Dryland Meet Warm-up for Swimmers: A Safe Approach in a COVID-19 World

Today’s new reality of COVID-19 restrictions has impacted everything – even dryland meet warm-up for swimmers. Most regular meet warm-ups are being canceled to promote safety and social distancing. But this restriction doesn’t negate how important warm-up remains in order to have a successful meet. Without it, jumping into your race cold turkey can only end badly. Swim meets may look a little different these days, however, this doesn’t mean swimmers have to take an all or nothing approach. To solve this problem, we have created a head to toe warm-up for swimmers to do out of the pool.


But First, Why Warm-up?

No one wants that shocking feeling of hitting the water with cold muscles. Nevertheless, the body needs a proper warm-up in order to reach its peak performance. Warming up increases blood flow to working muscles. Warming up automatically increases body temperature. In fact, a good sign your athlete is ready to race is when they break a sweat. As a result, swimmers can gradually increase exercise intensity as race time approaches.


As the athlete warm-ups, they prime the nervous system to fire in response to exercise. This results in better reaction time and motor-neuron recruitment. In other words, somebody who warms up can expect faster starts, more explosive turns off the wall and better “gear” change throughout each race.

Warm-ups have a mental benefit as well. Research shows that athletes perform better when they follow a familiar routine. The warm-up routine provides stability. It gives athletes the perfect time to visualize their race and get “in the zone” to perform. COVID-19 complicates the nature of a swim meet. But performing a warm-up routine, even on land, gains back some of the familiarity of the sport.

Lastly, proper warmups decrease the likelihood of injury. Warming up reduces the chance of straining a muscle since they are more supple with better blood flow. In addition, you are preparing the body for a maximum effort gradually. This way, swimmers will be less sore from racing the next day.




Safety First: What Space to Warm-Up In

The purpose of performing a dryland meet warm-up for swimmers on deck rather than in the pool is for safety precautions against COVID-19. There are a few ways to logistically keep dryland warm-ups safe: First, find a spot that is big enough for swimmers to spread out. We know that pool decks can be extremely crowded, but search for a hallway, auxiliary gym, or consider an outdoor warm-up, weather permitting. The space you have determines what warm-up structure is best for your scenario.


Head to Toe Progressive Dryland Meet Warm-Up for Swimmers Plan

It’s important to prime the body for swimming with exercises that increase body temperature, increase mobility, and prime the nervous system. Warm-ups should start off easy and get more progressive as they unfold. A common myth is that swimmers shouldn’t work a little bit while warming up, when in fact the opposite is true: a few reps of each movement will not break a taper. In fact, they should cause the swimmer to feel ready to perform rather than worn out. Be sure to give swimmers small rest breaks between each segment of the warm-up. And of course, please remember to exercise caution if swimmers or exercise surfaces are wet during activity. Follow the guidelines below:




Elements of a Dryland Meet Warm-up for Swimmers

The warm-up should start with exercises to gradually increase the heart rate. For best results, familiarize swimmers with each of these exercises before race day. This way, they will know their ability in each movement. Below we have two dryland meet warm-up scenarios, either stationary or locomotive, depending on if you have enough space to move, or if swimmers need to warm-up in one spot. Both warm-ups are considered dynamic warm-ups, but we are simply specifying which would be best to do depending on your environment. Either will work effectively to allow your swimmers to feel loose, ready and aware of how their body feels.


Stationary Dynamic Dryland Meet Warm-Up for Swimmers

A stationary warm-up is perfect when you have less space to move. In this set up, swimmers perform similar movements as they would in a locomotive warm-up. Except, they stay in their designated spot, 6 feet apart. Coaches can mark the floor with a poly-dot or tape to map out the space if necessary. This warm-up works well on a slippery pool deck. It is also a safer option for younger athletes who may not have the capacity to stay spread out.

  • Hip Circuits
  • Sumo Squat Hold
  • Cook Squat
  • Push-up
  • Split Squat
  • Single-leg Layout
  • Jumping Jacks
  • 180 Jump




Locomotive Dynamic Dryland Meet Warm-Up for Swimmers

For a locomotive warm-up, break the swimmers into several lines, 6 feet apart. Then, have them perform your desired exercises across a 20-yard distance. Start each swimmer 5 seconds apart like you would in the pool in order to keep them spaced out. Locomotive warm-ups are perfect for small groups and high-school age athletes. This structure works best outside, in a hallway, or in a gymnasium.

  • Heel to Hip
  • High Knee Walk
  • Spiderman
  • Lateral Lunge
  • Reverse Single-leg Layout
  • Reverse Bear Crawl
  • Reverse Lunge
  • Single-leg Alternating Hop




Ready to Race

After this 15-20-minute warm-up, athletes are ready to race (although a few more exercises behind the blocks will also do them some good). This warm-up goes well injunction with a limited (or regular) meet warm-up. It also works as a stand-alone program. If your team has access to the pool for warm-ups, consider selecting just a few movements from each segment to perform in addition to the swim. Implement this warm-up before or after a pre-race swim. One of our favorite aspects of this warm-up is its adaptability to any situation. COVID-19 restrictions continue to create barriers for swim coaches to overcome. However, we don’t have to take an all-or-nothing approach to the meet warm-up, and an effective dryland warm-up gives swimmers the opportunity to race at their full potential.




SURGE Strength Dryland Training




SURGE Strength Dryland Training

SURGE Strength





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.

Comments are closed.

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 …

Read More »