Train for a Swim Race Without Water

Did your gym membership expire?
Your favorite lake still contains chunks of ice?
You’re on deployment in the Middle East and pools are hard to find?

Teknorat image via  Flickr

Teknorat image via Flickr

Never fear, there’s no need to despair because there are still many things you can do to keep yourself in shape and improving without having to put a toe in the water.
And even if you do have a pool to swim in regularly, you should still pay attention. Swimming to swim better is awesome, but there are many benefits you can gain by implementing dry land routines into your training. Jason Dierking, assistant director of Olympic Sports Performance at the University of Louisiana, says that “By training your less used muscles and creating a more balanced body, it helps prevent injuries.” 

What to focus on
So before starting, it’s important to know what you’re trying to accomplish. No one wants to waste time exercising the wrong thing.
The benefit of dry land training comes from improving overall body strength and endurance. But the point is also to focus on the main muscle areas used in the swimming motions. Scott hedges, former swim coach at Cranbook School in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. said

“we typically tried to build overall strength. The upper body and shoulders are typical injury areas for younger swimmers, so we’d work on building strength to prevent injury. We’d also work on leg strength for pushing off the walls and starting blocks as well as the core muscles (abs, back and obliques) to help swimmers pull through the water. You want to pull with your body and not your arms.”

Swimming is also a high cardio sport though, so you’ll want to build up your endurance in that way too.
What to do
So, how do you do this? 

You can do pushups, lat pulls, pullups, or flutter kicks. Coach Dierking often has his swimmers do rope climbing exercises also.

Here’s a great video from the Race Club‘s coach Gary Hall showing examples of the many the dry land routines he puts his swimmers through: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mITu2w7IabI
Stew Smith, a military fitness trainer, suggests the following routine: 

  • Repeat 5 times
    – Max reps pullups
    – Rest with 50 flutterkicks
    – Rest with 40-50 pushups
    – (Shoot for a goal of 100 pullups in 5 sets eventually)
    – Do a few lightweight shoulder routines as well within the five supersets.

He also suggests that, if you have access to a weight room, to combine this routine with bent over rowing to work the back and biceps, along with bicep curls, pulldowns, tricep pushdowns, abdominals, lowerback, and other isolation exercises.
He emphasizes that the best is to “perform the swimming movements as much as you can perhaps using rubber band secured to a tree or door knob,” which would help imitate the resistance of the water.
As for cardio, running, stair running, and biking are all good exercises that require little to no equipment. You can also jump rope, row, or box. Swimming requires a lot of cardio so you’ll want to make sure to build your endurance. When you do hit the pool again, you don’t want to be left winded
*If you do have a pool, the swimming portion of the routine usually provides adequate cardio training so it is not necessary to focus on it as much.
How often
Lastly, how often should you train on land?
If you don’t have water, then three-four times a week. Since there’s no water, you’ll want to really focus on these exercises.
If you’re thinking of mixing dry land training with your swim routines, a couple of times per week is probably good. You don’t want to overexert your self so that your swim exercises are compromised.
And as always, make sure to stretch before and after, along with giving your body time to recover. You don’t want to push yourself too far or too fast and end up with an injury. Remember– strength and endurance training take time and consistency.
There are many exercise routine suggestions on the web, like this one, that you can get ideas from and make a routine that works for you. Some are even tailored for specific events, like this one for triathlons. Check ’em out and see what works for you.
Do you have a dry land routine?
What’s your favorite exercise?

Reading next

The Lazy Swimmer’s Guide to Increased Endurance

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