3 exercises to strengthen your core for ocean swimming

Learn three beginner core strength and stability exercises that will help you develop the core needed to become a better ocean swimmer.

When it comes to advancing beginner ocean swimmers or swimmers in general, one area that is widely forgotten is the benefit derived from having a stable and strong core.

Your core is made up of the major muscles that reside in the area of the belly and the mid and lower back (not the shoulders), and peripherally include the hips, the shoulders and the neck.

A strong core in swimming keeps your body flat in the water and when activated stops your hips dropping, allowing your legs to sit up on the surface of the water and not drag through the water.

In the ocean environment, a strong core will assist in:

  • Dolphin diving and diving under waves where you need to be able to initiate movement from your pelvis (whipping your lower body/legs up and over to follow your upper body through the same line),
  • Sighting (where you need to be able to lift and hold your head up while keeping your legs on the surface of the water), and
  • Body surfing (when you need to keep your body as rigid as possible for maximum wave riding time).

To strengthen your core for ocean swimming it makes sense to use exercises that are set in the same functional position that you find yourself in for swimming.

Here are 3 core strength and stability exercises that will help you develop the core needed to become a better ocean swimmer.

Thanks to Bondi Rescue Lifeguard Anthony ‘Harries’ Carroll for being our model!
Harries Core Fitness-2479-Plank

1. Plank

  • Lie face down on mat resting on the forearms, palms flat on the floor
  • Push off the floor, raising up onto toes and resting on the elbows
  • Keep your back flat, in a straight line from head to heels
  • Tilt your pelvis and contract your abdominals to prevent your rear end from sticking up in the air or sagging in the middle
  • Hold for 20 to 60 seconds, lower and repeat for 2-5 reps

Harries Core Fitness-2478-Plank with arm&legAHarries Core Fitness-2480-Plank with arm&legB 2. Plank with arm/leg lift

  • Lie face down on mat resting on the forearms, palms flat on the floor
  • Start in the same plank position as above with your forearms and toes on the floor
  • Slowly raise one leg off the floor and carefully shifting your weight to your right forearm raise the opposite arm
  • Extend your arm and leg straight out in front of you so it is parallel with the ground
  • Engage your core, count two to five seconds, then and slowly lower your leg to the floor
  • Switch leg/arm and repeat. Do about 2-3 sets of 10 reps
  • Switch arms and repeat. Do 2-3 sets of 10 reps

Harries Core Fitness-2491-singlearm&leg raise1Harries Core Fitness-2492-singlearm&leg raise2Harries Core Fitness-2495-singlearm&leg raise3

3. Single leg raises

  • Lie on the ground on your back keeping your lower back and shoulders in contact with the floor
  • Position yourself so one leg is bent and raised, and the other is stretched out
  • Place your hands by your sides or under lower back for support
  • Keeping the leg straight and back flat, lift single-leg upward until it is straight above hips
  • Lower down to starting position slowly and with control (but do not allow feet to touch the ground between reps) to complete one rep
  • Do 2-3 sets of 10 reps


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  • Avatar
    7 March, 2015 at 8:53 PM

    Love the plank with leg and arm lift! It is one of my favorite ways to simulate the movements made when swimming through the water.

    Doing scissor kicks on my back while tossing a medicine ball up and down is a close second 🙂

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