Dryland Training for Swimmers – 5 Lessons 2020 Taught Us

It seems like just yesterday I was reflecting on how dryland training for swimmers has changed in the last decade as we were closing out the 2019 year. But the changes that we’ve all had to go through in year of 2020 could have filled up a decade’s worth.

I want to narrow in on dryland training for swimmers and the lessons I’ve seen through what we’ve done through SURGE Strength.


1) Dryland Training for Swimmers Is More Important Than Ever

With this year in particular almost every swimmer was forced to be out of the water for some length of time. With no water time dryland training was no the only option. What I think many swimmers and coaches found as a result is that many of their dryland programs were lacking in some fashion.

This isn’t surprising either. When dryland is often looked at as a “bonus” to a swimmer’s regular training it makes sense that the emphasis and scrutiny is on what’s accomplished in the water.

So when the water time disappears it’s much easier to see how effective a dryland program actually is. Through this change in circumstances many swimmers and coaches realized that they need to improve their dryland game.

In addition to that there seemed to be a higher level of appreciation of how important dryland training is. I’d actually argue that dryland training has (or should have) always been a crucial piece of a program. But it often times takes a change in circumstances for a swimmer or coach to realize a change needs to be made.

The positive side of this realization is that dryland was able to be the cornerstone of consistency (whatever that looked like) for swimmers. With so many lockdowns, changes in schedule it absolutely was a grind mentally this year. But having a regular dryland program for swimmers to find regularity was a huge reward in and of itself.




2) Start Where You’re At

Whether you’re completely new to dryland training or even if you’ve done it for some time, it can be hard to zero in on where to start or what to “focus on.”

Knowing that this is a big obstacle to swimmers and coaches achieving better dryland results I wanted to make sure we clearly and succinctly addressed this in the SURGE Strength Dryland Certification Curriculum.

Your dryland program should have two goals:

  1. Improve athleticism
  2. Increase strength


Notice athleticism is first. This is on purpose not only because it’s a very large umbrella category but more importantly it helps swimmers and coaches prioritize.

If an athlete can’t move very well the emphasis should not skip to improving strength. Instead the greatest gains will come with helping the athlete improve their movement (aka athleticism in the bigger picture).

By helping a swimmer create more athleticism and move better with their body you’re automatically helping them be in a better state to prevent injury.

That’s another huge point of emphasis (or should be) in dryland training for swimmers. If swimmers can just stay in the water consistently and be able to train hard they’ll always become better, in shorter time than another swimmer who is getting injured and having to miss time in the water.


3) Less Is More and Simple Is Effective

Even if you have your dryland compass set to improve athleticism and increase strength it can feel overwhelming where to start the process. This is quickly where a dryland program can come “off the tracks” so to speak.

It’s why in the SURGE Strength Dryland Certification Curriculum I created a checklist that a swimmer or coach could go through when creating their dryland program. And there are checklists for each part of the dryland program creation: season plan, weekly and daily training.

This is such an important concept – of how to actually have the two goals of dryland (athleticism & strength) come through in the actual workout that we created a FREE Dryland 101 Course in the SURGE Strength Academy to teach this – Writing Workouts 101.




4) Know the “Why” of Your Dryland Training for Swimmers

This lessons stems from lesson #2. If you don’t have a “map and compass” so to speak for your dryland program you’re going to end up anywhere. And if you don’t know where you’re supposed to end up then you’ll mistakenly think you’ve “arrived” at your destination simply because you didn’t have the end in mind when you started.

It’s this confusion that causes coaches and swimmers too quickly revert to “random dryland training” because they don’t have a plan. And it’s “normal” for them not to have a plan. So therefore random dryland training is “normal” for them.

Everything we talk about at SURGE Strength has a “why” behind it and it’s a scientific one that’s proven through real world results. It’s the blend of strength & conditioning principles with actual implementation with the desired results that “proves” this is “how” you should approach your dryland training for better results in the water.

If you don’t have a “why” for your program make that a priority for 2021.




5) Get Help From Experts in Dryland Training for Swimmers

We love swimming. And we’re also experts in dryland. This is the difference with SURGE Strength and how we’re raising the standard in dryland training for swimmers.

You might find some dryland enthusiasts that love swimming but don’t know the science of dryland programming. And you might be lucky enough to find a really skilled strength coach but they don’t know the difference between a flip-turn and an open-turn.

Either one of these situations will result in less than optimal results, especially if you’re training to transfer your dryland gains into your swimming performance.

The goal of helping the swimmers see the results in water is always our end goal whenever one of our Dryland Certified Coaches works with a swim team or individual swimmers through our online SURGE Strength Programs.


Dryland performance tests for swimmers

SURGE Strength



Being able to provide a resource that would be self-paced, easily accessible to any swimmer, coach or parent that wants to better understand dryland training is why we created the first and only dryland certification – SURGE Strength Dryland Certified (SSDC).

Coaches from all over are going through the curriculum or have already become SSDC. This is a huge advantage and will have compounding effects for them going forward.


SURGE Strength

SURGE Strength



The best time to have invested in your dryland knowledge would have been 10 or 20 years ago. But the next best time is right now. Make that a priority for yourself in 2021. And SURGE Strength is here to help.

I’m excited to see all the fast swimming that 2021 is going to bring us. And I hope you’re part of that too!

Chris Ritter




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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