The Dryland Essentials

In Injury Reduction by Admin2 Comments

If you look around the swimming world, dryland is becoming more and more of a staple in a team’s progression. From the age group level to the elite, discussion on how to properly implement dryland training are spreading like wildfire. 

If you have been following NCAA swimming, you might’ve heard of a guy named Caeleb Dressel. It is no doubt that his technique has been crafted over the years.

However, he empowers his swimming by working on the essentials outside of the pool.

If you’re new to dryland or looking to refocus your efforts, let’s walk through some essentials you can apply with your own programming. 

Dryland Essential 1: Function

The most basic and arguably the most potent thing you can do for yourself is focus on injury prevention! Think about it, less interrupted training time, more time in the pool, better performance. It is quite simple when you look at the progression.

However, maintaining that ability to train is easier said than done. Swimming is high volume, high repetition and the human body needs daily care. 

That’s why we start each dryland session off with what we call “Function.” Yes, the exercises are fantastic warm up exercises and will help you swim better through movement improvements. However, they are also meant to improve daily function. They are meant to make life easier which will make SWIMMING easier. 

Coach Bullock and SWOCC have seen this firsthand. 

“#1 result that I believe helped fuel the unprecedented results at the end of the season was less of the typical over-use injuries that we had seen in the first 3 years and those that did suffer injuries were quicker to return to full activity/training.

The results at the national championships speaks for itself – The combined team effort resulted in achieving 77 individual lifetime best times, setting 12 new school records. In all the team of 20 athletes dropped a combined time of 7:41.95 in the 4-day meet, not including some crazy fast lifetime best relay splits.  Of the 157 individual swims, including prelims and finals, only 20 of those swims were not PRs. Historically, we have seen improvements at the national championships all 4 years since the start of the program, but the amount of improvement is what I found so incredibly impressive. This is just after one year of utilizing the program with a definite learning curve of how to get the athletes to buy-in, own it and hold themselves accountable to it.”

So what does a function section look like? Above you’ll see six exercises. This is just one example of the countless function routines we might give a swimmer or team. 

The routine doesn’t have to be super elaborate. It just has to be completed to enjoy the benefits of fewer training interruptions.  

Complete two rounds of the following exercises. 

  • Supine Pulldown x 8 each side 
  • Twisting Hip Drives x 8 each side 
  • Hip Hinge + Arm Reach x 8 
  • Single Leg Layout x 4 each side 
  • Seated Wall Angel x 8 
  • Spiderman x 4 each side 

In a matter of 10 minutes, the athlete experiences a proper warm up, works on proper mobility and stability in the joints, and is primed for the task at hand (SWIMMING AND RESISTANCE TRAINING). 

Dryland Essential 2: Raise the Bar

You can interpret this a handful of ways. As a swimmer (or swim coach), do not fear increases in strength, do not fear the power of basic movement, and embrace general skill to raise the bar as as swimmer. Track success on the dryland side as well. 

“The RITTER dryland program is enabling us to improve quality of the dryland program and give student-athletes the opportunity to really own their own success.

“Measurable, Monitored, and maximized training along with allowing student-athletes to own their own success, the program enables them to strive to achieve their maximum potential in and out of the pool. The student-athletes’ training is not limited by the limitations of their teammates, but rather by their ownership of their training and dedication to reach higher levels.” 

SWOCC experienced awesome increases in strength. Athletes progressed to loaded barbell movements and improved stability. Due to their unique setup, our remote dryland program allowed them to maximize their training space.

Does strength need to be layered in properly for a swimmer to succeed? 100%. 

Some simple tips for you to follow:
  • Higher reps leads to more protein breakdown and more muscle growth. Many swim programs I talk to say they do three sets of 15-20 repetitions because they don’t want the athletes to look like bodybuilders. However, this is exactly what bodybuilders do. 
  • Lower reps and higher weight will help build strength without the same level of protein breakdown. It also allows you to train less volume which is helpful in a high volume sport like swimming. Build proper form first. Then increase the weight. 
  • Basic movements work really well. You don’t have to be fancy! 

These may sound like common sense to you, but they are good reminders!

“Team training utilizing a facility set up as a community fitness center is not ideal and proved to result in limited work and an inappropriate amount of standing around waiting for equipment. In the past we resorted to holding training in a different location utilizing suspension and bodyweight training. The RITTER platform has allowed us to advance the training plan, put the swimmers under more weight when the training plan called for it and to maximize the use of all facilities available to the student-athletes.”-Coach Bullock

A simple dryland routine could involve a function section like we discussed above and 3-4 strength movements. This is simple but it has potential to be very effective. 

Master the basics! They will continue to propel your career. 

Dryland Essential 3: Know Dryland’s Place

This is a big one and is where I believe conflict arises with swim programs. Dryland is supposed to be a catalyst for swimming, not the feature presentation. 

Keep in mind that making time for dryland is a worthwhile endeavor, but do it with swim performance in mind. 

Dryland training can help sure up the gaps your athletes are experiencing.

Sometimes the answer to a poor kick is not more kicking. Sometimes it is. Mix in the proper combination of leg/hip strength and power on land to help maximize what you are trying to achieve in the water. 

Complete enough shoulder stability work to keep aches and pains at bay so you can continue to push at the level you need to for improvement to occur. 

Teach core stability on land in a more viewable setting (versus in the water) and then transfer it to that perfect streamline and body positioning. 

Implement jumps for rate of force development, start, and wall performance. Understand the value of jumps in teaching swimmers how to manage force.

The list goes on and on. Find that complimentary relationship, not a combative one. 

Some of my favorite “swim specific” movements

“Working with RITTER has really advanced our program and enabled me as a lone local coach to get creative and provide a top notch comprehensive training program for a new and growing junior college swimming program. We are changing the game in a small rural town on the Oregon Coast by utilizing the resources and technology available to provide access to a dynamic, comprehensive and valuable training program for the student-athletes.  It does require buy-in and accountability of the student-athletes, but we really push to develop a team culture of excellence and an all-in atmosphere that seems to fuel their desire to do their part.  In the end, they will get out of any program what they put into it.  I believe RITTER is allowing me to provide them the tools to achieve their maximum potential and own it.”-Coach Bullock

Hear what some of the athletes had to say!

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