Swim strength training

Swim strength training: Boost open water performance

Key learnings – swim strength training
Are you looking to take your swimming to the next level? Whether you are into triathlon or swimrun, dryland swim strength training could be the missing piece to your open water training regimen.

In this blog, we will dive into the importance of dryland training, answer some of the most common questions, and provide 15 curated swim strength training videos to help you get started.

Is dryland swim strength training only for beginners?

Not at all – several well-known swim coaches have advocated incorporating dryland strength training into their athletes’ training regimens. So swim strength training is for more than just beginners. For example:

  • Michael Phelps’ coach Bob Bowman has been a vocal proponent of dryland strength training for swimmers. He has emphasized the importance of developing overall body strength, not just arm and shoulder strength, to improve swimming performance.
  • Dave Salo, head coach of the University of Southern California’s swim team, strongly advocated for dryland training. He has implemented a variety of exercises, including weight lifting and resistance band training, into his athletes’ routines to improve their strength and power.
  • Greg Meehan, head coach of the Stanford University women’s swim team, highlighted the importance of dryland swim strength training. He has incorporated a variety of exercises, including medicine ball throws and resistance band work, to help his athletes build strength and power outside of the pool.

So unless you are some super-human, dryland swim strength training is for you. And this is especially true if you are into triathlon or swimrun.

What are the benefits of swim strength training?

It is hard to build muscle through swimming alone. Muscle groups are not triggered enough to develop despite the repetitive movements and whole-body integration while swimming.

So, dryland swim strength training provides a series of advantages. And the most noteworthy are,

  • Improved power and speed
  • Enhanced endurance
  • Injury prevention

Let us briefly discuss each of them.

Improved power and speed

One of the main benefits of swim strength training is improved power and speed in the water. You can improve your overall swim performance by building strength in key muscle groups like the shoulders, back, and legs.

Stronger muscles allow you to generate more force, which translates into faster and more efficient swimming.

To improve your swim performance, focus on strength training exercises that target the muscles you use most while swimming. For example, the bridging pullover exercise is excellent for strengthening the muscles in your back, while bridging and leg extensions are ideal for building strength in your legs.

Enhanced endurance

In addition to improving your power and speed, swim strength training also enhances your endurance. By increasing your muscle strength, you can reduce the risk of fatigue during longer swim sessions. This means you will be able to swim for longer without feeling as tired or worn out.

To improve your endurance, focus on exercises that involve high repetitions and low weights. When done right, this training builds muscular endurance and improves your overall stamina in the water.

Injury prevention

Swimming can be hard on your body, particularly if you are not in proper condition. However, incorporating swim strength training into your routine will prevent injuries by strengthening the muscles and joints used during swimming.

For example, the rotator cuff muscles in the shoulder are essential for proper swimming technique, and strengthening them minimizes the risk of rotator cuff tears.

For example, two great exercises are shoulder presses and lateral raises for strengthening the muscles in your shoulders.

How can I incorporate dryland swim strength training into my routine?

Dryland swim strength training is an essential part of any swim training regimen. It involves performing exercises targeting specific muscle groups used during swimming, such as the shoulders, back, and legs. So how can you incorporate dryland swim strength training into your routine?

First, dedicate time each week to focus on strength training exercises to ensure you get the most out of your dryland training. It could be in addition to your regular swim training sessions or a separate workout altogether.

When you are set, start with the basics. And focus on exercises targeting larger muscle groups, such as the chest, back, and legs. Examples of basic workouts include push-ups, squats, lunges, and pull-ups.

Once you have built strength and endurance, incorporate more advanced exercises into your routine. These could include exercises targeting smaller muscle groups, such as the rotator cuff muscles in the shoulder. Examples include shoulder presses, lateral raises, and internal and external rotations.

TRX Straps in dryland swim strength training
Consider incorporating TRX straps into your swim strength training routine. These versatile straps allow you to perform a variety of resistance-based exercises, helping to build strength and improve flexibility in the key muscle groups used in swimming. Plus, with the ability to adjust the straps to different heights and angles, you can customize your workouts to suit your individual needs and goals.

