Swimmers-Why Training on Land Improves Performance in the Water


Dryland training… It’s a love-hate relationship for every swimmer. Believe it or not, building strength and power on land is just as crucial to improving race performance as logging yardage in the pool. Shoulder pain and overuse is the most common complaint for swimmers (and is the most common sports physical therapy injury we see in swimmers), often impacting their ability to continue to train at a high level. How can we train the shoulders on land before returning to the water? 

Shoulder Strength and Resilience 

It’s important for swimmers to have adequate strength and range of motion in the shoulders to tolerate the repetitive load of a 2 hour swim practice. The rotator cuff plays a major role in stabilizing the shoulder during overhead movements and producing power through the pull-down. Lift off drills such as this target rotator cuff muscle activation and tolerance at an end range of motion. Once you’ve mastered the previous drill, overhead pressing variations like this and kettlebell stabilizing drills such as this will encourage you to recruit the larger muscles of your trunk and core to create resiliency overhead. 

Full Body Power 

However, swimming is a full body workout! It’s important to incorporate elements of full body power into your workout to prevent injuries when you’re racing or training at high speeds. Overhead medicine ball passes are a great functional exercise to challenge your overhead strength and full body stabilization in a dynamic environment. Progress this to a full medicine ball slam to further mimic the pull-through portion of your stroke, no water needed! 

Photo Credit

swimmer” by Pierce Presley is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

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