Volume

Finding the right frequency and volume for you ensures you’re striking a balance between building strength and avoiding overtraining. Aim to include pull-up exercises in your dryland strength training routine 2-3 times per week.

Begin with a manageable number of repetitions, like 3 sets of 6-8, and progressively increase volume over time as your strength and endurance improve.

When you’ve just progressed to doing pull ups for the first time from assisted pull ups, the number of pull ups you can do will be low.

In that case, you can do something like this: perform as many pull ups as you can, let’s say that number ends up being 3-4 pull ups. Then do another 3-4 negative pull ups, and consider that a set of 6-8 reps.

Pull-Up Variations and Alternatives

As you progress, consider incorporating the following pull-up variations and alternatives to further challenge your muscles and improve performance:

  • Chin-Ups: By placing your palms facing towards you, you’ll engage more of your bicep muscles while still strengthening your back and other swimming muscles.
  • Inverted Rows: With a bar or TRX straps set at waist height, lay on your back with your chest under the bar. Gripping the bar or straps, pull your chest towards it using a rowing motion. This regression is excellent for building strength, especially if you struggle with standard pull-ups.
  • Flexed Arm Hang: Start in a full pull-up position but hold, with your chin above the bar, for as long as possible. This exercise improves grip strength, endurance, and stabilizer muscles, leading to a stronger pull in the water.
  • Assisted Pull-Ups: Use a resistance band or an assisted pull-up machine to support some of your body weight, allowing you to complete more repetitions and build confidence in your pulling motion.

Remember, the key to successful pull-up training is to listen to your body and find the right progression and variation that works for you. Incorporating pull-ups into your swim training will lead to increased core strength, more powerful strokes, and improved overall performance in the water.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it normal to not be able to do a single pull-up?

Yes, it’s normal to not be able to do a single pull-up, especially for beginners or individuals who haven’t done strength training focusing on their upper body. Pull-ups are a challenging exercise that require strength in multiple muscle groups such as the lats, biceps, and core. With consistent training and correct technique, most people can eventually work up to doing one or more pull-ups.

Is it impressive to do 20 pull-ups in a row?

Yes, being able to do 20 pull-ups in a row is impressive. This feat indicates a high level of upper body strength and endurance. Many fitness tests consider doing over 12 to 15 pull-ups in a row as an exceptional performance, so achieving 20 consecutively suggests a strong and well-conditioned physique.

How many pull-ups can Michael Phelps do?

Michael Phelps is rumored to have a personal record of over 30 pull ups in a row, and one source specifically stated that number to be 34.

Are there any potential drawbacks or risks of swimmers doing pull-ups?

As with any exercise, pull-ups, when done improperly or excessively, can carry potential risks. Improper form can lead to injuries such as strains or tendonitis. Overuse or failure to adequately rest and recover can result in overtraining, potentially leading to decreased performance, chronic fatigue, and an increased risk of injury. It’s crucial for swimmers to incorporate pull-ups correctly into an optimized training routine, using proper form and allowing for adequate rest and recovery.

What are signs that a swimmer might be overdoing it with pull-ups?

Signs that a swimmer may be overdoing pull-ups include persistent or increasing pain in the shoulders, elbows, or wrists, decreased performance or progress, difficulty in completing previously manageable sets, or excessive fatigue following training. Other indicators can include interrupted sleep, mood changes, loss of appetite, or an unusually high resting heart rate. These symptoms might signal overtraining, and should prompt a reassessment of the training regimen.