The 3 Most Overlooked Requirements in Writing a Dryland Workout

Writing a comprehensive and effective dryland workout, and overall dryland program is much different than just coming up with a few exercises or a generic workout for your swimmers every day. Educated Dryland Certified Coaches know that their program must ebb and flow throughout the year to accommodate for meets, taper, and the offseason. In the strength and conditioning world, this is known as periodization.

Periodization is the manipulation and organization of training variables within a dryland program to meet the athlete’s needs. All SURGE Strength Programs monitor eight training variables. This is done to ensure that when designing a dryland workout and subsequent overall dryland program the periodization has the desired result.


The Dynamic Eight Training Variables for a Dryland Workout:

  1. Range of Motion (ROM)
  2. Volume
  3. Load
  4. Tempo
  5. Rest
  6. Exercise Order
  7. Density
  8. Complexity

These dynamic eight variables should be monitored for each individual dryland workout. And by adjusting variables for consecutive dryland workouts that will then drive changes to the dryland season plan.

This brings us to using different cycles. Each dryland session is known as a micro-cycle. One block of sessions is called a mesocycle, and an entire season of training known as a macrocycle.

How we organize dryland training can make or break the success of the program. For example, we are not going to program our hardest training session right before our biggest meet of the season.

Just as in the water, it’s important to program in a taper and re-organize our workouts to match our swim season. A periodized program will consider the swimmer’s goals, needs, and current fitness level in order to use the eight dynamic training variables in the most optimal way possible.


SURGE Strength Dryland Workout


3 Goals for Swimmers in a Dryland Workout

Before tackling any dryland programming, we must remember who we are training and why. We are not training competitive weightlifters. We are training swimmers. Our priority is for them to be athletic, strong, and move well in the water. Here, we can break down creating the ideal swimmer into three goals:

  1. Developing a high strength to mass ratio
  2. Improving functional mobility
  3. Building a strong core


When we are writing a dryland workout or program, we should be able to identify how each training segment achieves at least one of the above three goals.


Needs Analysis

Once the over-arching goals of swimming are considered, we can now be more specific with our training needs. Through a needs analysis, we can build an individualized training program for the swimmer or team.

The building blocks of strength, power, and endurance can be woven into each block of programming and our volume and intensity can be established. Specificity to the program can also be added.

This will look different based on the goals of each individual team or athlete. For example, the training priorities for a triathlete may look a little different than for a 50 freestyler. The needs analysis gives the coach a bird’s eye view of who they are working with, what they want to accomplish, and draws the line between where they are and where they want to go.


Progressive Overload

Once a training plan is in place, it is important that the team or athlete reaps the desired results. This happens through a training concept known as progressive overload.

Progressive overload is simply demanding an increase in physical stress on the muscles and nervous system over time through resistance training. Progressive overload, when properly applied, increases the total workload during training to stimulate muscle growth and strength gain. When applying the dynamic eight training variables listed above, it is important that they are being applied so that progressive overload is being achieved.

Imagine a boy carrying a calf from point A to point B every day as a chore. As the calf gradually grows into a bull, the boy must become bigger and stronger in order to keep carrying it every day. The boy does not realize how much heavier the bull is getting because he is adapting to the growing physical demand of carrying the weight of the bull over a period. The same goes for dryland training.

Knowing when and how to increase variables such as volume and intensity is key for developing the athlete in a way that they can take on more without injury or being over-trained. If you throw too many variables or too much too fast at an athlete, they are going to get buried in the program. While they might see a little improvement, they are more likely to get lost in the program, get injured, or even burn out.

On the other hand, if you are not giving enough stimulus, the athlete is not going to get better and the workout is simply wasting their time. Progressive overload is extremely important to make sure the coach is working within the right range of intensity and volume and hitting the “sweet spot” for each training session.

SURGE Strength Dryland Workout



When creating a periodized program, it is important to first understand who you are working with. Creating a needs analysis and understanding the sport of swimming will set the foundation for asking the right questions and knowing what the priorities of the dryland program are going to be.

Once you have a pretty good idea of where you want the dryland program to go, knowing the science behind the dynamic eight training variables and the short- and long-term effects they have on the body is going to be the next step.

Therefore, becoming SURGE Strength Dryland Certified (SSDC) is a crucial step for swim coaches to take in order to ensure they are creating the best programs for their swimmers. Putting these variables in random order may get the swimmer some strength training benefits but is not likely to help them reach their full potential. Having progressive overload in the program and hitting that “sweet spot” when it comes to training is how to really get the most out of a dryland program.

One final thought is that strength gain is not always linear. Stress on the athlete from training and simply from life must be considered in planning. A good dryland coach will know how to tailor the program to the athlete’s ever-changing needs. A sound dryland program will have a margin for recovery while still applying all the principles explained above. Having a solid understanding of both progressive overload as well as your athlete’s needs will set you up for success when writing a dryland program.



SURGE Strength Dryland Workout

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SURGE Strength Dryland Certified

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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.

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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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