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How to Get in Swimmer Shape

Try these exercises to score a Dara Torres–worthy body.

Swimming scorches tons of calories while sculpting lean muscles. Plus, unlike many other workouts, there’s zero impact on your joints and bones, which is why many athletes recovering from injuries start with water workouts. But if your idea of swimming is doggy paddling, it’ll take a little work outside the pool to whip your muscles into swimmer shape.
Here’s what to work on -- out of the water -- to help you take the leap from “sure, I can stay afloat” to “yep, I’m a swimmer -- and I got the body to prove it.”

1. Work your abs. Core strength is huge when it comes to swimming. The stronger your core, the better swimmer you’ll be. So start doing those crunches!
2. Stretch your chest and shoulders. To be an efficient swimmer, you need a flexible upper half, especially for the freestyle stroke. Try this exercise: Stand in a doorframe and hold the frame with both hands about shoulder height. Lean forward until your arms are straight and you feel a good stretch.
3. Bust your butt. No, really. You need strong glutes for strong strokes, so do squats and lunges every chance you get (like when you’re in the elevator alone or waiting for your morning coffee to brew).
4. Work your hammys. Your hamstrings work like crazy when you swim, so show them some (tough) love. Sorry, that means even more squats and lunges. But be sure to do them without holding on to anything, so your abs will be working to stabilize you at the same time. Give those hamstrings a good stretch too -- they’ll get very tight after a good swim.
5. Stretch your back. Trying to nail the breaststroke? You’ll need a really flexible back to help pull your body out of the water. Work toward this by lying on your tummy with your hands pressed to the ground near your shoulders. Push your upper body away from the floor and straighten your arms, looking toward the ceiling to stretch your paraspinal muscles (the muscles next to the spine). Then lower back down and repeat.
While you’re getting your muscles in swimming shape, join an adult swim class at your local gym or community center (most have several skill levels to choose from) so you can start practicing in the water too. Building up your lung capacity will take some time, so don’t be discouraged if you can only swim a few laps at first. It’ll get easier with practice. Plus, you can work on your strokes and technique (isn’t it time to upgrade from the doggy paddle?).

Nestpert: Tracey Mallett is the creator of the 6-Minute Quick Blast Method DVDs and author of Sexy in 6. www.traceymallett.com

-- Erin Walters