10 Dryland Workouts for Swimmers

Dryland workouts can help you develop more speed in the water and improve starts, turns, and streamlines. Here are ten dryland workouts for faster swimming.

Dryland training is the exercises and workouts swimmers do outside the water to improve swimming performance.

Using dryland workouts as part of your swim training offers several significant benefits, including improved strength, power, endurance, range of motion, and injury prevention.  

But where do you start with dryland training? What exercises should you use? Do you need equipment?

In this list of dryland workouts for swimmers, you’ll find a wide range of options for every kind of swimmer and goal.

Whether you are just getting started in the pool or looking for something to drop that final half-a-second on race day, these dryland workouts will have something to offer you.

Let’s dive right in.

Dryland Workouts for Swimming

This collection of dryland workouts includes:

  • A Dryland Workout for Day-One Beginners
  • The Conditioning Dryland Workout
  • Dryland Workout for a Stronger Swim Pull
  • A Dryland Workout to Power Up the Kick
  • No Equipment? No Problem
  • Dryland Workout for Better Streamlines
  • Dryland Workout for Core Strength
  • HIIT Dryland Workout
  • Dryland Workout for Explosive Starts
  • Turn It Up: A Dryland Workout for Faster Turns

Before we jump into the workouts and exercises, let’s quickly examine the structure of each dryland workout.

How the Dryland Workouts are Structured

Each dryland workout contains the following components:

1. Dynamic stretches.

Dynamic stretches loosen the joints, increase range of motion, and promote blood flow to target muscles.

Swimmers should include cross-body arm swings, single arm swings (forward and backward), double arm back swings, monkey arm swings, trunk twists, leg swings (front to back), and lateral leg swings in their dryland sessions.

With each dynamic stretch, perform 10-15 reps.

2. Warm-up.

Once loosened up, it’s time to raise the temperature with a warm-up activity.

These dryland workouts incorporate skipping rope, jogging, or jumping jacks to elevate body temperature and prime the body for the work to come later. Jumping rope has a ton of other benefits for swimmers, too.

3. Core Activation.

Each workout includes core activation with front and side planks.

Core exercises for swimmers are a no-brainer for improved swim performance and essential for getting the most from your training on land.

4. The Main Set.

To use swimming lingo, the main set is the meat-and-potatoes of the dryland workout. Each session includes a variety of resistance training or conditioning movements and serves as the primary focus of the workout.

5. Post-Workout Stretch.

Each dryland workout concludes with a block of time for static stretching to cool down and improve flexibility and range of motion.

The exact stretches for swimmers that you should use are beyond the scope of this article, but make sure to target the lower back, hip flexors, quads, pecs, calves, and lats.

This five-part dryland workout template can also help you craft your own dryland training.

Next, we’ll look at each dryland workout in more detail, including key benefits, tips, and how to get the most from each workout.

1. A Dryland Workout for Day-One Beginners

This introductory dryland workout will help beginner and untrained swimmers build a strong foundation for future dryland and improved swim performance.

The workout focuses on increasing the range of motion of the limbs and joints, activating the core, sharpening that streamline, and building overall strength for success in the water.

  • 10 minutes of dynamic stretches [Arm and leg swings, trunk rotations].
  • 3 x 30 seconds jumping jacks
  • 3 x 20 seconds front plank
  • 3 x 10 push-ups
  • 3 x 20 seconds side plank
  • 5 x 5 assisted pull-ups (substitute with banded lat pulldown if necessary)
  • 3 x 10 streamlined squats
  • 3 x 10 unilateral glute bridges
  • 3 x 10 lunges
  • 10-minute stretch

2. The Conditioning Dryland Workout

In this dryland session, perfect for swimmers from beginners to advanced, we will crank up the conditioning work.

The focus will still be full-body, but we will add some jump rope and plyometrics for speed and power development.

The skipping rope is one of the best pieces of dryland equipment for swimmers.

For starters, a paper published by the American Association for Health, Physical Education and Recreation found that 10 minutes of jump rope was as effective for improving cardiovascular efficiency as 30 minutes of jogging.

Jumping rope also strengthens the ankles, improves coordination, and, according to a study by the National Strength and Conditioning Association, produces similar explosive-reaction improvements compared to a standard plyometric program.

