Will from Vita Fitness is the esa strength and conditioning consultant on all of our half day clinics. Here Will goes through a very simple exercise to increase your shoulder power and strength to maximise your swimming technique. 

The single arm shoulder press is one of the best exercises for developing strength through the entire body. Despite the obvious focus be given to lifting the weight over your head, the asymmetrical (one sided) nature of the exercise forces the who body and core to engage and strengthen.

Traditional shoulder press exercises tend to be symmetrical (using two weights or holding a barbell in both arms). While this will work to strengthen the shoulders, it does mean that the forces on the body are balanced and as such the core only needs to be engaged to support the upward effort of the weight. By only having one weight, the core is now challenged to keep yourself vertical as well as supporting the weight because you will want to bend sideways during the exercise. This is the point of the exercise – it is not just about your upper body; rather it is a whole body lift.

From a swimming point of view this exercise will give you both a stronger upper body (to give more power to your strokes) and stronger core to remain streamlined in the water.


Exercise Instructions:

This exercise is demonstrated in the pictures with a Kettlebell, but can be done with a dumbbell as well.


  • Hold the weight in the “Rack” position as shown in the photograph. You want to feel like your upper arm is braced against your ribs, your elbow directly under your fist and your fist is below your chin. It is important that you start here to ensure full range of motion for the shoulder.
  • Prepare your body: Grip the ground with your feet, engage your Quads (front of your thighs) and your Glutes (Bum). Breath in sharply through the nose to help brace your Abdominal muscles. Squeeze both hands (yes, even the hand not holding a weight) as tight as you can to create tension through the upper body. In effect your whole body should feel braced. If it helps, think of this as a vertical plank.
  • Now press the weight directly overhead, trying to keep your forearm as vertical as possible throughout. As you press, you should exhale sharply out through your mouth. Remember to squeeze your whole body as tight as you can while pressing. You are trying to minimize any lean or alignment change in the body. The heavier it feels, the harder you squeeze!
  • At the top of your press your arm should be as vertical as possible with the weight held directly over your head. Note as shown in the picture, both my hands are still gripping tightly.
  • Return the weight to the “Rack” position (you can relax the squeeze while lowering) by pulling the weight down through the same path it travelled up through. Remember to breath in sharply through your nose to resent yourself for the next press.

Exercise Guidelines:

  • Goal is to complete (with good form) five sets of five repetitions on each side twice a week.
  • Make sure you never fail a rep or complete one by compromising form.
  • The right weight is one you can complete without failing. Ideally you should feel like you could press only one more time before failing.

For more information about training with me please visit the website at www.vita-fitness.co.uk or contact me at william@vita-fitness.co.uk.