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by David Grilli

September 1, 2004

Strengthen and stretch

This month's topic is "Dry Land" training. The term "Dry Land" has an interesting connotation. It differs from Cross Training as the latter refers to something we do instead of swimming for general athletic conditioning whereas the former is something we do to augment our swim training and strengthen the swimming specific muscles.

The scope of a good dry land program is to strengthen and stretch the muscles used in swimming. Or at least the ones we are supposed to use. It can involve, weights, medicine balls, stretch chords and the like or it can be as simple as doing certain stretching exercises and sit ups. Most dryland training routines are done after a swimming workout but they could be done before. Dryland training can be done in a group or solo but the group atmosphere may make it more fun.

Start by stretching your shoulders, back and leg muscles. The shoulder muscle stretches involve reaching with a straight arm across tour body while pushing on your elbow with your free hand. Another good shoulder stretch is to raise your elbow up over your head while trying to placing the palm of your hand on your back. You can also give your elbow a slight push with your free hand. I like to stretch my back grabbing hold of the stating block with a hand on either side. Place both feet slightly under the starting block and lean your butt away from the block as you lower your head until it almost contacts the starting block. Stretch your legs by placing your heel on the starting block with your toes pointing up, keep your knees straight and lean the upper half of your body forward and down. After you do this, stand up straight with your feet shoulder width apart and bend forward keeping your knees straight.

It's amazing the varying degrees of flexibility people have. Stretching exercises will improve your swimming because it will be easier and consume less energy for you to be in a streamline position. More flexible swimmers tend to be better swimmers.

After your stretching exercises you will want to do your strengthening exercises. I like to use weight or resistance training machines. Most gyms have all kinds of torture machines these days but if you are a swimmer using the machines for strengthening the good news is you won't be killing yourself. In fact I recommend using very easy weight in the beginning. You can build up gradually but always maintain high repetitions.

A wise old coach once told me to do the weight machines that strengthened the muscles used in the recovery phase of your swimming stroke as opposed to the muscles used in the power phase. I have tried this and found it works. I like to do the rowing type machines, curls and lateral pullovers. I also find that this adds balance to your overall strengthening regimen. We probably do enough swimming as it is for the power phase muscles.

When you first incorporate dryland training into your training cycle you will be a little sore and may actually slow down a bit in the water. It won't be long though before you speed up.

This month's article about dryland training is from David Grilli, former chair of the USMS Fitness Committee, and author of the "Self-Coached Swimmer" series.


  • Technique and Training


  • Drylands
  • Weight Training
  • Strength Training
  • Fitness