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Drylands / Fitness / Training

Are Drylands Really Worth It?

Yup, especially if you want to fix muscle imbalances

Helen Thurlow | February 1, 2011

Watch any age group swim team and the majority will moan when the coach says:  “Okay, time for drylands.” They fuss and are slow at getting out of the water. They even say under their breath, “I’d rather continue swimming.”

If you thought I was talking about the little kids, you are right, but I was also talking about the big kids… Masters swimmers.

Why are dryland exercises important in swimming? Good question. According to Ian McLeod, the author of Swimming Anatomy, exercises that one does on land whether circuit training, traditional weight training, low-intensity aerobics and flexibility exercises, will directly benefit the swimmer. This allows being more specific in the dry-land exercises to target areas that are weak or less flexible.

Swimming is repetitive in nature, thus creating muscle imbalances. For instance, our quadriceps and hip flexors become strong while the back of the legs, the hamstrings and gluteal muscles become weak. How do you find that out? Touch your toes without bending your knees. How’d you do? Feel that stretch behind the leg? Not very comfortable is it?

Muscle imbalance leads to various imbalances such as strength imbalances and flexibility imbalances. It also leads to postural imbalances. Look at someone who doesn’t exercise or whose definition of stretching is reaching for the remote control and look at their posture.

While predisposing the swimmer to injury, these imbalances can also lead to poor performance in the pool. So, how do we design a dryland routine? Oregon Reign Coach Dennis Baker describes designing a routine based on core activation and stretching. And for optimal performance, you don’t need fancy equipment long hours prior to practice doing dry-land. “Keep it simple,” says Baker, “You just need a mat and a wall” to do the exercises.

If you like to get technical and are into following a training schedule for your swimming events you can also focus on what is known as the principle of periodization. Periodization allows the swimmer to break his or her season into various phases, each phase comprised with a different training goal.

But, keep it simple. If your team offers drylands, then go ahead and try the exercises that your coach lays out for you. Oregon Reigns’ dryland routine is 30 minutes prior to practice on the weekends, but you can do these exercises at any time and on any day.

What exercises activate the core and allow for proper flexibility? One resource is the American Council on Exercise’s website at acefitness.org, where you can find many different exercises and video demonstrations of them.

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