Dry land & Exercise

8 Top Out Of Water Exercises to Improve Your Swimming

out of water exercises to improve swimming

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Do you want to improve your swimming and become a faster swimmer? Well, in that case, you’ve come to the right place, because today we’ll be taking a look at some of the best out of water exercises to improve your swimming performances.

out of water exercises to improve swimming
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Doing dry-land is by far one of the best things you can do to help improve your swimming and make sure that you are prepared to swim faster in the coming swim seasons.

Dry-land helps strengthen major muscle groups like the core, legs, back, and chest, which are all majorly involved in the sport of swimming. Dryland can also help with injury prevention and improve your biomechanics, and explosiveness in the water.

In this article, I’ll go over some excellent exercises that require minimal equipment and can deliver a big improvement in swimming performance, regardless of what events you swim or if you are a pool or open water swimmer.

The main idea behind these exercises is to strengthen those key muscle groups we discussed but also to improve your power, explosiveness, and efficiency in the water- all contributing to the common goal of swimming as fast as possible.

So with that said, let’s get started-

8 out of water exercises to improve swimming.

Here are 8 out of water exercises that every swimmer should do to improve their swimming

  • Pull-Ups.
  • Plank.
  • Jumping Squats.
  • Push-ups.
  • Box-jumps.
  • Skipping Rope.
  • Medicine Ball Slams.
  • Sit-Ups.

1. Pull-Ups

Pull-ups are one of the best exercises that you can do to work the lats and trap muscles. In swimming, these muscles are frequently used and play a very important role in developing a fast and powerful pull that will propel you through the water.

Pull-up technique is simple and easy to learn and there are a couple of variations of the exercise ensuring that everyone can get the most out of it, regardless of whether you are a beginner or advanced trainee.

Progression is also quite simple and weighted pull-ups are a good way to guarantee continuous improvement on this exercise. Other methods of progression include increasing the reps, sets, and using more advanced variations like the L-sit pull up or strict pull-ups.

If you’d like to learn a bit more about this exercise, its variations, progressions and why it is so beneficial for swimmers consider checking out my article- why every swimmer should do pull ups.

Additionally, if you require a pull-up bar consider checking out my favorite wall-mounted one on Amazon by clicking here, or if you want something a bit more simple, consider this awesome doorway pull up bar, that can also be found on Amazon by clicking here.

How to perform the pull-up exercise-

  • Grab onto your pull up bar and make sure to retract your scapula.
  • You can grab on to the bar shoulder-width apart or slightly wider than shoulder-width apart for more lat activation.
  • Now pull yourself up by pulling your elbows down to the floor. Your chin should pass the bar.
  • After that, slowly lower yourself again, whilst keeping a controlled movement. Try to avoid momentum.
  • Make sure to lower yourself completely before starting the next rep.

2. Planking

The plank is a very simple, but highly effective core exercise that will train your entire abdominal section and develop some solid overall core strength. The technique is very easy to learn and the exercise can be performed almost anywhere.

Core strength is very important in swimming and plays many roles like linking your upper and lower body for increased power output, improving your balance and stability in the water, improving your body position, and allowing for faster underwater dolphin kicks.

All of these things can contribute to significantly faster swimming times.

Additionally, there are many variations of this exercise that you play around with as you become stronger and more experienced, some examples include- weighted planks, plank with your arms extended in front of you, and ab wheel rollouts which is a more dynamic variation of the plank.

Apart from using more advanced variations of the exercise, you can also increase the number of seconds you perform the plank in order to ensure progress. If you want some more awesome core exercises for swimmers, consider checking out my article on the 10 best core exercises for swimmers.

How to perform the plank exercise-

  • Place yourself in a push-up position, but instead of stabilizing your upper body on your hands, use your elbows.
  • Try to hold a straight line throughout your entire body.
  • Do not allow your hips to drop below the rest of your body or to extend upwards.
  • Hold this position for as long as you can without compromising your technique.

3. Jumping Squats

Jumping squats are a great way to build explosive leg power. They are an awesome exercise and they target all the major muscle groups in the legs, including your quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves.

Strong legs are super important in swimming, with a study 1 Morouço, P., Marinho, D., Izquierdo, M., Neiva, H. and Marques, M., n.d. Relative Contribution Of Arms And Legs In 30 S Fully Tethered Front Crawl Swimming. [online] Hindawi. Available here. published by the BioMed Research Journal suggesting that the kick can generate up to 70.3% of speed for male swimmers and 66.6% for female swimmers.

