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3 min read

Swimmers and Dryland Training—Like Fish out of Water?

Sport performance training is for swim teams too.

Good swimmers train in the water. Elite swimmers train on land too. Dryland training for the modern day swimmer is more of a priority than ever before.

dryland training for swimmers

Swim coaches are looking for swimmers to be more athletic, powerful, mobile and to show the right kind of strength—broad through the shoulders, a strong back, stable core/trunk and lean, powerful legs.

Almost every swim coach I talk to wants to get his or her athletes faster and more powerful without adding unnecessary bulk or size. The prototype swimmer’s body should have retracted shoulders, well-defined abdominal muscles, narrow legs and display great range of motion at the hips and shoulders Also, and most importantly, every swim coach wants to keep their swimmers healthy and injury-free from dryland training.

Some swimmers are literally like fish out of water when moving on dryland.  Their feet are not accustomed to the impact of the ground when running. And some are hyper-flexible which can be an issue during some strength activities.

Freestyle or Free for All?

As with all sports, discipline makes a difference. Elite swimmers aren’t just climbing out of the pool, doing a thousand crunches and calling it a day. They follow a protocol that emphasizes strength and conditioning in a prescribed manner.


It’s the human body’s center of mass, so it’s important for swimmers to maintain a good line.

  • Stabilize the whole trunk with different core stabilization drills
  • Try dynamic plank variations, moving either legs or arms while holding
  • Bodyweight training needs and builds a strong core
  • Pushups and pull ups are great core stabilizers

Relative Body Strength

Developing power without adding bulk can be a little tricky.

  • Barbell-based movements
  • Light to medium load
  • Focus on bar speed and explosive triple extension
  • Train hips, legs and back without compromising range of motion

An Overall Fitness Level That’s Not Watered Down

Ok – now we have a swimmer who is strong and explosive but how about his or her overall fitness level?  What does his or her work capacity look like?  The final phase of sports performance training for the swimmer is to incorporate athletic conditioning that will translate to the water.  I like to use the term athletic instead of simply metabolic because you can do anything for time and get tired from it.  That doesn’t mean you got better from it, especially as it relates to a swimmer.

When you think of conditioning what comes to mind first? Most people picture long distance running. But with swimmers too much running could be disastrous. As I mentioned earlier, their feet are not used to all that ground impact that is necessary for running or sprinting.

I have three different types of athletic conditioning workouts I like to use with my swimmers. All develop athleticism and use different types of conditioning. I will dive into describing them in my next blog.

If you’re a swimmer looking for dryland training in the Charlotte, NC area, come in a get a free evaluation at ULTIMATE ATHLETE. Visit us at or give us a call at 704.577.1402.