Saturday, December 19, 2009

Two Exercises Every Swimmer Should Do (and Probably Every Biker and Maybe Every Runner)

So I've been working with the variety of Crossfit exercises for about eight months now, and while I totally believe the Crossfit methodology of constantly varied workouts, I know that not everyone has the time, inclination, money, interest, or opportunity to train like this. But I think that especially for swimming, there are two exercises that I've learned that really really transfer great power, so I wanted to share them here. Being as both exercises greatly increase your core strength, especially in back and neck, I think they'll be very beneficial in biking and running as well, since often in those two sports it's the tiring of the core muscles that lead to form deficiencies that eventually lead to slowing down (ever watched someone do the leaned-over "Ironman shuffle" at the end of an endurance race? That's core muscle exhaustion right there). Also, these two exercises can be done with a bare minimum of equipment (a kettlebell) in your own living room, garage, hotel room, wherever.

So here they are:

The Kettlebell Get-up
(also called a Turkish Get-Up)

No, not this kind of Turkish Get-up:

By the way, the first time I did a workout with a lot of Get-Ups in it, I couldn't believe how many muscle groups were sore afterwards. Two sheaths of muscle across my lower back took a big hit, along with some fiddly muscles in my neck, and all of those muscles that stabilize the shoulders. This exercise combines a weighted sit-up, a lunge, and a weighted arm extension for an excellent total-body strength workout.

And the Overhead Kettlebell Swing. If you've looked at other kettlebell videos or books (like the wonderful resource Enter the Kettlebell by Pavel Tsatsouline) you may have noticed that the Russian-style kettlebell swing only goes to about chest level. If you're curious why Crossfit (and I) believe that the overhead swing is superior, you can read this really fascinating little essay that, incidentally, also gives a really interesting window into how the Crossfit folks select their exercises for inclusion in the program. In addition to what they've said here, I'd add that for a swimmer, the overhead swing brings your lat muscles into play at the top of the swing because to counter the arc of a heavy kettlebell, you have to start pushing down with your lats before the swing reaches the top extension. Master this one, and you'll have those killer swimmer lats in no time! It totally blows that silly lat machine at the gym out of the water (literally).

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