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Arm Exercises to Train Like a Swimmer

I'm Far From a Swimmer, but These Arm Moves Are Helping Me Train Like One

swimmer's arm exercises

Other than my mother putting me in swimming lessons as a toddler and the swimming test I had to pass in order to join my friends in the deep end of the pool at camp, my experience with proper swimming has been very little. Although I do know basic strokes and feel comfortable catching some waves with friends, I'm far from a swimmer.

When my best friend, who was a swimmer growing up, recently joined a local swim club and started adopting many of her old training ways to help support her sport, my eyes were opened up to a whole new world of fitness. Now, I may not be able to ever hop in a pool and swim laps quite like her, but this summer I'm on my own quest for swimmers' arms.

James Collins, a former Oakland University college swimmer-turned-trainer and VP of Curriculum Development at Goldfish Swim Schools, shared his tips below for training like a swimmer — even if you're like me and all you have is basic swimming school skills.

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Needless to say, I'm channeling her, tossing on my best workout-ready tank like the UA Armour Sport 2-Strap Tank ($30) and adopting a training program of my own.

Move 1: Two-way hammer curl to work the biceps

  • Start with your elbows by your sides holding dumbbells with your thumbs facing forward.
  • Curl up about three-quarters of the way and release slowly.
  • Turn your hands and thumbs facing away from your body.
  • Curl out three-quarters of the way up and release slowly.
  • Repeat the movement 12 times, noting both curls equals one rep.

Move 2: One-arm dumbbell row to work the lats

  • Rest one of your legs and one arm on a chair so you're bent over slightly.
  • Hold your weight with the free-hanging hand in a hammer grip (meaning the thumb is forward).
  • Pull the dumbbell toward your belly (not your chest) and then lower it back down.
  • Isolate one side at a time for 15 times on each side.

Move 3: Plank with shoulder taps to work the deltoids

  • Start at the top of a push-up. Raise your left hand to touch your right shoulder, then return to center.
  • Raise your right hand to touch your left shoulder, then return to center.
  • Keep your abs engaged and your bum low while performing the move.
  • Repeat the taps 20 times.

Move 4: Skull crushers to work the triceps

  • Use weights or a backpack filled with books to equal about 10 pounds.
  • While laying on the edge of a bed or your couch, keep your head toward the edge and lift the backpack by the strap behind your head so that your elbows are at 90 degree angles and the backpack is hanging behind you — never over your head.
  • Lower the backpack or weight to the ground and flex to raise so that you're engaging the triceps.
  • Repeat 15 times.

Move 5: Wide arm push-up to work the pecs

  • Assume a push-up position, with your arms out slightly wider than normal to tone your pectoral muscles. (Start on your knees if the traditional push-up is too difficult at first.)
  • Keep your core tight and your bum low as you lower your chest to the ground.
  • Repeat 12 times.

Build up to complete the entire set three to five times. "You can work on your arms two to three times a week, depending on your fitness goals," said Collins. "If you're a swimmer or looking for more toned arms, aim for three times a week."

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