Resistance bands and weights

Resistance bands and weights are excellent tools for dryland swim strength training. They allow you to target specific muscle groups and add resistance to your exercises, which can help build strength and improve your overall performance in the water.

The benefit of resistance bands is that they weigh next to nothing – so you can bring them everywhere. That is also why we use resistance bands in all our exercises.

4-week swim strength training plan

Are you ready to take your swimming to the next level? Our 4-week swim strength training plan is designed to help you increase your base strength and overall mobility, making you a stronger and more efficient swimmer.

Over the course of 4 weeks, you will complete three dryland workouts per week, each with step-by-step instructions and instructional videos for all exercises. 

Your body will thank you – sign up today!

Swim strength training videos

Mix things up with our 15 upper and lower-body swim strength training videos! Each video targets the key muscle groups used in swimming, helping improve your overall strength and performance in the pool. Plus, with a variety of exercises and levels of difficulty, you can switch up your routine to keep things interesting and challenging.

Upper body swim strength training

The ability to pull and push your body through water is a huge part of successful swimming.

  • The pull begins when the hand enters the water, and you “pull” it toward your chest.
  • The push occurs at the point where your hand passes your shoulder and starts moving toward your hip.

Combining below dryland strength exercises allows you to work all the upper-body muscles involved in swimming.

One-arm throw

The one-arm throw concentrates on the front portion of your deltoid muscles and your lats and simulates how your upper arm pulls you through the water.

Bridging pullover

The bridging pullover focuses on a powerful pull. This exercise will help you learn to pull stronger while keeping your body from moving around too much. For the added effect, use a stability ball instead of a bench.

Tubing stroke

The tubing stroke is a perfect pull-and-push drill that simulates what you do while swimming—no matter your stroke style.

Shoulder press

The shoulder press is designed to help you straighten out your arm entirely before beginning a stroke.

Triceps push-down

The triceps push-down concentrates on the last half of your stroke, the push. The relatively small triceps muscles must provide the final push to propel you through the water, so training them is essential.

Tubing kickback

Like the triceps push-down, the tubing kickback mimics the final push of your stroke.

Seated dips

The seated dip combines the triceps, the shoulder, and the deltoid to double the force of your push.

Tubing biceps curl

If you watch how your arm moves during the initial pull of your stroke, you will notice that the elbow has to bend to maintain a good stroke. And the biceps make this possible.

Lower body swim strength training

Although the upper body may do most of the work during swimming, the lower body provides propulsion and stability – especially in choppy water.

And your hips, thighs, and calves do not provide a lot of buoyancy. (You may have noticed!?) So you have to keep them moving during the swim to prevent dragging your legs along at the expense of your arms.

A strong lower body can also help you generate more power in your strokes, allowing you to swim faster and more efficiently.

That said, combine our seven lower body exercises to get a better swim stroke.

Tubing lateral lift

The lateral lift focuses on the often-ignored smaller glute muscle. This muscle is responsible for lifting your legs out to your sides and stabilizing part of the gluteus during hip extension. Training this muscle will help keep your legs from flailing out to the sides and allow you to concentrate on extending your hips with each kick.

Reversed Superman

The exercise locks your knees straight while you use your glutes and hamstrings to extend your hips. By keeping your knees locked, you can make the hamstrings work at the hips, effectively increasing the force of your kick.

Leg extension

The leg extension exercise concentrates on the force you produce while extending your knees, which is critical for a solid kick.

Tubing hip extension

The hip extension exercise allows you to work one leg at a time through the same range of motion that the hips move during swimming.

Tubing lateral cross

The muscles used during the exercise are responsible for helping the gluteus medius stabilize the hips and the gluteus maximus. This exercise will also help your hip extension force by keeping the leg moving correctly.


Standing calf raise

In standing calf raises, you will work both calf muscles. And it provides more power to your kick.

A dryland strength training workout

In this video, we show you an example of how you can combine several of the dryland strength and core exercises.


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