A dryland warm-up for swimmers will help greatly, if for nothing else than having a defined starting and ending point to a training session. This gives your swimmers a feel of stability no matter what other changes are occurring in their day to day routine right now. That’s why we recommend using a dryland warm-up to set the tone for the entire session. This allows the warm-up to be a place where swimmers can get both their mind and body in gear to perform their best. At the ending point of a training session, the warm-down should be used to bring everyone together and round out the session. Both are extremely important parameters of a dryland program. Keeping with these parameters is what gives your athlete an edge over time. It’s these little things in practice that keeps them from being out-touched at meets. In this season of changing COVID-19 restrictions, use a reliable warm-up and warm-down routine to add consistency to training sessions.
Why Do Dryland Warm-up for Swimmers Matter?
Warming up properly affects every part of a workout and extends its usefulness long after an athlete has left the training session. The main reason to warm up is to increase blood flow to working muscles. This automatically increases body temperature. In fact, a good sign your athlete is ready to train is when they break a sweat. Warming up prepares the swimmer to gradually increase exercise intensity as they move into the bulk or “work” of their session. The main set will feel less jarring and intense, and ultimately be more productive if an athlete has started to sweat before even beginning. It also primes the nervous system to fire in response to exercise, which results in better reaction time and motor-neuron recruitment throughout their main set. But the benefits of a proper warm-up don’t just stop there; warming up on the front end of a workout also reduces the level of soreness experienced afterward. Proper warmup decreases the likelihood of injury because it reduces the chance of straining a muscle since they are more supple with better blood flow.
Dynamic/Locomotive Dryland Warm-Up for Swimmers
Strength training science shows that the most beneficial way to warm-up is by stretching, but what kind of stretching is most beneficial? The best form of stretching is one that uses movement, or passing through the desired range of motion (ROM) in an exercise, rather than spending a few seconds holding a stretch. In the SURGE Strength Dryland Certification Curriculum, we recommend finding an open space that measures the length of your pool. Then, break athletes into lines. Have swimmers “walk” through the dynamic warm-up exercises as they move across the warm-up space. Some examples of locomotive exercises include butt kicks, Spiderman lunges, and leg kicks.
Static Dryland Warm-Up for Swimmers
Depending on your set-up, we understand that social distancing may not be possible with a locomotive warm-up because of space limitations. Or perhaps you have the added obstacle of running a dryland session virtually. The alternative to the preferred dynamic stretching is a stationary, or static, warm-up. Everything the athletes would normally do “walking” across the floor is modified and executed in place. For example, instead of jogging forward across the floor, simply jog in place. Instead of performing leg kicks, modify the exercise to a leg swing at the wall. That way the “static” exercises still have a dynamic component.
Why Do We Warm-Down?
Warm-downs on land are often overlooked. However, they are the best time to stretch. The muscles are warm and supple. They are holding an increased amount of blood flow and respond better to being “stretched” or lengthened than before or during a session. This leads to improved flexibility, which is extremely important in obtaining better positioning both in the water and during dryland exercises. Swimmers can act on your coaching cues faster because they can make the desired changes you ask for in their stroke. In addition, swimmers who can hit more optimal positions are less likely to get injured. Their performance immediately improves without having to train “harder.” Stretching is incorporated into the warm-down either actively or passively.
Active stretching is achieved when the swimmer dynamically moves through a range of motion. An example is a supine leg kick. The athlete lengthens the hamstring muscles by contracting the quads to lift the leg. That contraction is where the “movement” occurs and changes it from a passive to an active stretch. Some benefits of active stretching occur during the functional exercises performed in the warm-up. However, improving ROM becomes the primary goal of active stretching in the warm-down.
Swimmers train passive stretching in order to increase flexibility. To make a stretch passive, the swimmer moves into the desired position and simply holds the stretch. For example, the swimmer holds her leg with her hands in her supine leg kick allowing the entire leg to relax while her hamstring stretches. Athletes should only stretch until they feel mild discomfort in a position. They should be able to smile and breathe as they hold the stretch. There is a time and place for both active and passive stretching. During the warm-up, active stretching is best implemented into exercises that prepare the swimmer for an optimal training session while passive stretching is normally best on the back end of a workout, during the warm-down session.
By building a dryland warm-up and warm-down routine, swimmers gain stability in their training sessions. They know what to expect and can mentally prepare or reflect on their session during these times. Coaches benefit from warm-up and warm-down routines by having the beginning and end of each session mapped out for them. They bring productivity and cohesion to every training session. Remember that the primary goal of the warm-up is to increase blood flow rather than to increase ROM. It is during the warm-down that ROM and flexibility become the focus. The end of a session is the perfect time to reap the benefits of stretching. These are the little things that count for that extra hundredth of a second improvement, and should never be skipped.
BUILD BETTER ATHLETES TO GENERATE FASTER SWIMMERS
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.