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I just read the Training and Technique article in the most recent issue of Swimmer magazine (May – June 2015, Vol. 11, No. 3. Page 12.), “The Dryland Difference, Should I Lift Weights Before or After Swimming? Optimal timing for drylands and swim practice,” by Mr. Allan Phillips, a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with Pike Athletics based in San Antonio, Texas. He is also an American Swimming Coaches Association Level 2 coach and USA Triathlon coach. Allan is enrolled in the Army-Baylor Doctor of Physical Therapy program where his research interests include movement screening and injury prevention. Most quotes below are from the aforementioned article unless otherwise noted.

After completing the article I felt compelled to immediately offer another option to the Swimmer readers and all USMS members. Offering a supplement to the current Physical Therapy education, Coach Mark Rippetoe has developed a method for training ordinary people helping them to gain extraordinary strength – what he has named Starting Strength. Coach Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength program “makes use of the body’s most basic movement patterns – barbell exercises that involve all the body’s muscle mass – utilized over the longest effective range of motion and loaded progressively, to force the adaptations necessary for increased strength. Unlike other popular exercise protocols, Starting Strength is a training system – a long-term process designed for getting stronger over time, not a random collection of exercises that just make you hot, sweaty, sore, confused, and tired today.”

Should you Lift Weights Before or After Swimming?


As most young swimmers do multiple workouts in a day, I think this would be considered a luxury for Masters swimmers. But if you do have the time, and you have not allowed yourself sufficient  recovery time, then your “second workout will be negatively affected by the first, assuming the first workout is more than a light warm-up.” Given enough recovery time, that typically is not the case with the proper coaching and strength training program.

It has been my experience, since 1982, decades as a competitive swimmer, coach and swim instructor, as well as a current candidate for the Starting Strength Coaching Certification, and of course a practitioner of the Starting Strength method, that lifting before a workout, with about an hour break before swimming, is enough time to recover and still have a very high quality swimming workout. Several swimmers here at One with the Water are doing the same program as I am, and we all feel refreshed and empowered after a Starting Strength barbell training workout. And if you’re like we are, then you will most likely swim faster than you did the previous swimming workout.

With the training regime of lifting and then swimming in the same day, but lifting with the Starting Strength Program, and then spending the next day building your muscle which you can only do by recovering, you will most certainly be refreshed to swim faster in your next workout. Ideally you would lift a minimum of two to three times per week (45 minutes to an hour per session) and swim at least three times per week. Allan offers a suggestion of swimming in the morning and then lifting during your lunch break or after work. That should be sufficient time to recover, however, I imagine that if your job is anything like my former j-o-b-s, then you might be too fatigued to hit your reps after swimming that day. But give it a try and let me know how it goes.

You will feel as though you are planting your hand and pulling yourself through the water as if it were a stationary object in space and you are in zero gravity.

If you do separate your workouts by more than an hour, I suggest that you digest something with high protein content, or if you’re waiting more than an hour, then you should ‘protein-up’ with a smoothie or large chunk of something, like a gallon of 2% milk. If you feel like your performance is impaired after lifting, then my guess is that you are doing the wrong kind of lifting. If you follow the Starting Strength method, then your feel for the water is going to improve immensely! You will feel as though you are planting your hand and pulling yourself through the water as if it were a stationary object in space and you are in zero gravity.

Intensity and Challenging Workouts

There is not much to say on this because if you are not adding weight progressively, because you are participating in a class such as yoga, pilates, crossfit, or something similar, then you most likely are wasting your time and energy. I know that the yoga fans are going to say something about flexibility, but strength training increases flexibility even better. If you are not able to add weight progressively in your current strength training program, and therefore not getting any stronger, then you are not doing the right program or you are not following the program. This same paragraph touches on striking a balance by having a “moderate session in the gym” so that your arms don’t feel like jelly. Frankly, a moderate-session-in-the-gym is an oxy-moron. If you are following the best strength training program, you will not be isolating your arms or body regions, and so your arms will never feel like jelly. If you are not adding weight progressively, then why are you even at the gym in the first place? You probably should have stayed home and spent an extra day recovering.

The last paragraph, I can live with and so I leave it to you. Go figure out what your seasonal body-type is and the best time for you to workout and get after it! After all, isn’t the goal of any dryland workout to help us to swim faster and more efficient?

About the Author: Coach Kenneth Rippetoe is a certified USMS Coach Level II, and Disability Coach Level III. He has been coaching and teaching swimming since 1993. He is a Texas-born and bred swimmer. He holds 14 USMS Top-Ten national swims and broke a FINA Masters World Record in 2009.

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