9 Stretch Cord Exercises To Improve Swim Strength And Technique

Scull

Stretch cords are a versatile, underrated tool to use for developing strength and technique in the water.

Catch

Position yourself just like the scull drill. With a light pressure on the cords and while maintaining a high-elbow position, pull your hands and forearms down and back until they are directly underneath your elbows. Slowly release to the starting position for an eccentric exercise.

Finish

Face the attachment point and bend at the waist. Position your biceps against the side of your body with forearms and hands pointing straight down. Extend both hands backward to engage the triceps and mimic the finish movement. When performed before training, keep a light pressure on your hands to engage the muscle without fatigue.

Recovery

Face away from the attachment point and bend slightly at the waist. Simulate a freestyle stroke where the cords will assist with the pulling phase but be under load during the recovery motion. The emphasis during this drill is on a quick recovery and the constant core engagement during rotation. It’s a particularly good drill before any wetsuit swimming.

Triceps Extension

Perform this the same as the finish drill but with more pressure on the cords. Or face away from the attachment point, stand tall and extend arms overhead for an alternative triceps extension exercise.

Single-Arm Pull

Position yourself just like the scull drill. Slowly pull one arm all the way back to your thigh focusing on each phase of the stroke (catch, pull, finish). Release that arm to the front and pull with the other arm. Emphasize technique by performing this drill slowly, or build strength and endurance with very quick and constant movements.

Double-Arm Pull

Same as the single-arm pull but performed with both arms simultaneously. The focus is on a constant acceleration of the hands from the catch to the finish.

Chest Fly

Face away from the attachment and stand tall. Raise arms into a “T” position at chest height. With a slight bend in the elbow, pull arms together to meet in the front. Control the speed of the release for an additional eccentric exercise.

Reverse Fly

Perform the same as the Chest Fly, but done while facing the attachment. Focus on the eccentric loading by resisting and controlling the speed of the cords as they retract.

Try these simple exercises to improve strength and technique on land.

Stretch cords are a versatile, underrated tool to use for developing strength and technique in the water. Many elite athletes (including Olympian Gwen Jorgensen) carry their cords with them while traveling to facilitate an entire swim workout if a pool is not readily available, or to use for a race warm-up when not allowed in the water before an event. You can purchase a set of StretchCordz for around $30 online (Swimoutlet.com), or build your own with surgical tubing and some duct tape.

Keep your cords in your swim practice bag to use before you get in the water. Attach your cords to a fixed object on the pool deck, like a starting block or fence post. Perform a few minutes of light muscle activation with the following drills to emphasize good technique.

Strength Workout

You can replicate an entire swim practice if you don’t have access to a pool or if you missed a swim after a busy day of work. After 15–20 minutes of these exercises, you’ll leave with a bit of sweat and a lot of fatigue in your major muscles. Do 10–15 reps of each exercise and each arm when applicable.

Photos by Oliver Baker

RELATED – Warm-Up Without Water: 4 Stretch Band Exercises