Training Tips

Before participating in any organized sport, players should see their doctor for a pre-participation physical exam.

During an average high school or college practice workout, swimmers cover between 3,000 and 5,000 yards. That’s 120 to 200 times across a 25-yard pool. Very competitive swimmers often practice twice a day. They may cover 6,000 to 8,000 yards a day. That’s 240 to 320 times across a 25-yard pool. As with any sport, following a few training tips can keep swimmers safe and healthy:

  • Vary the length of practices according to an athlete’s ability level. Competitive swimmers spend approximately 15 to 20 hours practicing per week. Younger, less serious competitors should average five to 10 hours a week.
  • Gradually increase training intensity and distance. Difficult sets should be performed early in the training session, before the athlete becomes fatigued.
  • Make sure the athlete’s dry-land strengthening program is well balanced. Emphasis on the wrong muscle groups during dry-land training may create muscle imbalances that result in overworking the rotator cuff muscles during swimming.

Stroke Mechanics

There are four strokes in competitive swimming: freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke and butterfly. The individual medley, or IM,  includes all four strokes. In addition, there are freestyle relays and medley relays, where each team member swims one of the four different strokes.

  • Make sure there’s sufficient body roll during freestyle and backstroke. Insufficient body roll will slow a swimmer down and increase the likelihood of shoulder pain. There should be a high elbow position during recovery.
  • Avoid overreach during the catch phase and do not enter the water with an arm internally rotated (thumb down).
  • Alternate breathing sides to keep from leaning or rolling on the same shoulder.
  • Creating drag by training in multiple bathing suits and pantyhose during practice. This helps swimmers feel faster in the water during a race. Many swimmers also shave their legs, arms, backs and sometimes heads. 


Proper stretching should be incorporated into a daily training regimen. Here are some tips to following during a competition:

  • Begin with stretching on land—arms, shoulders, back and legs.
  • Swim an easy 200 to 500 yards to warm up and get the feel of the water.
  • Keep stretching throughout the swim meet to stay limber. If there is a warm-up pool or lane, get in approximately 10 to 15 minutes before their event and swim a few laps.