Building Strength Out of the Water

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Whenever it’s cold outside I find that I don’t really want to move. I don’t want to get out of bed. I don’t want to leave the house. And I DEFINITELY don’t want to get in the pool. Because of this I ramp up my dryland routine over the winter months. When I was younger I thought I was so smart for coming up with this reasoning. But now I realize that ramping up your dryland workouts is a key part of what’s going to get you stronger in the water.

Building strength as a swimmer is a tough one. You would think that swimming 1.5-3 hours a day, six days a week, for months on end, would help make you stronger. But no, it doesn’t. Yes, it definitely helps you build and maintain your level of endurance/aerobic capacity. But help you gain strength it does not (crossing my fingers there’s at least one Star Wars fan out there).

So how do you go about building up your strength to benefit your swims? Dryland. Dryland, for all of you non-swimmers out there, is just a term that some swim coach came up with at some point in time that refers to exercises/workouts on land. Things like plyometrics, static holds, body weight exercises, and weight lifting have all been referred to as dryland by my coaches throughout the years.



I find a good mix of  any of those things you like will be beneficial in the pool. That being said, this year I’ve really fallen in love with using the Vasa Trainer SwimErg.  I use it to help me strengthen my arms to get a more efficient and powerful pull in the water.

If you don’t have a SwimErg, any rack machine with a cable pulldown at your local gym comes in at a close second. You’ll want to fix the cable pull down as high up as possible. Stand below it. And practice your catch and pull. Start with 5 lbs just to get the hang of the movement, and work your way up from there. While doing this it’s extremely important to make sure you’re allowing your shoulder blade to glide up and down properly to avoid injuring your shoulder joint. You want to allow your shoulder blade to glide upwards as you set yourself up, and glide downwards as you set your catch and pull down.


Keep in mind, you’re going to be moving less weight in the water because of buoyancy. This is why dryland is SO IMPORTANT to gaining strength. You can never get as strong in the the water a you can on land!

Coach Lissa, Tri Swim Coach