Tips for Pairing Dryland Workouts with Swim Training

As COVID-19 restrictions continue to prevent people from gathering for practice or meets, swim programs all over the country have had their regular season programming tossed out the window. Coaches are left asking how to plan out the rest of their season in a way that can make up for lost time while also preparing for their end of season championships in whatever form that may take. In the SURGE Strength Dryland Certification, we lay out how to coordinate the balance of dryland and swim practice in a way that helps coaches stay organized and get the most out of the time they have to train.


Pairing Dryland Workouts with Goal Setting

While it is important for swimmers and swim coaches to know their goals before stepping foot in a pool or a weight room, it is equally as important to revisit them as the seasonal training plan unfolds. Of course, swimmers have dryland-related goals such as completing more pull-ups or increasing their 1RM on a back squat, but typically these come secondary to their water-related goals. In order to accommodate this, dryland should complement the way you set up practices and consist of exercises that make your athletes better swimmers. Making them better weightlifters may be a result of dryland but should not be the main purpose. By identifying your water-based goals and laying those goals out for everyone involved in the dryland process, you can ensure that your dryland program is going to be a good fit for your team.


Pairing Dryland Workouts by Simplifying Terms

When working with a SURGE Strength dryland program, think about what you really want your athletes to accomplish. Then, communicate that to one of our coaches. We condense these variables into a few easy-to-understand terms that put all coaches on the same page. It is best to have your plan written out with the training phases included so that all coaches can see what their role is in executing your plan. But, having a common lingo that everyone, including your swimmers, can participate in will get everyone working in the same lane.


SURGE Strength pairing dryland workouts



Pairing Dryland Workouts through Communication

Once you have mapped out your season plan with us, it is important to communicate throughout the season about the intensity and volume of the training plan that will need to vary depending upon how hard you’re going in the water at certain times. Remember that your swimmers have limited energy. If you are asking your swimmers to give you 100% of their energy with a high-yardage, high-intensity practice, the dryland coach cannot expect the same to happen 10 minutes after they hop out of the pool and head to the weight room. In fact, in that case, it might be better to shift your purpose of dryland that day to help recovery and mobility in order to realize the benefits of the intense work from the pool.

Swim coaches and dryland coaches must be on the same page when it comes to daily training expectations. One session will always win out over the other in terms of effort and energy usage. For instance, on a dryland testing day, swim practice should be slightly easier than it usually would be as your athletes are going to be spent. At times where you need a harder practice, dryland coaches need to know to turn it down a notch and program for more recovery in the weight room. When reflecting back to the goals of your program, it is obvious that pool time is going to take most of the swimmer’s energy, but there should be times when dryland gets to “win out” over a hard swim session in order to reap the benefits of land-based training. Communication keeps training fluid and is what sets apart following a program from coaching a program.


Dual Meets

When dual meets pop up throughout the season, many swim coaches are left wondering what to program as far as dryland training both before and after the meet. (Minus the coaches who have dryland programs with SURGE Strength!) The most important piece to keep in mind is having a weekly training plan set up. If you have a plan in place that includes all parameters of your swim practices, dryland can be easily adjusted within that plan. For example, if you usually are having a shorter swim practice on Mondays and Wednesdays with a 1-hour dryland session after and you have a meet on Thursday, simply cut a set-off of the lifts on Monday. There is no need to completely cancel dryland the day before a dual meet unless the swimmers are not adapting well or are performing poorly. The day after a meet, we recommend feeling out the team both physically and emotionally. This could go two ways. They could either be riding a wave of energy from a great meet or they could also be fatigued. In the case that their energy is low, we recommend swapping out some of your strength exercises for some mobility work and keeping the intensity and volume of the workout low.


SURGE Strength pairing dryland workouts 


Tapered Meets

When it comes to tapered meets, dryland is going to need a little more modification. We recommend starting to decrease the time you spend in the weight room when you start your taper in the pool (usually about 2 weeks prior to the meet). This is done by gradually decreasing the volume and increasing rest between sets. The week of a taper meet, your volume should be at about 25% of what you were doing before taper and the time dedicated to a dryland session should be cut in half. This allows swimmers to get more rest between sets and to add in functional mobility work without having to rush We do not recommend cutting out dryland completely during a taper. And in fact, the scientific research backs that up. If the meet starts on a Friday and you are traveling to the meet on Thursday night, your last dryland session could be as late as Thursday morning when modified properly.

By doing the front-end work of creating a daily, weekly, and seasonal training plan for the pool and dryland, all involved can reap the benefits of an organized program. As life unfolds, you can refer back to the principles listed above to navigate through change. By keeping your goals at the forefront and effectively communicating with your entire staff, you largely take the burden off of scrambling to figure out what to do when COVID restrictions come into play. By knowing how to plan dryland around meets, you have a structure that will set your swimmers up for success on race day. Dryland should not be a foreign, stand-alone program. It should be integrated into your season plan and help all coaches and staff members make your swimmers faster.




SURGE Strength pairing dryland workouts

SURGE Strength




SURGE Strength pairing dryland workouts

SURGE Strength




SURGE Strength pairing dryland workouts

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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