Do I Have Core Strength?

Do I Have Core Swimming Strength?

Dr. GJohn Mullen Blog, Dryland, Latest&Greatest, Training Leave a Comment


  1. Core strength is plane dependent.
  2. Core strength is activity dependent.
  3. Core strength can vary with training volume, load, etc.

I’ve received a lot of emails recently regarding core strength, specifically how to test for core strength and tell if someone has enough “core strength for swimming”. Now, there are numerous methods for testing core strength in multiple planes [check out the basics page], which Allan Phillips and I discuss in great detail in the swimming Troubleshooting System, but one must remember these are testing maximal core strength during an isometric contraction. Keep in mind, someone may have adequate core strength during tests, but not use their core strength properly during the desired task (like swimming) or an athlete will have poor core strength during a task and test in only one plane. 

I’ll never forget when I was working with an elite Olympic Trial semi-finalist in the 100 fly who had low back pain. This swimmer was ripped with 6-pack abs with great strength in the anterior sagittal and frontal planes. However, this athlete had a great downfall (like many swimmers) with their strength in the posterior sagittal plane. This weakness resulted in him having excessive spinal motion during underwater kicking which continually exacerbated his low back pain. Luckily, with watching his swimming and performing the multi-planar core strength tests, it was obvious he had a core strength in some planes of motions and exercises but lacked it in others.

As a coach, performing a needs analysis is often required to break down each swimmer’s major stroke deficiencies, then determine which stroke flaw is most impeding performance. Then the stroke flaw most impeding performance must be further analyzed for the cause of this aberrant motion. Lastly, an intervention must be performed to see if the stroke flaw will improve, followed by a re-evaluation.

This example with the 100-m flyer was easier, as the swimmer had pain, hinting at what plane and motion was weak. Unfortunately, it isn’t always this easy, as often a thorough breakdown of stroke biomechanics and flaws is often required.

Helping bridge the gap between dry-land and swimming flaws is the goal of the Troubleshooting System. This system provides numerous screens and interventions for improvement.

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