5 Parameters of Program Construction You Need for Every Dryland Workout

Are you ready to start a new dryland program, but feel unsure about where to begin? Today we’re going to talk about 5 parameters of your training plan that will set you up to make the best use of your space and time. Get these down and you’ll have the best possible program plan for your team. Let’s begin: 

1) Find the Purpose of Your Dryland Workout

The first thing you want to do is define what the purpose of each dryland session is going to be. Always start with purpose. Typically, coaches are trying to improve their swimmers’ power, strength, or endurance.

In the SURGE Strength Dryland Certification Curriculum, we split up programming into corresponding training phases (strength, power, and strength-power) in order to address these major training goals. Each session should tie into the bigger picture and match the current phase of programming. This acts as your base.

There are other valid purposes, however. Sometimes coaches want to use a quick dryland before hopping in the pool. The purpose of a session like this is to simply to warm-up and prime the body to swim. Again, this is a completely valid purpose and will fit into any of the three training phases. Another common purpose we see coaches implementing is for recovery. Coaches can do a quick dryland session after practice to improve mobility and accelerate recovery from the work that you just did in the pool.

Finally, swimmers sometimes need an “unloading” phase. This is usually comprised of easy, body-weight exercises to help the swimmers flush out fatigue and be physically and mentally prepared for the next phase in dryland. Whatever your swimmer’s needs, defining the purpose of each dryland session sets the expectation in your program.


2) Assess Major Planning Variables of a Dryland Workout

Before sitting down to write a dryland program, you must know what you’re working with in terms of equipment, and what limitations or possibilities that will create. Start by taking an inventory of what workout equipment and space you have available. Keep in mind that these factors can easily change from session to session. Writing a workout that can be adapted to the training resources available, or lack thereof, is going to help you be more consistent when it’s time to apply your program to real life. Also, keep in mind that training a large team of athletes is going to be much different than working with a small group.

When managing a bigger group of athletes, accommodate for the extra numbers by adding in more transition time between exercises. Additionally, your focus should be on getting the main movements in any way you can. When you have just a few people, you can take the time to be more selective with exercise order and focus on the execution of each set before moving on to the next section of your program.



3) Fit Your Exercise Selection in a Dryland Workout

Once you know your basics: what kind of space you have to work with AND how many athletes are sharing that space, it becomes much easier to determine which exercises fit best into your program and how many of them you are likely to get through in one session.

We recommend total-body training splits that are broken up into 5 main movement categories within each workout: the push, pull, hinge, squat, and brace. How many reps and sets to do of each one is determined by your dryland purpose for the day and the corresponding phase of training.

For example, if you are in a power phase with incorporated Olympic lifting, chances are that there will be more emphasis on hinging in that particular session. But, as you progress that motion, your purpose can shift from hinging to overall strength.


4) Determine Exercise Order in a Dryland Workout

Once you decide which exercises to plug into your program, break them up into organized circuits. Give priority to the power exercises of your circuit as these require the most athleticism and energy in the session. Then, incorporate total body movements and exercises that you have pinpointed to be a priority for your individual athletes’ needs. Later in the session, work down to accessory exercises and finish off with bracing movements. To feature more cardio in your session, consider alternating between upper and lower body exercises.  Keep in mind that with a large group, all of these considerations may not be possible. The most important aspect to address is making sure that the most important exercises for your team’s needs are done first, and then do your best to hit each movement category.


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5) Plan a Dryland Workout Timeline

Finally, once you know which exercises you want to focus on and have prioritized them into their order, you then put your plan into a structure that can consistently be repeated by any coach running dryland for the day. We recommend breaking up an hour-long session into a 10-minute warm-up, two 20-minute main circuits, and finishing it off with a 10-minute warm-down period. In the two main circuits, you should be able to arrange your priority exercises into each of the 5 main movement categories and decide how many rounds you have time for based on how many exercises you chose. Keep in mind that when you are coaching a new dryland circuit for the first time, you may not get through as many rounds as you would once the swimmers are familiar with it. Plan time for demonstrating new exercises.

What really makes a dryland program different than a dryland workout is its ability to hit both short and long-term goals within a training year. By using the parameters listed above, you can certify that each dryland session has a purpose that leads you toward the results you want to see. This means in the water and both throughout the season and at the big, end of season meets. By prioritizing key movements first and organizing them into an appropriate exercise order, you make sure every workout stays on target and is optimally designed to fit your athletes’ needs while considering your space and time limitations. Once you get a dryland structure established, you have a go-to template for coaches to follow. This allows everyone to focus on the execution of the dryland plan and make sessions more productive. With a proper plan in place, dryland can be less stressful and more effective for both athletes and coaches.




SURGE Strength pull-ups for swimmers




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SURGE Strength

Courtesy of SwimSwam’s exclusive dryland training partner, SURGE Strength.

SURGE Strength, a strength training brand created by Chris Ritter, CEO of RITTER Sports Performance, aims to build better athletes and faster swimmers through dryland programs, and coaching education.

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About Chris Ritter

Chris Ritter

Swimming has always been a part of the life of Chris Ritter, founder of RITTER Sports Performance What Chris discovered after his swimming career, as he entered his swim coaching career was how important dryland training for swimmers can be. Chris has earned numerous strength and conditioning certifications, including: CSCS, NASM-PES, USAW …

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