Anthony Ervin’s 3 Favorite Exercises

BridgeAthletic builds and delivers customized stroke/distance-specific dryland programs optimized for each of the athletes they work with. 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 three of a three part series that will explain some the Bridge athletes’ favorite exercises.

Anthony Ervin is one of the most exciting sprinters in the sport today. After winning the gold medal in the 2000 Olympic Games, Anthony retired from swimming. In 2010 Anthony started training again, landing himself a spot on the London Olympic team. This summer at US Nationals, Ervin battled a lightning fast final to win the title in the 50m freestyle. The three featured exercises that we will teach are the Seated Box Jump, the Dumbbell Forward/Reverse lunge, and the TRX Alligator.

1) Seated Box Jump 

–       Generate power through the hips without an external load

–       Practice explosive movement from a static position to mimic getting off the blocks faster

Anthony Ervin by Mike LewisEquipment: The seated box jump is performed with a box and a bench, or 2 boxes.

Starting Position: The athlete starts in a seated position focusing on relaxing his or her muscles while maintaining perfect posture.


  • From this seated position, using a good arm swing, the athlete jumps up onto the box, landing softly and extending fully as if coming off the start or turn.
  • Step down from the box and repeat.
  • As an athlete becomes more comfortable with this exercise, the height of the box can be raised to increase the difficulty of the movement.

The seated box jump is an exercise we like to use to generate power through the hips. Tony is an overwhelmingly fast twitch athlete, so for him the seated box jump is great because it works to his strengths without fatiguing him with heavy loads. As a pure sprinter, it’s important to select movements and loads that will not compromise his ability to generate high rates of muscle contraction. From a functional standpoint, the movement also mirrors the start and helps emphasize explosiveness off the walls.

2) DB Forward / Reverse Lunge

– Single-leg stability, emphasizes range of motion and general power foundational work.

How to do it:

–       The DB forward and reverse lunge is performed on a flat stable surface holding a dumbbell in each hand. Start by stepping one leg forward, and lowering your back knee to 2 inches above the ground.

–       Make sure your front knee stays in line with your big toe, and take a large enough step to ensure that your knee doesn’t go past your toes.

–       Pause for a second and move through your starting point, then bring your original front foot back, dropping that knee towards the ground. Same rules apply – take a large enough step back so your front knee doesn’t extend past your front foot, and keep your body in line.

Anthony Ervin Breakout USMS Nationals by Mike Lewis–       From here return into the front lunge position and repeat for desired number of reps.

–       Start out with just body weight until you’re comfortable with and stable throughout the motion, then add dumbbell weight until the exercise reaches a desired level of difficulty.

When Tony came out of retirement, one of the things we wanted to work on was helping build stability on the starting blocks. He had not lifted at all during his retirement—so we emphasized generating a solid foundation to build from. The DB lunge series helps him open up his hips while working on single leg stability. The emphasis has been on movements that involve as much of the kinetic chain as possible. This increased balance paired with range of motion allows him to explode off the blocks with as little power leakage as possible, a skill that is critical in any sprint event.

3) TRX Alligator

– Scapula and cuff stability work. Sprinters generate a lot of power as they initiate the catch phase of the stroke and need to maintain this hold all the way to the exit point.

How to do it:

–       Set the TRX bands up. Start with your body in a standing plank position. Keeping your arms extended, lean back until there is tension in the bands.

–       To begin the movement, pinch your shoulder blades back and down. Keeping the palms of your hands facing each other, extend your right arm up and your left arm down to elevate your torso towards the origin of the bands.

–       Keep your body in a plank position, and bring your hands back together to return to the start position. Repeat, raising the other arm, then repeat again bringing both arms to the side at chest height.

Anthony Ervin by Mike Lewis Mesa Grand Prix-2–       To make the motion more challenging, lower the angle of your body to the floor (lean back further / walk your feet closer to the fulcrum). The lower you get, the more challenging the movement becomes.

The TRX Alligator is one of the exercises we use to activate the scapula, and stabilize the posterior shoulder. As a pure sprinter, Tony generates a lot of torque at the front­-end of his stroke.   This internal rotational power is how he cranks up to top speed, and increasing that torque is how he’ll generate more power. Since he’s constantly working on increasing his power in the pool, we need to continue to emphasize balance by working the posterior shoulder with exercises like the TRX Alligator and band external rotation. Better muscle symmetry and balance will decrease the risk of injury and improve his recovery time.



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 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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8 years ago

“Activate the scapula.” LOL

9 years ago
Steve Nolan
9 years ago

I feel like the lunge guy isn’t extending far enough. BIG STEPS.

Reply to  Steve Nolan
9 years ago

Possibly, but remember… ” Make sure your front knee stays in line with your big toe, and take a large enough step to ensure that your knee doesn’t go past your toes.” That is all you need, keeping in mind you have to come back from that step, without hurting yourself and the intention of the exercise is a foundational move.

Reply to  coacherik
8 years ago

I agree, the knee is definitely extending past the toes in the video during the forward phase of the lunge. Good spot.

9 years ago

I think the wrong video is posted for the seated box jump.

About Gold Medal Mel Stewart

Gold Medal Mel Stewart

MEL STEWART Jr., aka Gold Medal Mel, won three Olympic medals at the 1992 Olympic Games. Mel's best event was the 200 butterfly. He is a former World, American, and NCAA Record holder in the 200 butterfly. As a writer/producer and sports columnist, Mel has contributed to Yahoo Sports, Universal Sports, …

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