Swimming Strength & Conditioning (Dry Land)
Elite Gamespeed is NE PA's premier Strength, speed, agility and conditioning training facility for high school, collegiate and professional athletes. Our swimming dry land program is second to none. Understanding what your body needs for your event is imperative to your success in the pool, and a dry land program is a very essential program to your success and here are a few reasons why .
1. Building Muscle and Bone Density
It is very difficult to build muscle through swimming alone. Despite the repetitive movements and whole body integration while swimming, muscle groups are not triggered to develop significantly. When a stress is placed on a muscle, such as bodyweight or a dumbbell, the muscle is signaled to resist the downward force of gravity by contracting. Strength exercises on land create a number of these stressors. When muscles respond, as in the lifting of a dumbbell, micro-tears in the tissue occur and cause soreness. As the body repairs these micro-tears, muscle builds up. Pulling one’s body through water cannot create this stimulation for tissue growth as much as strength exercises on land because the perceived force of gravity is reduced.
Another benefit of weight-bearing strength training for swimmers is that it increases bone density. . Swimmers have a tendency to have low bone density because they spend the majority of their training in the pool. Dryland training and loading weight on bones stimulates bone tissue to develop.
2. Core Strength
The core is critical to swimming. It maintains the correct “downhill” body position of the swimmer when horizontal to minimize drag. It enables the swimmer to accelerate faster in a turn, and carry more speed off a dive with a clean entry. Swimming dryland training often requires the integration of various muscles in complex movements, with the core at the center of the action. In order to transfer force efficiently from one part of the body to another, an athlete needs a strong core that engages quickly. This applies to every part of a swimmer's race, from the hip rotation in freestyle to the underwater dolphin kick off the wall.
3. Injury Prevention
The repetitive motions in swimming can lead to chronic injuries. Dryland training varies an athlete's patterns of movement and challenges their muscles to learn new exercises. It can target areas left underdeveloped by swimming and relieve some of the demand placed on more stressed muscle groups. Stronger muscles also help distribute force correctly, putting less strain on joints, tendons and ligaments.
4. Learn Correct Biomechanics
Especially for swimming dryland training, athletea must learn correct body position for a variety of exercises. This requires focus, muscle recruitment, and coordination. Swimmers develop better posture through core engagement and upper body strength, which helps improve breathing in the water. Balance and stability improve with single-legged exercises and strengthening of large muscle groups.
5. Generate More Power
Dryland training develops power unmatched by any training a swimmer can do in the pool. Once the athlete develops a baseline level of strength, there are countless exercises that can be done in quick bursts of energy. Explosiveness develops well on land, where the athlete has a harder surface to push off of. Squat jumps, lat pull-downs, and push ups are just a few of the exercises that develop power for the pool. To learn more about the benefits of dryland training for a swimmer's body.
Dryland for swimming is critical to a swimmer's development. It challenges the athlete to execute new movement patterns under a greater load than in the pool. Athletes tap into new sources of power and speed on land, translating to greater performances in the water. For more on dryland training for swimming,
Different training for different swimmers
Swimmers train differently depending on their stroke specialty and preferred distance. Butterflyers, backstrokers, breastrokers, and freestylers require unique dryland strength exercises much like how sprint, middle-distance, and distance athletes need variation among their workouts. While the general phases of strength training are the same across all swimmers, there should be particular movements within each workout that translate to the strokes and distances they swim most often.
Perhaps the greatest difference in swim-specific strength training lies between the two ends of the swimming spectrum—sprint and distance athletes. Sprint athletes need to harness quick muscle recruitment by developing a greater density of fast twitch muscle fibers. This can be achieved through strength training that focuses on power and speed. Sprint athletes require a longer preparatory phase leading up to their power phase because they will execute more extensive power lifts than distance swimmers. This prep work is necessary so the athlete can learn progressions for power movements, prevent injury, and ensure the proper muscles are recruited using good technique.
On the other hand, distance swimmers need to simulate their experience in the water with strength exercises that emphasize stability and endurance. The repetitive nature of their swimming requires greater stability in the shoulder girdle, hip capsule, and core to create more efficient long-axis rotation. In strength training, this translates to less power work and more stability work. For example, if a sprinter will be doing a bench press using the barbell, a distance swimmer may execute the bench press using dumbbells while lying on a swiss ball (also known as a physio ball). This variation makes the athlete work hard to remain stable during the repetitions. Distance swimmers may execute more bodyweight exercises than sprinters. One example would be doing sets of pushups with upper body rotation to mimic the body position of freestyle. Middle distance athletes will much more closely approximate the sprinter program. Swimmers that race mostly 200-meters or less, will need to integrate power into their strength training.
In addition to distance-specific training, swimmers should customize their strength exercises based on the primary strokes they swim. Athletes need to replicate the same pattern of muscle activation in dryland as they will use in the pool. Long-axis strokes (back and free) will demand rotational strength through the core as the body rotates side to side in the transverse plane. Short-axis strokes (fly and breast) require core strength in the sagittal plane as the abdomen moves forward and backward in that dolphin-like undulation. Breastrokers and IM’ers require more lateral leg work to target muscles used in breastroke kicking, which is drastically different in terms of biomechanics from flutter or dolphin kicking. Athletic trainers and coaches can slightly modify the format of their athletes’ workouts to fit their stroke styles. These modifications are slight changes within a general theme. For example, if the team is working through a set of lunges, breastrokers may opt for lateral lunges whereas flyers, backstrokers, and freestylers may choose forward or reverse lunges. If the team is set to do core strength, back and freestylers might perform bicycle crunches and side planks while breastrokers and flyers might try pikes and knee tucks on a swiss ball.
Swimmers will have different strength and conditioning goals depending on their races. Dryland training can be easily customized with exercises that replicate a swimmer's stroke, distance, and performance needs in the water. Swimmers should start optimizing their training today to build strength that translates to greater performance.