Targeting Your Core for Open Water Performance

The idea that a strong core-body is essential to swimming is fairly common knowledge. Having strong core muscles aids swimmers in stabilizing their stroke, keeps the body in a hydrodynamic position, and achieves optimal body rotation.

In open water races, it can become glaringly apparent when a swimmer does not have a strong enough core. Waves, chop, and sighting all interrupt a swimmer’s ideal body position and require additional effort and strength to correct. Even seasoned open water swimmers can end up with substantial lower back fatigue after an open water training session that required minimal sighting for navigational purposes.

In short, the abdominal muscles must be strong in order to correct body position. And the lower back muscles must be strong in order for a swimmer to sight.

An ideal set for strengthening these two groups of muscles combines Head-Up Swimming (or Tarzan drill) and Streamline Dolphin Kick on your back. As a bonus, you’ll get your kick set in as well!

10x50s @ 1:15

25 Head-Up Swimming (targets lower back muscles)

25 Streamline Dolphin Kick on Back (targets front abdominals)


  • While these drills can be performed without equipment, the addition of Z2 Zoomers will make the set a little easier and allow you to obtain perfect form, even for a swimming newbie.
  • For those who find an entire 25 of Head-Up Swimming daunting, a swimmer can instead sight and pick the head up every 3rd stroke. Try to swim as horizontally as possible and keep your legs from sinking!
  • For those who would like to practice feeding, a water bottle can be placed at the end of the lane so that the swimmer can practice quick feeds (2-3 Seconds) at the turn.

-Mallory Mead
Open Water Marathon Swimmer
Indianapolis, Indiana