Swimming conditioning workouts enable swimmers to improve their musculature out of the water, while maintaining a regular swim schedule. By focusing on the upper body, swimmers gain strength that should translate to more power in the water. A Ball State University study of training methods, published in the November 1994 "Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research," studied various swim workouts that focused on upper-body strength, comparing traditional weightlifting to more swim-like strength training.
When conditioning for swimming, you must continue to train in the water — focusing on strength training on dry land isn't enough. Over time, you lose your feel for the water, and the mastery of the techniques that make you a good swimmer. In the Ball State study, elite college swimmers continued to swim 5,600 meters a day. While this might not be the level appropriate for you, keep a basic swim regimen going as you focus on building your swim conditioning level out of the water. Aim to complete at least 1,500 to 2,000 meters (or yards) each workout to maintain your basic swim level.
The Ball State study found that swimmers who use free weights gained less time in their overall swim speed than swimmers who used dips as a workout tool for six weeks. The study found that weight-assisted dips, where a swimmer completes triceps dips clasping a free weight between her feet, seemed to improve swim speed. The reason was not entirely clear, but the authors suggest that triceps dips more closely echo the movement of the triceps when swimming than do traditional free-weight activities that work the muscle.
Pull-ups work the latissimus dorsi, the muscles of the back that help power your swim stroke. In the Ball State study, swimmers who used weight-assisted pull-ups doubled in six weeks the number of pull-ups they could successfully complete. When compared to the swimmers who completed traditional lat pull-downs, another means of working the latissimus dorsi, the pull-up swimmers improved their freestyle times more significantly.