PVC Physical Strategy 70

olympic swimmer ryan murphy
weight room training

Originally Published in Men’s Heath on July 14, 2020 by Emily Shiffer

Gold medal Olympic swimmer Ryan Murphy is not letting the postponed Olympics disrupt his training schedule or mindset. The backstroker, who won three golds at the 2016 Rio Games and holds the world record for the 100-meter event, is always working hard.

“I define strength as being consistent, no matter how you’re feeling. Some days you’re going to feel great, some days you’re going to feel bad,” he told the MH crew when we caught up with him (before the Games were delayed). “But being able to raise your level, so that even on your worst days you’re pretty dang good, I view that as strength.”

Murphy maintains that strength with work. Throughout the week, he spends three hours in the weight room.

“A big part of my training regime is obviously in the water, but we do a ton of stuff in the gym. I think it’s really importation for my swimming success. One, everything starts with the core. So being able to brace my core and utilize differ net muscle groups is really important,” says Murphy. “And then also, it makes me a better athlete. Becoming a better athlete outside the water, you’re going to become a better athlete in the water. So that’s really the philosophy we have in the weight room and it’s crucial to my success. It’s going to be a part of my routine as long as I’m swimming.”

Of course, his training includes getting in the pool as well.

“I’d say the hardest part about my sport, swimming, is that it’s a lifestyle. It takes a lifestyle of greatness to reach the top of the podium on the biggest stage,” says Murphy. “For me, that means busting my butt in the pool every single day, focusing on the little things: the technique, the conditioning. And then when I’m out of the pool, the recovery. The nutrition, the foam rolling, the sleeping.”

Murphy takes us inside the weight room with his performance coach Joel Smith.

Ryan Murphy’s Olympic Swimming Workout

Weight Room

The Rhythm Clean and Jerk
3 sets of 3 to 5 reps

“The reason we’re doing this today is because you are a swimmer, not a weightlifter,” says Smith. We don’t need your clean to be 300 pounds. So we are gonna create some variations. It’s going to put some variation, some coordination and some work in space to clean the bar, and then in rhythm, put it over your head.

Hanging Med Ball Throw
3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

“You’re gong to be hanging from the bar, and I’m going to be throwing this ball, which you’re going to catch with your feet and throw back to me,” says Smith. “This is going to capture a lot of elements of that reflexive trunk strength that you use in a similar nature when you move through the water. So rather than doing a static crunch, we’re working reflexively. A little more athletic than standard ab work.”

Weighted Pullups (with Chain)
3A: Overhand Pullups
3B: Underhand Pullups
3C: Wide Grip Pullups
3 sets of 4 to 6 reps

“This is an exercise that brings in a lot of different muscle groups. Specifically for swimming it’s a really crucial exercise to kind of mimic the catch that you’re gonna have at the top of your stroke,” says Murphy.

Physio Ball Scorpion
3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

“For this move you’re gonna have your feet on a physio ball and you’re gonna be horizontal. You have to brace with your abs, and then rotate along a really thin line across your body,” says Murphy. “So it works on your back rotation, and then you also have to brace your legs in order to hold the rotation without falling off the physio ball. So it’s a really good one for swimming.”


“The main focus in the training is finding those milliseconds to improve, and in my sport, a lot of these races come down to 1/100th of a second or 1/10th of a second,” says Murphy. “It’s about making sure I’m in the best physical shape I can be. My technique, learning how to be more efficient in my body position. So my core, my back, my glutes, my hip flexors. I’ve always got 10 things in my head that I’m focusing on in a practice.”

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