Dryland Workouts for Swimmers
For swimmers, dryland workouts improve strength and mobility where it counts most: in the water. Swim faster and stronger with five core workouts for swimmers.
From hobby swimmers to competitive pros, those who love swimming keep diving in for the physical benefits and the relaxing effects of exercising in water. To maximize those benefits, experts like EXOS performance manager Eric Dannenberg recommend regular dryland workouts for swimmers that activate key muscle groups: “Swimming stresses the shoulders, the core, and the hips,” he says. By strength training on dry land, you can take advantage of a familiar environment to optimize your body’s performance in the water.
Video: Five Dryland Exercises for Swimmers
You can practice these five moves as a warm-up before a swim meet or a practice, or you can do more reps and sets for a full-body workout for swimming that you can do at home.
- WARM-UP: 3-6 reps of each move
- FULL-BODY STRENGTH TRAINING: 6-12 reps for 2 or more sets
Step-by-Step: Swimming Exercises on Dry Land
1. REVERSE LUNGE REACH
Target areas: Hip extension, shoulder mobility and core strength.
How it helps you swim: “Swimmers are looking to be as long and strong in their stroke as possible,” says Dannenberg. He suggests this move to improve “mobility and strength at the end ranges of motion, where it's the most difficult.”
- With feet shoulder-width apart and arms at your sides, step your right foot back into a reverse lunge while reaching your right arm straight overhead. Keep your core and lower body engaged while maximizing the stretch.
- While bringing your right arm down, reach your left arm straight out in front of you while rotating your midsection to the left.
- Repeat the movements on the opposite side for each rep.
2. QUADRUPED SHOULDER MOBILITY (or Shoulder CARS)
Target areas: Core strength and upper body mobility.
How it helps you swim: For swimmers, “shoulders are the number one area of breakdown and injury,” says Dannenberg. This drill can improve your strength and control when your shoulders are stretching through a stroke, which will lead to a more powerful and efficient stroke output.
- Begin on your hands and knees, or — for a bigger challenge — in a push-up position. Keep your back straight and your abdominal muscles engaged.
- Lift one arm and bring it straight back towards your feet, with your fingertips pointing behind you.
- Rotate your shoulder to bring your arm above your head and straight in front of you — like a swimming stroke.
- Reverse these shoulder movements, keeping your midsection strong, to return to your starting position.
- Repeat these shoulder rotations for each rep, then repeat the set with your other arm.
3. HANDWALK-TO-SHOULDER HOLD
Target areas: Core strength and stability in a lengthened position.
How it helps you swim: When you’re swimming, “the hardest spot is the top of your stroke.” This move strengthens your midsection to keep you stable while you’re stretching your shoulders and arms to their limit. This helps keep the legs and torso in alignment in the pool, and thus increasing efficiencies while reducing drag in the lower half of the body.
- From a standing position, bend at the waist and bring your palms down to the floor.
- With your core activated and your spine straight, walk your hands forward into a plank position with your hands directly under your shoulders. Hold this position for two or three breaths.
- Reverse the movements to walk your feet up towards your hands and reach to the sky, keeping your back straight and your core activated.
4. INVERTED HAMSTRING AND SHOULDER ACTIVATION
Target areas: Core, hips and leg muscles and upper body flexibility.
How it helps you swim: Activating multiple muscle groups, Dannenberg explains that this exercise is “all about efficiency.” He suggests this drill to improve your strength at the very edges of your range of motion for faster and easier swimming.
- Standing on your left foot, lift your right leg back and lean forward, extending your arms out into a ’T’ shape. Keep your ab muscles tight and your back straight.
- Remaining balanced on one foot, rotate your arms forward to make a ‘Y’ shape.
- Reverse these motions and bring your arms behind you.
- Stay on one foot and repeat these upper body movements for each rep, then switch feet and repeat on the opposite side for a set.
5. SERIES OF JUMPS
Target areas: These jumps help you improve what Dannenberg calls “explosiveness” — strength, power and speed — particularly in your lower body.
How it helps you swim: Strong and stable jumps “translate to more power off the wall or off the starting blocks,” helping you swim faster and with more efficiency.
- Begin in a squat position with your feet hip-width apart, arms straight down at your sides and with fingertips pointing behind you.
- Explode up into a jump, bringing your arms high overhead.
- Bring your arms down and bend your knees as you land to return to your starting position.
- Repeat this jump for each rep. If you’re comfortable and want more of a challenge, try jumping from a split-squat position.
Strength Training for Stronger Swimming
Just like any sport, says Dannenberg, “swimming is rigorous.” To help protect yourself from common injuries and improve your swimming, he suggests regular strength training on dry land. Regardless of the age level, swimmers of all abilities will benefit from the strength and flexibility gains made outside of the pool, which will make every water session that much more enjoyable. You can practice a few reps to warm up before you dive in — or customize your reps and sets to create your own workouts for swimmers that you can do without a pool, a gym or any equipment.
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