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by Bo Hickey

December 14, 2020

Develop your kick and improve your body position

Lower-body dryland training is a helpful tool for swimming performance. Improving your ankle mobility gives you a more propulsive kick, and strengthening your legs will help you have more powerful push-offs.

A balanced approach that includes range-of-motion and strength-building exercises in your dryland routine will give you the foundation you need for an effective kick and efficient body position in the water.

Increasing Range of Motion

As you know, a major portion of kick propulsion comes from your feet. If your ankle joints are restricted, it’s like swimming with weights strapped to your legs. Also, tight ankles can have a negative impact on your knee joints and cause pain. The same goes for tight hamstrings and their effect on your lower back. Range of motion is critical to lower-body effectiveness.

For this segment, complete four rounds of each exercise. You can use these as part of your warm-up for swim practice or do them during a stand-alone dryland workout.

  • Ankle circles x 6 each direction. Aim to keep your heel in contact with the floor as you complete the circle. Try to draw as big of a circle as possible while maintaining the heel contact point.
  • Hamstring lift x 6 each side. Keep your lower back pressed firmly to the ground as you straighten your leg. Think about engaging your quads to help straighten your leg. Pause and hold each repetition for three seconds at the top.
  • Cook squat x 6. This exercise brings it all together. Your hips, hamstrings, and ankles will all be challenged during this movement. Move slowly. If you come across a tense point in the movement, breathe steadily.

Building Strength

Let's move on to some strength-building movements to help you maximize movement. These exercises build upon the previous range-of-motion exercises and will give you a solid foundation of strength. Complete three rounds of each exercise.

  • Staggered active Romanian deadlift + dumbbells x 6 each side. This adds a new twist to a traditional Romanian deadlift. Lift your back heel off the ground and focus on hinging through your front hamstring.
  • Lateral lunge and hover + weight x 6 each side. This exercise targets your adductor complex and strengthens your breaststroke kick. Think about stopping your momentum quickly and with control as you return to standing.
  • Bridge march + band x 6 each side. Aim to tuck your tailbone by engaging your glutes. Then lift one leg off the ground while avoiding any side-to-side tipping. Move with a steady pace throughout the exercise.

Start with a lighter resistance while you learn these movements. Slow things down and focus on a few key points of each movement. From there, you can gradually increase the resistance you use over time.

Power Output

Once you’ve built a comfort level with the range of motion and strength-building exercises, add some power exercises to your training. If you have pre-existing injuries or knee pain, bypass these exercises, and focus your efforts on the first two segments.

Power training is a great way to work on your peak speed and your ability to change gears in the water. By challenging your body to move faster during these movements, you’re preparing your mind and body to effectively work together during faster efforts in the water. Remember that speed without form isn’t a worthy endeavor. Even though it’s time to move fast, do so with proper form. Going fast without form only helps hardwire bad habits that can become extremely frustrating to unwind in the future. This holds true for dryland and in-water training.

  • Speed hops + broad jump x 3. One repetition equals 10 speed hops and one broad jump. Think about keeping your heels off the ground during the speed hop. Land in a squat position during the broad jump. Think about completing the speed hops as fast as you can and then covering as much distance as you can during the broad jump.
  • Hamstring kick + band x 20 seconds. This exercise works your hamstrings in a high-powered fashion. Start by tucking your tailbone by engaging your glutes. Then think about kicking down into the band while you maintain your body position.

Are you ready to take the next step in your swimming journey? Try a free workout with a Masters club this July as part of our Try Masters Swimming campaign.

All you need to do is fill out our trial membership form, find a participating club in your area, and pick a workout time to swim with the club. Come experience for yourself the amazing emotional, mental, and physical health benefits tens of thousands of adults just like you across the country are already enjoying.



  • Technique and Training


  • Drylands