And apart from being required for a strong kick, the legs also play an important role in having a good start, push-offs, and underwaters- all of which are also very important for fast swimming.

Jumping squats can be performed as a body weight or weighted exercise. I recommend starting with the body weight variation and getting really strong at it first, before adding weight to the exercise. That said, the weighted variation can be performed using a medicine ball, weighted vest, dumbbells, or a loaded barbell.

If you are looking for a good weighted vest, consider this one on SPRI by clicking here, it comes in at a really good price and weighs up to 20Ibs. If you’d rather want to use a medicine ball you can check out this high-quality one on SPRI, by clicking here or on Amazon by clicking here.

How to perform the jumping squat exercise-

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and point your feet out at roughly 30-45°.
  • Squat down and point your knees out at the same angle of your feet.
  • When squatting down, try to lower your hips just below your knees.
  • When you are at the bottom of the motion, explode up and jump as high as you can.
  • Then repeat the movement until you complete 10-15 reps.

4. Push-Ups

The push up is another great, simple, and effective upper-body exercise that swimmers can use to strengthen the chest, shoulders, and triceps- muscles that are all important for developing a good and strong pull in the water.

There are many variations of the push up, a few include- the standard push-up, elevated push ups, pike push ups, clap push ups, weighted push ups, diamond push ups and so on.

For swimmers, I recommend mixing it up between weighted push-ups, diamond push-ups, and explosive clap push-ups. These are good variations for strengthening those key upper body muscles and also developing power that can translate to faster and improved pulling in the water.

How to perform the push up exercise-

  • Lower yourself down on your hands and feet.
  • Place your hand slightly wider than shoulder width apart.
  • Then straigthen your arms and legs.
  • Lower your body until your chest nearly touches the floor.
  • Make sure your arms extend backward, and not out to the sides.
  • Pause and push yourself back up.
  • Repeat.

5. Box jumps

The box jump is one of my favorite exercises for developing explosive power that can translate to better starts, turns, and underwaters, as well as faster kicking which we know by now to be really important for being a fast swimmer.

The box jump also strengthens all of the major muscle groups in your legs including the quadriceps, calves, hamstrings and glutes. Apart from improving explosiveness, this exercise is also great for increasing speed and agility and can easily be progressed in by increasing the jumping height as you improve.

The box jump is also simple to perform and only requires you to have a plyometric training box. You can check out my favorite one on SPRI by clicking here or another great option on Amazon by clicking here. Alternatively, you can consider using a nearby step or bench if you have one that is high enough and won’t place you at risk of falling.

How to perform the box jump exercise-

  • Stand with your feet shoulder width-apart in front of your plyometric training box.
  • Bend your knees and prepare to jump.
  • Jump up using your toes and palms of your feet and land on the box with your feet flat and knees bent, before going into a standing position again.
  • Jump down from the box and repeat.

6. Skipping Rope

Skipping is also a good exercise to build leg endurance, agility, and speed. Additionally, it can also help to improve your underwaters and push-offs and can even improve breathing efficiency by teaching you how to breathe properly when tired.

Skipping is great for strengthening your calves and many elite-level swimmers use skipping as part of their dryland training routine to develop that quickness and agility that can also improve your reaction times when swimming.

As you get better you can also play around with different variations like double unders and the boxer jump to make things more challenging and interesting.

Skipping technique is quite simple and easy to learn, but actually getting good at skipping can take some time and practice in order to learn good rhythm and tempo. If you need a skipping rope you can check out my favorite one on SPRI by clicking here or on Amazon by clicking here.

How to perform the skipping exercise-

  • Start by standing on a flat surface holding your jump rope.
  • Make sure that your hands are positioned symmetrical at about hip or stomach height depending on what is comfortable for you.
  • You want to ensure minimal movement by your arms and shoulders, the rope should only be rotated by your wrists.
  • Start rotating the rope and jumping every time it passes underneath your feet.
  • Keep your knees bent and jump from the balls of your feet.
  • Make sure to keep the jumps small, your feet shouldn’t move higher than an inch or two from the ground.

7. Medicine ball slams

The medicine ball slam is a great upper body exercise for improving explosiveness and power and strengthening a large range of muscles. This exercise will quickly get your heart rate up and can help you to develop a much more powerful and explosive pull, contributing to much faster swimming.

The medicine ball slam will also train your balance and stability which is very important for being a good swimmer. Progression can be achieved by doing timed sets and seeing how many reps you can perform in a given amount of time, as you become stronger the reps should be increasing.

