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Dryland Training for Competitive Student Swimmers

Swimming is a unique sport; it is difficult to replicate the exercises we do in the water, on land. It is nearly impossible to replicate the weightlessness, in any other domain. Therefore, the strength we gain outside the pool may not always translate to water. 

For years coaches have been trying to figure out how to gain more strength outside the pool to swim faster. Swimming is a sport that deals with a power-to-weight ratio. One of the major challenges swimmers face to swim faster is drag. If you have a lean, tall, and light athlete who is very powerful in the water, they will be faster than an athlete with the same power but weighs more. 

The leaner and lighter athlete can reduce drag more effectively will be easier for them to move through the water more efficiently. This creates a problem for coaches to solve because the goal of weight training for competitive swimmers is to become faster in the water. Building a heavier physique and too much muscle may diminish an athlete’s performance. 

There are differing points of view on how to swim faster, but we cannot disagree that the main objective for a swimmer is to get from A to B in the fastest time possible. The question then arises, how do we use weight training and dryland exercises to gain an advantage over the competition? 

Three aspects of the body

The way I like to think about the body of a swimmer is in three separate parts. Upper, lower body, and core. A swimmer’s core is the most crucial aspect of the body. This is where all the strength stems from. It allows the swimmer to connect their upper and lower body in a way that lets them move smoothly through the water. Athletes should be working on their core daily out of the water to help them in the water. 

The swimmer’s upper and lower bodies are equal but have two very different roles. To reduce drag in the best way possible, swimmers hold a high body position in the water. With an emphasis on developing a kick in a stroke such as freestyle, the athlete will raise their overall body position by targeting their legs. This sets the basis for the upper body stroke because when the swimmer holds a high position, they can pull water at peak efficiency and move through the water without creating too much drag. Contrary to this, if a swimmer was to not kick, their legs and trunk would sink, and their upper body would be overworked pulling excess weight. I’m sure you can think of when you’ve seen a swimmer not kicking and struggling to pull through the water with this type of drag. 

It is important, to gain strength in all aspects of the body so that a swimmer can move through the water at peak efficiency. This is mainly taught through technique and swimming in the pool, but if we don’t have a strong base in the gym and weight room it will be difficult for athletes to build the muscle they need to swim as effectively as possible.