Here’s the workout:

  • 10 minutes of dynamic stretches [Arm and leg swings, trunk rotations].
  • 3×30 seconds plank hold in a push-up position.
  • 3 minutes jumping rope – 30 seconds work, 30 seconds rest.
  • 3×30 seconds side plank.
  • 3 minutes jumping rope – 30 seconds work, 30 seconds rest.
  • 3×10 paced push-ups (2s down, 1s hold, 2s up).
  • 3 minutes jumping rope – 30 seconds work, 30 seconds rest.
  • 6×4 squat jumps.
  • 3 minutes jumping rope – 30 seconds work, 30 seconds rest.
  • 10-minute stretch.

As your conditioning improves, increase the number of minutes you spend jumping rope.

3. Dryland Workout for a Stronger Swim Pull

The pull phase is crucial for swimming fast. The pull constitutes 85-90% of direct propulsion during full swimming (Ng et al., 2020).

This dryland workout focuses on upper body strength and stability, helping swimmers improve their pulling power for faster swimming.

It combines the usual dynamic stretches and core activation with a focus on the shoulders, chest, and back.  

  • 10 minutes of dynamic stretches [Arm and leg swings, trunk rotations].
  • 5 minutes jumping rope – 30 seconds of work, 30 seconds of rest.
  • 3×30 seconds plank hold in the push-up position.
  • 3×10 scapular push-ups.
  • 3×20 pot stirrers.
  • 5×8 paced push-ups (3s down, 1s hold, 2s up).
  • 3×15 seconds dead-hangs from a pull-up bar.
  • 5×5 pull-ups (use pull-up assist bands if unable to complete the five reps).
  • 3×20 freestyle planks (see exercise instructions below).
  • 20 minutes of 30 seconds of work, 30 seconds of rest with Stretch Cordz – alternate between freestyle and butterfly pulls.
  • 10-minute stretch, focusing especially on the lats.

What are Freestyle Planks?

Freestyle planks are modified planks that combine core work with increased mobility.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Get into a push-up position.
  • Rotate the working shoulder slightly upwards and bring the working arm around in a 360-degree movement, replicating the arm path of a freestyle stroke.
  • Return the working hand to the starting position.
  • Repeat on the other side.

This exercise is awesome for opening up the shoulders, enhancing overhead mobility, and simulating the shoulder-heavy rotation typical of sprint freestyle swimming. All the while engaging the core like gangbusters.

4. A Dryland Workout to Power Up the Kick

A strong kick in the water is crucial for faster underwaters, delivering more power into the pulling motion, and finishing your races without feeling like you have a cinder block tied to your ankles.

While nothing can quite replace doing the conditioning and strength development of kicking lots in the pool, this dryland workout can serve as an excellent accessory for giving you more fitness, stability, and power in the lower body.

  • 10 minutes of dynamic stretches [Arm and leg swings, trunk rotations].
  • 3×30 seconds front plank in push-up position
  • 5 minutes jumping rope – 30 seconds work, 30 seconds rest.
  • 3×30 unilateral glute bridges (Variation: Extend the leg and do 30 narrow flutter kicks for increased stability training.)
  • 4 minutes jumping rope – 30 seconds work, 30 seconds rest.
  • 3×10 streamline squats
  • 3 minutes jumping rope – 30 seconds work, 30 seconds rest.
  • 5×8 paced squats (3s down, 1s hold, 2s up)
  • 2 minutes jumping rope – 30 seconds work, 30 seconds rest
  • 5×10 reverse lunges
  • Jump rope to failure.
  • 10-minute stretch.

5. No Equipment? No Problem!

No equipment? No problem!

This dryland workout can be done at home, poolside, at the beach, or wherever you find yourself without access to gym equipment.

  • 10 minutes of dynamic stretches [Arm and leg swings, trunk rotations].
  • Jumping jacks – 10 minutes, 30 seconds work, 30 seconds rest
  • 3×30 seconds front plank
  • 3×30 seconds side plank
  • 5×20 mountain climbers
  • 5×10 push-ups
  • 3×30 seconds hip extension planks
  • 3×10 streamline squats
  • 3×30 seconds flutter kicks on back
  • 5×5 paced squats (3s down, 1s hold, 2s up)
  • 3×30 seconds arm extension planks
  • 6×4 squat jumps
  • 3×30 seconds scissor kicks on back
  • 3×30 freestyle planks
  • 10 minutes of static stretching

6. Dryland Workout for Better Streamlines

Having a tight streamline in swimming is fundamental to maintaining velocity when pushing off the wall or diving into the water.

