What Are Swimming Resistance Bands? How To Properly Benefit From Them!

Swimming is a fantastic activity. It’s not just one-third or a triathlon; on its own, it provides so many benefits. Doing laps of an Olympic pool is an excellent form of cardio and uses almost every muscle in the body. 

The downside for professional athletes is that lap swimming alone can cause bad habits, like sloppy form. It can also overtrain some muscles at the expense of others, leading to injuries. One more component needs to be added to a swimming program to deliver the best results. Swimming resistance bands!

What are swimming resistance bands? Swimming resistance band is a band that connects the swimmer to the pool. They have a range of only 6–10 feet. Their purpose is to allow the swimmer to build strength and resistance and focus on technique without distractions. Used properly, they can correct any stroke, improve bilateral breathing, and build endurance.

Here’s a look at how they work and how effective they are. 

How Do Swimming Resistance Bands Work? (Benefits Listed)

The bands work with tension. They pull the swimmer back, forcing them to stroke harder to stay in the same spot. This resistance allows them to practice any of the four strokes and perfect their technique.

Swimming resistance bands provide a training advantage as there’s no need to think about turns, other swimmers, or staying in your lane. You’re kept within 10 feet of the wall at all times and can purely concentrate on getting your stroke correct.

A bonus is that you can remove the tether in seconds. So you can mix lap swimming with resistance band exercises for a comprehensive training program.

Here are some examples of practices you can do using swimming resistance bands. 

But first, check out our YYST recommended affordable swimming resistance band (Amazon link)

Core Strength Plank

A strong core helps you improve your hydrodynamics and keep your body straight. Land-based planks are done resting on your elbows. This exercise can be mimicked in the water using resistance bands and a foam board positioned lengthwise under your elbows.

All you need to do is contract your abdominal muscles, keep your legs straight, and kick. Try 30 seconds with a 15-second break, then add 15 seconds to the exercise and 5–10 seconds to the rest time. Like this:

30 seconds15 seconds
45 seconds20 seconds
1 minute30 seconds
Swim Bands Workout Duration Split

Repeat this pattern as long as you can, up to 5 minutes.

Strength Training

Without having to think about distance, speed, or turns, a swimmer can focus purely on stroke strength. This activity is beneficial for butterfliers as a lot of upper body toning benefits this stroke. Push yourself as hard as possible without any fear of hurtling into the wall.

Distance Training

By not having to turn or worry about keeping out of the way of other swimmers, resistance bands can help you go further. 

Medley Swimmers

To focus purely on getting each stroke right without considering turns, resistance bands can help. Try this program with the help of a sports watch:

  1. 5 minutes freestyle
  2. 30 seconds backstroke
  3. 5 minutes slow freestyle
  4. 30 seconds backstroke

Then repeat it as many times as possible.

Recovery From Injured Limbs

Resistance bands offer an opportunity to use the pool to recover injured limbs in the form of jogging in place. In chest-deep water, attach the band around your waist and slowly jog on the spot. You’ll get an entire body and cardiovascular workout without the risk of further injury.

SWIMMING HARNESS and Pool Resistance Bands for Mild Swimming

How Effective Are Swimming Resistance Bands?

By eliminating all distractions, swimming resistance bands allow the swimmer to focus on improving their technique without the risk of injury. They benefit each of the four strokes: 

Stroke by Stroke

  • Freestyle: Allows the swimmer to focus on the hips making sure they move equally on both sides.
  • Backstroke: The swimmer can focus on engaging the chest and midsection muscles.
  • Breaststroke: Successful breaststrokers use their legs correctly. With each stroke, they can determine how much water is displaced between their legs.
  • Butterfly: Overfocusing on the upper body during resistance training allows for a full-body workout when swimming without them.

Also, check out our post on “Endless Pools: Are They Worth It ?! Pros, Cons, Sizes, Speeds, Cost & Alternatives!

Do Swim Resistance Bands Work?

Lap swimming requires total concentration. Things like turns, breath control, and stroke all need equal focus. Then there are distractions from other swimmers and reaching the end of the pool. Resistance bands allow the swimmer to focus on one thing at a time. Once they return to doing laps, everything has been improved. 

Is Swimming Resistance Training Or Cardio?

Resistance bands could be cardio or training, depending on their use. If the swimmer focuses on improving their stroke, it’s pure training. For those using them to enhance stroke speed, it’s a cardio workout.

Swimmers Land-Based Resistance Training

There may be occasions when a swimmer can’t get to a pool. Some exercises can be done with resistance bands on land that can mimic pool swimming strokes and improve body strength.

Professional swimmers face weakness in minor muscle groups that aren’t used while swimming. Many swimmers get overdeveloped shoulder abductors; as a result, the external rotators and scapular stabilizers weaken. (Source)

Here are four exercises to do with resistance bands to help strengthen them. For each of them, begin with three sets of 20 (10 on each side). Breathing is an integral part of this practice too. Inhale when the muscles are lengthening, and exhale when they’re shortening. 

Try to incorporate all four exercises into your training program every day.

1. Bicep Curls

Swimmers’ shoulders get rolled forward from the constant forward motion placed on them. Strong biceps can reduce this by keeping the shoulders in place.

Stand on one end of the resistance bands, keep your elbow at 90°, and raise and lower your forearm only. 

2. Internal Rotation

Rotator cuffs are easily injured by swimming, so they need to be strengthened. 

For these exercises, you’ll need your resistance bands attached to a wall or pole.

For internal rotation, begin with arms at 90° degrees, as with bicep curls. Grasp the resistance band handle and pull it across your body until your hand reaches your upper abdomen. Return the band to the starting position, and be careful not to extend past 90°.

You should feel the muscles on the front of your shoulders and chest contracting.

3. External Rotation

External rotation begins the same as internals, but instead, move the band away from your body until your arm is fully extended, then return to the original position.

Done correctly, you’ll feel the muscles on the top of your back and the back of your shoulders contract.

4. Flaps

Deltoids and lateral muscles need to be strengthened to compensate for shoulder rolling. Flaps are an excellent way to build these.

Hold an end of the resistance band in each hand and your arms up straight beside your head. With palms facing out, pull each arm away from the other until the band rests along the shoulders, behind the neck. Quickly return the hands to the starting position, and repeat. It will look like wings flapping, hence the name.

No matter whether it’s in or out of the pool, resistance bands can benefit every swimmer. In the pool, they can assist with improving technique or help with injury recovery. On land, they can help strengthen underdeveloped muscle groups. 

Stephen Christopher

began running at the age of 50 and 2 years later ran his first marathon in just over 5 hours. He continues to join events all over Thailand and South East Asia with Berlin and London on the list for the future.

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