A little over a year ago there was no such thing as a “Dryland Certified Coach.” The swimming community couldn’t imagine how the COVID-19 pandemic would leave swimmers and coaches scrambling for a plan. Pools rotated from closed to opened to closed again, meets were rescheduled and canceled, and an entire year of competitive swimming, nationwide, became uncertain. In turn, the pandemic challenged coaches how to conduct a swim program without getting in the water. The answer turned out to be simpler than most people thought: dryland.
Dryland has become the antidote to COVID restrictions in the swimming world. Land-based training was (and still is) done virtually or in open spaces with minimal equipment at times. Dryland is even an alternative measure for meet warm-ups when pools are too crowded. Over the past year, many coaches learned that dryland is not just a back-up plan. It is the secret weapon to a successful swim season. Swim coach Ann Burke, of Pearland Aquatics, explained to us in an interview how dryland was the missing link to her swim program for many years.
A proper dryland program builds confidence. This is because it gives you a plan. In addition, dryland is an extra set of coaching tools. In other words, a sound dryland program compliments a swim program and therefore, helps you be a better coach.
When implemented properly, dryland helps swimmers gain strength, master proper swim mechanics, and remain injury-free throughout their season. Below, we use principles from the SURGE Strength Dryland Certification Curriculum to show you how dryland is the most reliable resource coaches have towards an unshakable swim program.
1) A Dryland Certified Coach Teaches Fundamentals First
There are basic movements every swimmer needs in order to have efficient swim mechanics. Dryland drills movements such as hinging, squatting, pulling, pushing, and bracing. In turn, this builds body awareness in swimmers and helps them apply better movement patterns to various segments of their race. For example, training the hinge teaches swimmers how to properly keep their legs up when they’re kicking.
2) Dryland Makes Stronger Swimmers
Land-based movement provides something the water cannot: feedback. The ground reaction forces the swimmers’ encounter on land to build power and strength needed for propulsion through viscous water. In addition, gravity and weight training builds better connections in the central nervous system (CNS) which allows swimmers to recruit more muscle fibers in a race. Progressive overload is essential to getting stronger and faster. Check out our previous article to better understand the science behind why resistance training is imperative to swim performance.
- Progressive overload – gradually increasing the demand on the musculoskeletal system via strength training in order to challenge the body to adapt and grow stronger
3) A Dryland Certified Coach Keeps It Simple & Effective
Dryland doesn’t have to be hard or complicated. In fact, most successful dryland programs are simple and tailored to match the team’s current fitness level. While it’s true that strength training should progressively overload the body, it doesn’t mean that every dryland session should be another form of conditioning. By following the parameters in SSDC, coaches can be sure that they are applying the right amount of volume and intensity to their program. In turn, this takes the pressure off coaches to be “bootcamp” instructors and allows them to simply coach their team through an appropriate training session.
It is worth mentioning that your swimmers should not look like fish out of water during dryland. Simple, foundational movements will translate into swimming. In fact, teaching basic concepts such as bracing your core go a lot further than trying to recreate water-based movements on land. Dryland should contain a variety of movement patterns and training concepts such as agility, power, strength, and pre-hab, and mobility, but remain simple enough that your swimmers become better athletes by executing it.
4) Proper Dryland Helps Coaches
A science-based dryland plan takes the pressure off coaches to step outside of their wheelhouse and become personal trainers. Templates like the ones provided in SSDC become a roadmap for helping coaches lay out a proper plan. Similar to having a training plan for each season, week, and session for water-based training, you should also have this laid out in dryland for each age group. This way, when something like a pandemic happens, you have a reference point and the ability to make a backup plan.
5) A Dryland Certified Coach Keeps It FUN
Dryland offers an amazing opportunity to enhance your coaching skills. You get to see your athletes execute movements without having to assess their performance underwater and coach them as they do each exercise. Then, you get to see how your land-based exercise fixes the swimmer’s mechanics in the pool.
In addition, dryland provides significantly more opportunities for interaction within the team and with you as a coach. It allows swimmers to achieve new and different athletic goals and motivates them even when they aren’t working with pool time. Dryland makes the sport of swimming more fun and rewarding. It also creates team cohesion that can’t be achieved when you’re constantly underwater.
There are countless benefits to implemented dryland. Most importantly, it can make or break your swim program, especially amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Dryland is not just a back-up plan. When it is done right, it is the plan. It gives us as coaches the confidence that their coaching is being received by their swimmers and translated to the sport of swimming. It makes our job easier and more effective. Lastly, it creates opportunities to have real, social interaction with your team.
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Look for more clips from Ann and other coaches on our Instagram in the coming weeks!
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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.