I think I’ve found the perfect dry workout for swim training, especially for No Fins freediving where a strong catch and pull of the arms is a key element.
There is a right and wrong way to row however, as I found out from a personal trainer at my local gym.
Rowing works all the major muscle groups in the legs, arms, back, abdominals and chest and gets the heart rate up.
The explosive press of the feet helps to build strength for pushing off the wall. The pull by the arms for building up the lats, chest and biceps for the arm stroke.
Rowing is a pushing activity, not pulling as you might think. At the start of the 'catch' phase (crouched close in to the wheel) the power comes from low down in the body, the large muscles in the legs. Its not until you push back and the legs are nearly straight that the arms get involved. By the last part of the active push you should be just past upright, keep your back straight and core engaged.
During the recovery phase let the hands move back with the handle first, don't bend your knees until the hands are at shin position, as you then return to the starting crouch position. This is the mistake many people make, they push out and in with the legs.
Steady rowing can give an aerobic workout, whereas interval rowing with high intensity bursts, interspersed with easy rest periods, can give an anaerobic workout.
Breast-strokers need good internal and external rotation in the hips, to prevent stress on the knees. If you lack flexibility in the hips then the knee has to
take on the rotation to perform the frog kick. Knee and groin injuries are the most common in breast-stroke for this reason.
Internal rotation is when your knees come together – looks like ‘knock knees’. This movement occurs when we bring the feet up towards the bottom to start the kick. Tight hips can mean we take the legs out too wide, greater than shoulders width. External rotation occurs when the knees turn out to the side – looks like Charlie Chaplin. This occurs when we snap the feet together, bringing most of the power and speed into the stroke. Tightness here can transfer stress into the groin.
If you already have hip or knee pain I advise you not to try these poses until you've seen your doctor.
Horse or Goddess Pose
Strengthens the legs and provides outward rotation for the hips. Breathe deeply into the chest, opening the rib cage. Breathe through the discomfort in your legs for at least five breaths.
Repeat up to three times.
Stretches the adductors on the straight leg (the muscles that generate the power in the snap kick), and works the hip flexors on the bent leg. Also
encourages flexibility in the ankles. Move with your
in-breath, sink into the squat with a long exhale. Then move across to the other side to repeat. Try up to five on each side (pre-diving) or hold each stretch for 20 seconds+ when you're cooling down after diving.
Continues to move the hip joints through their range of motion and adds a stretch into the rib cage. Bend both knees and bring the right foot against the left thigh. Side bend on an in-breath taking the right arm overhead. Hold for three breaths. Repeat with the left arm. Repeat with the knees pointing the other
direction, stretch to each side.
Strengthens the arms and legs, builds strength in the upper back and opens the hip joint. Start in Downward Dog for two to three breaths. On the last exhale sink the left heel. Inhale lift the right leg straight up either pointing or flexing the toes. Then bend the knee and turn the hips to face the right. Keep equal weight in both arms. Hold for three breaths and release as your breathe out. Repeat on the left leg.
Child’s pose with an added shoulder stretch. This squeezes tension out of the shoulders and upper
back. Stay in this pose for three to five breaths. Release the arms down on exhale and then rest in child's pose, breathing into the back. This helps to relax and open out the tight muscles in between the ribs (intercostals) and along the spine.
For more yoga specific to breast stroke, diving frog kick or No Fins freediving please see one of Rebecca's courses
This exercise comes from Kundalini Yoga and is known as the frog pose. It's great for building up strength in the thighs and flexibility in the hip joints for your frog kick. Breathe in to lift up, straightening your legs - breathe out to rest back down into the squat. Keep your heels off the floor throughout. If your back feels OK doing one or two then try building up over time to 21 repetitions. Maya Fiennes, who taught me this, says that this exercise helps to counteract our fear of failure, reduces the risk of breast and prostate cancer, good for circulation and raising energy in the body.