What is dry land training? Why should we do it? How should we do it?
To answer the first question – what is dry land training – swimmers refer to “dry land” as additional exercises outside of the pool that enhance their abilities to move through water. Generally speaking, exercises may fall under at least one of three categories: strength, cardio and/or flexibility. Swimming is a unique exercise in that it falls under all three categories. The resistance that water places upon swimmers builds musculoskeletal strength and endurance over time. As swimmers move further through water and workout intensities increase, their heartrates also increase, which leads swimmers’ bodies to adapt and improve their cardiovascular efficiency over time. Moreover, as swimmers learn to reach further and pull as much water per stroke as possible, they naturally stretch their bodies and increase their flexibility over time. Thus, it follows that swimmers who partake in dry land exercises involving strength, cardio and flexibility will improve their aquatic performance.
To answer the second question – why we should do dry land – swimmers should partake in dry land training because gravitational forces outside of the pool can condition the body in ways that aquatic forces cannot. Swimming can only take our bodies so far – additional training is necessary to graduate our skills from proficient to outstanding. Consider this question: Would you rather swim 50 yards of breaststroke or squat with 50lbs on your shoulders for 20 repetitions? For many of us, each choice would probably take about the same amount of time to complete, but surely squatting 50lbs on land would feel much more strenuous than sprinting breaststroke for a measly 50 yards. This is precisely the point of dry land training – the more challenging exercises outside of the pool further condition our bodies so that the resistance of water becomes less significant to us. In other words, if we can conquer gravity, then water should pose less of a challenge.
The answer to the third question – how we should approach dry land training – varies according to whom you ask. You may ask this question to one hundred different trainers and you will receive one hundred different answers. Personally, I have been swimming competitively since the late 1990s and since then I have seen the art and science of dry land training change perennially. I have participated in many different types of dry land programs and have drafted a few of my own in recent years, but in my experience the most effective dry land programs are those that entail moderate intensity with high volume of repetitions per exercise. This makes sense when we consider how many strokes we take merely to complete 50 yards, let alone 1650 yards.
As a fitness instructor, I prefer to focus on basic principles as I draft a fitness program. My answer to our original question – what is dry land training – entailed an explanation of strength, cardio and flexibility. Hence, as your dry land instructor, I will guide you through exercises that foster these fitness ideals. Why? As you condition your body on dry land against the full force of gravity, you will find it easier to move through water under reduced gravity. What exercises will the program entail? My goal is to lead a program that people may follow with me on the pool deck or perform in their private residences. For such a program, safety is paramount – all exercises will be simple enough for people to safely perform with or without a coach present. The program will also be predictable so participants may plan their sessions at their own convenience. By the end of the program, participants will be stronger, faster and more confident swimmers. I look forward to helping you transcend your present abilities.