Nathan Adrian’s 3 Favorite Exercises

With individual swimmers including Anthony Ervin, Tom Shields, Natalie Coughlin and Nathan Adrian and teams such as Palo Alto Stanford Aquatics training with Bridge, the company is already making an impact with some of the top performing athletes in the sport. This is part one of a three part series that will explain some the Bridge athletes’ favorite exercises.

Thanks to BridgeAthletic, we will feature Nathan Adrian. Nathan’s top three Bridge exercises are the Weighted Pull Up, the Hex Bar Dead Lift and the Disc Freestyle Slide.

Weighted Pullups

Want to hold and control a massive amount of water? Then the weighted pull up is for you. 

Equipment: For this exercise you will need a pull up bar, as well as a weighted vest or belt.

Starting Position: Start standing with your arms extended upwards. Rest your hands in wide grip position on the pull up bar above you.


–        Keeping your hands in the resting wide grip position, pull upwards until your chin is above the bar. Keep your core tight and avoid leg thrusts and movement.

–        Once your chin is above the bar, begin lowering your body until your arms are fully extended upwards. Avoid letting your feet touch the ground.

–        Repeat these steps in order to reach your rep goals.

–        Suggestions: To make this exercise more difficult consider adding more weight to your vest or belt.

Nathan is a power swimmer and the weighted pull is by far one of his most impressive strengths in the weight room. He can do pull ups with upwards of 60 kilos on a given day, which is really impressive for a swimmer of his size. Nathan has worked on this movement for the last 5-6 years and credits this exercise with his ability to build a more powerful catch. “The weighted pull up is very important for sprinters,” Adrian says. “We need to generate a lot of power to sprint, so strength to weight ratio is crucial. This exercise helps increase my strength to weight ratio in a movement that directly translates to the pool.”

Trap / Hex Bar Deadlift 

When you need to add more power to your “engine room,” the trap /hex bar deadlift delivers plenty of horsepower when you step on the gas.

Equipment: You will need a hex bar and weighted plates for additional weight.

Starting Position: Start by standing in an athletic position inside of the hex bar with your arms at your side.


–        To begin, bend at the hip and knee while keeping a straight back until you can grab onto the hex bar.

–        Gripping the handles of the hex bar, return to a standing position. Use your legs to facilitate the upward movement.

–        Once at the top, bend at the hip and knee again until you can lightly touch the weight to the ground.

–        Repeat this controlled movement until you reach your desired number of reps.

–        Add more weight to the hex bar as you become more comfortable with the movement.

The deadlift is a fantastic compound movement that focuses on working the larger muscles like the quads, hamstrings, glutes and lower back while also activating the shoulders traps and lats. The motion of the dead lift emphasizes pushing away from the floor, which almost perfectly replicates starts and turns – a critical aspect of any sprinter’s race. For Nathan, the hex bar allows him to take some of the load off of his spine (as opposed to using a barbell), while maintaining perfect technique. “As a taller athlete,” Adrian says, “I prefer to use the Trap Bar. The Deadlift sets a great foundation for my starts and all of my Olympic lifts.”

Disc Freestyle 

To generate swim speed this exercise transfers power from your core to your extremities

Equipment: You will need two sliding discs and a flat smooth surface.

Starting Position: Start in pushup position with your arms fully extended and your hands on the two sliding discs.


–        From your starting position, move your right arm forward and your left arm backwards. Extend as far forward as you can while maintaining a proper plank position and a straight arm. Your left arm will move backwards and bend at your elbow.

–        Once you have extended all the way forward, alternate your arms. Bring your left arm forward as you move your right arm back.

–        Alternate until you have reached your desired number of reps.

–        Be sure to maintain a tight core and a flat back. Extend further forward as you become more comfortable with the movement.

The Disc Freestyle is an exercise you can do anywhere—on the pool deck, at a yoga studio, or just on the kitchen floor—using discs on a slide board. Don’t have a slide board? Use towels and a smooth surface. This movement is all about moving your own bodyweight and staying connected through the motion. This connection is important Adrian says, “because it facilitates a transfer of power from the large core and leg muscles into the extremities. I like to work on some body weight freestyle-specific work in the weight room I can feel the connection from fingertips to toes doing this, and I really feel the transfer of power when I’m in the pool”.

That transfer of power is how we generate swim speed. By focusing on staying connected from core to extremities, Nathan and our athletes have discovered there’s more to strength training than lifting heavy loads.

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BridgeAthletic Logo 3BridgeAthletic works with elite professional, collegiate, and club swimming programs to provide a turnkey solution for dryland training. Led by Nick Folker, the top swimming strength and conditioning coach in the world, our team builds stroke-specific, custom-optimized dryland programs for each of our clients. The individualized workouts are delivered directly to athletes via our state of the art technology platform and mobile applications. Check Nick and BridgeAthletic out as recently featured in SwimSwam.


Nick FolkerNick Folker is the Co-Founder and Director of Elite Performance at BridgeAthletic. Nick’s roster of athletes includes 35 Olympians winning 22 Olympic Medals, 7 team NCAA Championships and over 170 individual and relay NCAA championships. Megan Fischer-Colbrie works as the Sports Science Editor at BridgeAthletic. Megan was a four-year varsity swimmer at Stanford, where she recently graduated with a degree in Human Biology. The Championship Series by BridgeAthletic is designed to empower athletes with tips from the pros that will help them reach peak performance come race day. We will be covering competition-focused topics such as nutrition, recovery, stretching, and mental preparation.

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6 years ago

He is the bronze medal winner from Rio. He lost to the future of sprinting Kyle Chalmers

Reply to  gregor
6 years ago

Dressel just swam 0.3-0.4 faster in 100free than Chalmers did in Rio on like 4 separate 100frees last month.

6 years ago

His fourth favorite exercise was carrying US sprinting for about 5 years

Fresco Jones Herrera
9 years ago

I’m having agood time watching the swimming competition especially our US team. God bless to all the athletes.

Joel Lin
9 years ago

Beast mode.

9 years ago

What is his max bench???

Reply to  Pvk
9 years ago

I’m going to guess about 275. Idk what do u think?

Reply to  Max
9 years ago

more…believe it or not, i have seen him dumb bell bench press with 150 pounds in each arm. he is a monster in the weight room

Reply to  weirdo
9 years ago

I believe it he a beast!

crooked donald
Reply to  weirdo
6 years ago

They had to special order dumb bells for him. Seriously.

Reply to  crooked donald
6 years ago

I heard he doesn’t even use a jack when he gets a flat tire… Just hang the car on one hand and changes the wheel with the other.

Reply to  Pvk
6 years ago

Has to be at least 315

Steve Nolan
9 years ago


And if he does pull-ups for reps w/ that 60kgs…that’s not bad!

Steve Nolan
Reply to  Steve Nolan
6 years ago

Big fan of this post tagged “2014 Pan Pacific Championships” on the main page.