Should competitive swimmers add dryland training?

By Jim Lloyd, CSCS Sanford POWER

Competitive swimmers must possess technical skill, muscular balance and strong athletic ability. In addition to training in the water, swimmers should participate in dryland workouts as a way to stay competitive. When applied properly, dryland training can improve your performance and your chances of success, while decreasing your chances of injuries during practices and competitions.

The importance of dryland training – a Q&A for swimmers:

Q. Why should competitive swimmers do strength training?

A. Improved overall strength will create a more efficient and powerful swimmer. Strength training will help a swimmer maintain a tight streamline in the water and develop strong legs to support your core. Without proper glute and leg muscle activation your legs may sink and create drag. A good dryland program should also include posterior chain exercises, to build strength and balance which will aid in the protection of commonly injured areas in the upper body such as shoulders and lower back.

Q. Why is core training important for swimmers?

A. Your core provides the starting point for strength, power and stability. If you have a weak core, you may fall out of proper body position, causing increased resistance from the water resulting in slower movements. Over time improper body positioning can also lead to debilitating injuries.

Q. Why are plyometrics beneficial to swimmers?

A. Starting with jump landing techniques then advancing to squat jumps, box jumps and other varieties of plyometric jumps will help produce explosive starts and fast walls. Plyometric training can also enhance/train coordination and efficiency of explosive movements.

Q. Why should swimmers stretch?

A. Stretching helps maintain flexibility and reduce the risk of injuries. A full-body stretching routine is recommended, with extra focus on shoulders, hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves since these are heavily used in water. Ideally, stretching should be done after any intense workout (eg. swim practice, strength training, etc) as part of a cool-down routine.

Adding dryland training as a vital part of your training program will help better prepared you for the mental and physical demands of practices and competitions.

References: USA Swimming, “Swimming World” magazine, Sanford Sports Science Institute