Achieving and holding that streamline, especially under fatigue at the end of a race, contributes significantly to swimming like a boss when it matters most.

This dryland workout is geared towards helping you get in the habit of streamlining like a champion in the pool. The workout combines resistance exercises and mobility drills to help you master a sleek, hydrodynamic shape in the pool.

  • 10 minutes of dynamic stretches [Arm and leg swings, trunk rotations].
  • 3×30 seconds front plank.
  • Jumping rope – 10 minutes of 30 seconds work, 30 seconds rest
  • 3×10 Streamline squats
  • 3×20 planks with arm extension (reach the working arm straight out in front of you in line with the body)
  • 5×10 Burpees (jump into streamline)
  • 3×20 planks with hip extension
  • 3×30 seconds V-sit kicking
  • 5×20 seconds Dead hangs
  • 10 minutes of static stretching

7. Dryland Workout for Core Strength

Core training is a fundamental part of any dryland training regimen, but spending more time developing power and stability in the trunk is sometimes necessary.

A strong, rigid core improves body position in the water, increases the power exerted through the limbs, and can be an excellent preventative tool for reducing injury during those long months of training.

A study with national team swimmers found that a six-week core training intervention improved 50m time trial results by a whopping 0.3s. Turn speed and reaction time improved significantly, too.

Here’s the core-focused dryland workout:

  • 10 minutes of dynamic stretches [Arm and leg swings, trunk rotations].
  • Jumping rope – 15 minutes of 30 seconds on, 30 seconds rest
  • 3 Rounds:
    • :30 Front plank
    • :30 Side plank (repeat on both sides)
    • 20 Kettlebell around-the-worlds
    • 20 Pot stirrers
    • 20 Swiss ball knee tucks
    • 10 Rollouts (with Swiss ball or ab roller)
    • 8 Unilateral Overhead KB press
  • 10 minutes of static stretching.

8. HIIT Dryland Workout

For swimmers short on time, a Tabata-style dryland workout is perfect and, when done properly, hard.

Tabata is a high-intensity interval training protocol that is *just* eight rounds of 20 seconds of all-out work with ten seconds of rest.

I know—it sounds too good to be true.

The original study showing its effectiveness, published in the Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, showed a VO2 max improvement of 15% with two months of this type of training.

The key to making this form of HIIT work is doing the work at full intensity.

Participants in the original study exercised at 170% of VO2 max during the work portion of the intervals, so make sure that when the interval is up, to giverr.

  • 10 minutes of dynamic stretches [Arm and leg swings, trunk rotations].
  • Jumping rope – 10 minutes of 30 seconds work, 30 seconds rest.
  • 3×30 seconds front plank.
  • 3×20 pot stirrers.
  • Tabata 8x [20 seconds all-out work, 10 seconds of rest] – Mountain climbers.
  • 10 minutes of static stretching.

While you can use various types of conditioning and cardio machines for the work portion of the Tabata, including an assault bike, rower, or stationary bike, my favorite no-equipment option is the mountain climber.

They place you in a horizontal position (just like when swimming), work the core like crazy, and require substantial stabilization work from the upper body—shoulders in particular—when going full-throttle.

9. Dryland Workout for Explosive Starts

The swim start is essentially a dryland activity, so spending time developing explosiveness, balance, and power in your dryland workouts is an easy decision.

Getting off the blocks fast is vital for chasing down that personal best time on race day or getting your hand on the wall first.

Few things are more discouraging than surfacing out of your breakout to find yourself looking over at the rooster-tail kick of the swimmer in the next lane.

This dryland workout uses contrast training (pairing a strength exercise with a power movement) to help you launch off the block on race day.

  • 10 minutes of dynamic stretches [Arm and leg swings, trunk rotations].
  • 10 minutes jump rope – 30 seconds work, 30 seconds rest
  • 3×30 seconds front planks
  • 5×5 paced squats (3s down, 1s hold, 2s up)
  • 6×4 jump squats
  • 3×10 banded glute bridges
  • 6×4 broad jumps
  • 3×10 single-leg RDLs with kettlebell or dumbbell
  • 6×4 split jumps (4 reps on each side)
  • 10-minutes stretching

10. Turn It Up: A Dryland Workout for Faster Turns

Getting in and out of the walls quickly is crucial for kicking butt on race day. Swimmers can win or lose a race because of how quickly (or not) they charge in and out of the walls.

