The competitive swimming lifestyle and training schedule is no joke. With a season that nearly never ends, countless hours swimming up and down the black line, and the endless eating that goes on to fuel the training, being a top-flight swimmer is tough work.

Adding a strength training component to your training is one way to get more from your time in the pool, and eventually, more from yourself when you step up on the blocks to race.

Here are four key focus points for putting together a successful weight training program for competitive swimmers.

1. An emphasis on posture. For freestylers in particular awful posture can be a real issue. TRX rows are one of my favorite functional movement exercises for swimmers, and can help reinforce good posture. Strengthening the back and shoulders in order to promote better posture is crucial not only for their swimming, but also for during their day to day lives when they are fighting the urge to slouch into the classic 21st century sitting position, slumped like a banana, head tilted down to gaze into their phone.

2. Core strength. Why is core strength so important for swimmers? At the end of the day the core acts as the power plant for our swimming, notes Olympic gold medalist Mel Stewart on this guide to improving your underwater dolphin kick. Whether it’s getting more from the pulling motion, or improving your flutter kick, it all starts from a string, braced core. Where swimmers lose most at the end of their races in terms of velocity is when they “die”, with fatigue and oxygen deprivation catching up to them. You see their stroke slacken, technique fall apart, and their hips begin to sink in the water.  A powerful core won’t ease all these things, but it will help you maintain some stroke integrity and efficiency as exhaustion sets in at the end of those hard sets during your swimming workouts and in your races.

3. Explosive power for starts and turns. The swim start is really a dryland movement, and is impossible to train in the water. No matter how many meters you are putting in at practice, it’s no substitute for the raw power that is needed to explode off of the blocks. Time to 15m and start speed have been shown in research to be linked to lower body strength and power, so instituting a protocol of squats, deadlifts, squat jumps, and other lower body strength exercises are necessary to help power up a fast start, as well as help develop power off of your flip turns.

4. Injury prevention. In research performed on a group of NCAA swimmers injuries were found to be caused 40 percent of the time via dryland or strength training. Those are not encouraging numbers, particularly as the injuries tended to be front loaded on freshmen, tailing off as the swimmer’s university career matured. The reason for this is surmised to be inexperience—not all club programs have access to a strength coach and proper weight training facilities.  Other coaches simply don’t subscribe to the benefits that weight training can provide swimmers, and prefer to keep all their training and preparation in the pool. Even though most swimmers, particularly those who move on to the college level, might be awesome athletes in the water, that prowess doesn’t necessarily correlate to the weight room. A thorough warm-up and mobility block should be undertaken before every lifting session, and guided instruction should be provided for the swimmers,  with particular attention given to those who are novices to the weight room. Given that a majority if the injuries—with swimmers shoulder being especially prevalent--were happening during a minor portion of their training coaches and swimmers should be particularly attentive when instituting a dryland program and escalate resistance and load accordingly.