Trainers and fitness experts constantly tell athletes that you need to strengthen your core, but what does this really mean? Your core includes the muscle groups in your midsection, including the traverse abdominis, obloquies, lower lats and erector spinae. This is the area of the body that provides stability for all of our movement.

Core training for swimmers not only will improve your overall strength; these exercises also can reduce the likelihood of injury. Obviously, all swimmers have spent countless hours in the water working on stroke after stroke, improving times and technique, but core training can translate to a big improvement in the water.

While some people associate core training for swimmers or other athletes with sit-ups and crunches, core training should be much more than a few quick abdominal exercises. You want to target each muscle group slowly and carefully. The good news is that aside from weightlifting (which you might be interested in adding as you progress); you don’t need a great deal of equipment.

A medicine ball and an exercise ball, as well as resistance bands typically will be what you need for core training for swimmers. Prior to beginning core training, it is wise to talk with a doctor or fitness specialist. This is especially true if you are healing from any type of injury. You don’t want to irritate a sore shoulder or another muscle area if it hasn’t fully healed.

Start with a quick warm up and stretch to get your muscles ready for core training. For swimmers, you’ve probably spent some time out of the water doing some flutter kicks and crunches. These are great for the abdominals, but be sure to slow down and focus on the movement. Upgrade the typical flutter kick into v-sit kicks by bringing your arms over your head as you are doing the kicks. Typically, you feel like you are going to tip over, but use those abdominal muscles to keep your body stable.

Planks are another great exercise suitable for core training for swimmers. They look simple, but when done correctly, they cover a lot of ground. Support your body using your toes and forearms, while keeping your elbows right below the shoulders. Then squeeze your butt and abdominals for a set amount of time, keeping your midsection completely straight. As you get better increase the time and the amount of planks that you do.

The medicine ball can be used as core training for swimmers. For instance, the weighted Superman has the swimmer lying face down on a mat holding the ball out in front. You slowly raise your legs and arms as high as possible and then hold for a few seconds. This is just one example; medicine balls can be used to increase the difficulty of crunches and V-ups as well. Resistance bands and the exercise ball can be used for core training exercises that specifically target the arms and shoulders.

These are just a few quick examples of possible exercises you might fit into your training circuit. Basically when it comes to core training for swimmers, slow and deliberate movements yield the best results. A strength coach also can help you create a plan that will make you a stronger, safer swimmer.