This dryland workout is designed to help you exert more power off the wall and build core strength for efficient body positioning when turning.

Like a tight streamline, fast turns are “free speed” to bolster with some dryland.

Here is a workout that includes some of my favorite dryland exercises for faster swim turns:

  • 10 minutes of dynamic stretches [Arm and leg swings, trunk rotations].
  • 10 minutes jumping rope – 30 seconds work, 30 seconds rest
  • 3×30 seconds front planks
  • 3×10 streamline squats
  • 5×5 paced squats (3s down, 1s hold, 2s up)
  • 6×4 squat jumps
  • 3×20 Swiss ball knee tucks
  • 6×4 depth jumps
  • 3×20 mountain climbers
  • 3×10 burpees
  • 10-minutes stretching

Can dryland improve swimming performance?

Dryland can improve swimming performance by 2 to 2.5% compared to swim-only training.

A study with competitive swimmers found combining resistance training on land with swim training was more effective than a swim-only approach to improving performance.

Another study, a meta-analysis published in the Journal of Human Sport and Exercise, showed that dryland training increases power and propulsion in the water, particularly in shorter events.

Dryland that is swim-specific and tailored to your needs and abilities can help you exert more power in the water, reduce the risk of injury, and swim with more efficient technique.

Should you do dryland before or after swimming?

The dryland workouts listed in this guide can be done before a swim workout as part of a specialized warm-up, reducing the amount of in-water swimming required to feel ready to perform.

The dryland workouts above are also relatively low in neuromuscular demand, particularly compared to Olympic lifting or other forms of strength training exercises for swimming.

I’ve always enjoyed doing dryland before swim workouts as it helps me get into a peak performance mindset for a great workout in the pool.

Additionally, because you are “warm” when you hit the water, it makes getting into those cold pools a little more palatable.

Wrapping It Up

A lot goes into swimming well. From nutrition to technique to choosing the best swim goggles for your workouts, there are lots of things to consider for swimming to the best of your ability.

Dropping some dryland workouts into your training regimen can be a total game-changer for your swimming, however.

This type of training has the potential to increase pull and kick power, reduce the risk of injury, and help you fly in and out of the walls faster than ever.

Choose from the dryland workouts and exercises above, adjust to your current abilities and goals in the water, and take your swimming to new heights.

Disclaimer: Before starting any new fitness or training regimen, sit down with a medical professional to ensure that it’s a good fit for you.


ABOUT OLIVIER POIRIER-LEROY

Olivier Poirier-Leroy is a former national-level swimmer, author, swim coach, and certified personal trainer. He’s the author of YourSwimBook, a ten-month logbook for competitive swimmers.

Conquer the Pool Mental Training Book for SwimmersHe’s also the author of the recently published mental training workbook for competitive swimmers, Conquer the Pool: The Swimmer’s Ultimate Guide to a High-Performance Mindset.

It combines sport psychology research, worksheets, anecdotes, and examples of Olympians past and present to give swimmers everything they need to conquer the mental side of the sport.

Ready to take your mindset to the next level in the pool?

Click here to learn more about Conquer the Pool.

 


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Chlorinetherapy
1 month ago

Be great to see some recommendations for kettlebell workouts for all levels!

Henry
1 month ago

Kinda wild to giv what most people sell for $$$ on swimswam

Cough cough swim strong dry land

Last edited 1 month ago by Henry
Winter Apple
Reply to  Henry
1 month ago

I mean none of this is rocket science haha. Buying a dryland program seems like a waste of money to me

Johnson Swim school
Reply to  Winter Apple
27 days ago

Incorrect
The purpose of dry land is to build
Core.
Stretch
Which eliminate lactiacid.
Dry land helps All ages THRU 99 years of age.
So dry land teaches us
Range of motion.
.

About Olivier Poirier-Leroy

Olivier Poirier-Leroy

Olivier Poirier-Leroy has been involved in competitive swimming for most of his life. Starting off at the age of 6 he was thrown in the water at the local pool for swim lessons and since then has never wanted to get out. A nationally top ranked age grouper as both a …

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