Dryland Exercises for Freestyle Swimming

Dryland workouts for freestyle include cardio and exercises that work the shoulders and core.
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Dryland training helps swimmers improve general fitness levels, and while it’s helpful to have access to a gym, training can be done with little or no equipment. Dryland work for the freestyle stroke works the large muscle groups in the back and shoulders, used to pull or propel the swimmer through the water, and leg muscles used in the flutter kick to add speed and stability to the stroke. These exercises also work the core muscles, important for maintaining proper position in the water.

Upper Body

    Freestyle swimmers use the muscles of the back, shoulders and chest to power their arms as they alternately reach forward and then push the water back and behind them to propel themselves forward. Pushing and pulling dryland exercises that work these muscle groups include triceps dips, lat pull downs, low presses and pullups. Handheld weights, or even water bottles, can be used for reverse flyes and biceps curls. Cardiovascular exercises that work these same muscle groups are good options as well, and include cross-country skiing, seated rowing and jumping rope.


    A strong core is needed to maintain your body position in the water when swimming freestyle. Core muscles in the back and abdomen stabilize the body as your arms and legs work to move you through the water. Lower core muscles help power the flutter kick, which starts in the hips. Dryland exercises that work the core include leg lifts, crunches and situps. Scissor kicks and flutter kicks also work well to tone core muscles.

Lower Body

    The flutter kick in freestyle adds propulsion to the stroke while helping maintain a flat position in the water, reducing drag. Knee-dominant dryland exercises, including lunges and squats, and hip-dominant exercises such as deadlifts will help tone the muscles needed to power a strong kick in and out of the wall during turns and at the end of a race. The same cardiovascular dryland exercises that work the upper body are also good for the lower body, including cross-country skiing and jumping rope.

Hybrid Dryland Exercises

    You can benefit from the benefits of both static and dynamic exercises with hybrid dryland drills that work one part of the body dynamically while holding another part of the body in a static position, USA Swimming explains, giving the example of a side plank with unilateral reverse fly. To do this exercise, secure a light or medium resistance band about a foot from the ground to something sturdy and position yourself parallel to the point where the band is anchored. Prop yourself up on your bottom elbow to get yourself into a side plank, and from that position use your other hand to hold the band in front of you, bringing your arm back, elbow slightly bent in a wide arcing movement. In the finishing position, your arm will be slightly behind your torso and your elbow soft. With your body still holding the side plank position, pause and then return to the start position. Do eight to 10 reps before switching to the other side.

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