Why All Swimmers Should Use Resistance Bands

Photo Courtesy: Sara McLarty

Bringing back this story by Dylan Evangelista, Swimming World College Intern.  Now is the time to focus on good form at home to translate to good form in the water…we shall return! 

Whether you’re a competitive athlete, or just looking for a way to stay active, swimming is a fantastic form of exercise as it increases overall body strength, and also improves your flexibility and endurance. Although there are many incredible benefits of swimming, there are some precautions that must be taken when spending a lot of time in the pool.

While it is undeniable that swimming can yield incredible physical results, it is an exceptionally vigorous form of exercise and often causes overuse injuries, and muscle imbalances.

Typical injuries with swimming usually deal with the shoulders or the knees, and one of the best ways to combat these issues is resistance band training. 

Whether it be swimmers shoulder or frozen shoulder, tendinitis, bursitis, or any injury for that matter, prevention and early treatment, addressing the impairments at hand is the key to managing and reducing the risk of injury.

Resistance bands are not only cheap, durable, and easy to travel with, but they can offer you a full body workout without any weights, which typically means a lower risk of injury.

Bands provide resistance to just about any motion, and can be especially helpful for mimicking the motions you make while in the pool.

They allow you to perform strength-training exercises in the way that they provide a force against which your muscles must work. This action has a very different impact on the way your muscles will contract, which stimulates bone as well as muscle growth.

Muscle imbalances in swimmers usually stem from the fact that swimming works all major muscle groups, but fails to work the smaller supportive muscle groups equally. Strengthening these supportive muscle groups is the best way to not only aid injury prevention, but improve stroke mechanics as well.

Musculoskeletal physiotherapist Alex Clarke has a long association with competitive swimming both as an athlete and as a coach. Clarke explained that,

“Swimmers often develop muscle imbalances where the adductors and internal rotators of the arm overdevelop, due to the repetitive nature of swimming. The average high school swimmer performs 1 to 2 million strokes annually with each arm! Unfortunately, this leaves a relative weakness of the external rotators and scapular stabilizers – simply because they don’t get used as much.”

All these factors begin to culminate causing irritation or an impingement.

Some beginning resistance band exercises that all swimmers should utilize are as follows:

Bicep Curl

    Photo Courtesy: Swim Outlet

Bicep curls are an excellent way to strengthen the bicep tendon and help your body compensate for the overdeveloped shoulder adductors often seen in swimmers. Swimmers shoulders are typically rolled forward from the constant forward motion exerted on them. Keeping your bicep tendons strong will help keep them in place and reduce rolled forward shoulders, therefore lowering the risk of a shoulder injury.

Perform this exercise slowly, inhaling during the eccentric contraction (where the muscle is lengthening) and exhaling during the concentric contraction (where the muscle is shortening). Start out with 3 sets of 20 reps (10 reps each side) and progress as you get stronger!

*NOTE: Keep this breathing pattern and repetition range consistent for all the exercises listed.

Internal Rotation

Photo Courtesy: Swim Outlet

When you work your shoulder’s internal rotators, you will feel the muscles on the front of your chest and shoulder contracting. Make sure the resistance band is taut, but not too strenuous. There are several ways to work your internal rotators but for a beginner the following method is the best starting point.

Stand with your arm lying at your side, then bend the arm forward to a 90 degree angle (as if you were doing a hammer curl). This postion is crucial as it is both your starting and ending point. Then proceed to pull the resistance band inward across your body, until it is gently touching your upper abdomen.

Slowly bring the arm back to that 90 degree angle creating positive tension on your rotators, but make sure not to go past that starting point!

External Rotation

Photo Courtesy: Swim Outlet

It’s easy to injure muscles and tendons near your rotator cuff due to the nature of swimming. When you work your shoulder external rotators, you will feel the muscles on the back of your shoulder and the top of your back contract.

Keep that same 90 degree start and finishing point that you have with internal rotation, but now pull the band outward across your body. When you externally rotate your shoulder, you turn your arm and hand away from the center of your body so that your palm faces away from your thigh.

Flaps for Lateral and Deltoid Muscles

Photo Courtesy: Swim Outlet

Your lateral and deltoid muscles are key muscles for swimmers. Grip the two ends of the band with both hands, holding it above your head with straight arms. Then proceed to pull downward while engaging your shoulders and keeping your arms straight.

This exercise should feel as if you are flapping your wings.

Resistance band exercises can do wonders for your bone, joint, and muscle strength. Just as you would with weight training, start off your resistance band training slowly with a lighter resistance band before progressing to a higher resistance level. Invest 10-15 minutes a day to resistance band exercises and you will feel the results both in and out of the pool!

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff. All swimming and dryland training and instruction should be performed under the supervision of a qualified coach or instructor, and in circumstances that ensure the safety of participants.


  1. Lin Tozer

    Cameron Gillespie Finn Lyon

  2. Irene Hisham

    Edrin Rafael Walcott….Edwina Ed….

  3. Đặng Phúc

    Tuấn Ndm có dây mà khg chịu sử dụng đi nha

    • Tuấn Ndm

      Giờ thầy mới đọc là thế nào 😛

    • Đặng Phúc

      Tại vì biết tác dụng nó nên khg cần phải đọc nhiều :))

    • Tuấn Ndm

      Đọc nó có giáo án tập đó thầy 🙂

  4. Patsy Patterson Martin

    Dang , I really need those, my birthday is coming up . those would be good. wine would be better.

  5. Nicole Crook

    Mitchell we could set some up on the fence…

  6. Sahtina Miller

    Brad Miller we need to get some of these

    • Sophie Burn

      Wayne Goldsmith yes but u need to set them up right for him x

  7. Nancy Booth

    Getting these. Just diagnosed with impingement syndrome, AC joint arthritis, cervical disc stenosis etc. self diagnosed: anxiety/ low grade depression from not swimming. Focusing on healing and staying in shape until pools reopen. (Bought an elliptical-ouch?) better than nothing. What’s everyone else doing?

  8. avatar

    The article is well written and helpful but the exercise images could be better. The images are not necessarily “specific” to swimming and actually the Coach should be emphasizing the eccentric aspect of the exercise in order to develop the correct muscle balance and allow the exercise to truly benefit the swimmer.