You can also decide to use heavier medicine balls to develop more strength and power as you become stronger. Consider checking out this high-quality medicine ball on SPRI, by clicking here or on Amazon by clicking here.

How to perform the medicine ball slam exercise-

  • Start by standing with the medicine ball with both hands in front of you.
  • Then lift it and press it overhead until your arms are straight.
  • Then brace your core and slam the ball into the ground with all of your power.
  • As you slam the ball down follow it down by squatting down.
  • If your ball bounces catch it and repeat, otherwise just swiftly pick it up and repeat.

8. Sit-Ups

Sit-ups are one of the most basic and simplest core exercise out there. It is also easily one of the most popular and for good reason too.

Sit-ups are a good way to build core strength. Although less superior compared to the plank, since it doesn’t work the entire core, it is still a great exercise.

They are pretty easy to perform and can be performed almost anywhere. Many college swimming teams performing big sets of sit-ups before practice. This just shows how important core strength is and that the sit-up is an awesome and simple way to increase that.

How to perform the sit up exercise-

  • Lay down on your back, with your knees bent.
  • Try to get something or someone to hold down your feet.
  • Place your hands behind your head and lift your upper body until you touch your knees.
  • Then lower it again in a controlled manner.
  • Repeat.

3 Benefits from out of water exercises

1. Improved Speed and Power

Developing power and strength can be limiting in the pool as your body will eventually adapt to the resistance of the water. When you add dry-land to your training it can have a large impact on your swimming and improve your swimming performance and speed in the water by strengthening your muscles.

Additionally, dryland exercises help a lot to build explosive power in the water. This explosive power can be used to develop faster starts, turns, underwaters, kicks, and pulls, allowing you to swim as fast as possible.

In fact, a study 2 Garrido, N., Marinho, D., Reis, V., van den Tillaar, R., Costa, A. and Marques, M., n.d. Does Combined Dry Land Strength And Aerobic Training Inhibit Performance Of Young Competitive Swimmers?. [online] PubMed Central (PMC). Available here. published by the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine investigated the effect of a combined dryland and aerobic training program in young swimmers. In total 24 swimmers participated in the study and it was concluded that the training showed tendencies to improve swimming performance due to enhanced strength capabilities.

2. Injury Prevention

From personal experience, I have experienced some injuries from swimming myself. I know many of you probably have too. To be fair in a sport that is extremely physically demanding they aren’t all that uncommon.

The repetitive motions that we carry out over and over in the water can easily lead to injuries.

Out of water exercises can strengthen and develop muscles prone to injury as well as strengthening muscles that are underdeveloped. Like the lower back for example. Swimming tends to use most of the muscles in the body, but some much more than others.

This can lead to muscle groups easily getting overdeveloped compared to some other muscle groups. These muscle imbalances can cause injuries in some cases.

Not to worry, if you do your dry-land training, chances of this happening are very low. Although you can still get injured from other things, this is going to decrease your overall potential for injury quite a lot.

Having stronger muscles will also prevent injury by distributing force correctly throughout the body, allowing for less stress on joints and tendons.

3. Added Core Strength 

As discussed throughout this article, core strength is one of the most crucial factors in swimming. a Strong core helps to connect other muscle groups more efficiently, which in return will increase power.

Not just that, this connection will help in many aspects of a race. Examples include developing a strong underwater dolphin kick and staying stable while swimming. The core also plays a huge role in maintaining a correct body position, allowing for reduced drag in the water.

There are many out of water exercises that will help to improve your core strength. We discussed 2 good ones in this article, namely the plank and sit up. That said, there are many more that you can try out and play around with.

Conclusion

Out of water exercises can be highly beneficial to improve your swimming performances, regardless of whether you are already an elite-level swimmer or someone just getting started. The key is to find a good balance that will allow you to become stronger outside of the pool while still being able to train hard inside of it.

Make sure that your recovery is good and don’t overdo it. I recommend doing out-of-water training about 3 times a week for 45 minutes to an hour for some good results.

If you liked this article and found it helpful, consider checking out my blog. I cover a wide range of swimming topics, including weight training, swimming technique, dryland, product reviews, and much more. Anyway, I guess I’ll see you around.

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About the author

Benjamin

Benjamin

I am Benjamin, a competitive swimmer with many years of experience in the sport of swimming. I am very passionate about competitive swimming and love sharing everything I have learned about the sport. I specialize in swimming butterfly and my favorite event is the 100m butterfly with the 50m and 200m fly closely following.

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