Try these dryland exercises to build strength and improve your performance in the water
Training for the swim portion of your upcoming tri is always important. This workout won’t be identical to the benefits you get while actually in the water, like perfecting your form and practicing breathing. But it’s still valuable to enhancing your performance in the water. Think of these dryland exercises as a way to target the same muscle groups you would while swimming. If you’re unable to hit the pool, these exercises can keep you on track to achieving your goals. These dryland exercises focus on working your core muscles, quads, glutes, chest, arms, back, and shoulders. Just like you would in the pool or open water.
Pro tip: take these exercises to the next level when you incorporate strength training.
A burpee essentially works all the muscles you would activate during a pool session. It’s especially beneficial to build your stamina. It’s a full body and functional exercise that works on your muscle endurance and aerobic capacity. To properly do this:
- Start standing with your feet shoulder-width apart
- Lower yourself into a squatting position and place your hands on the floor in front of you
- Jump your feet back, putting yourself into a pushup position
- Do a pushup
- Jump your feet back into their original position
- Stand yourself upright, jump into the air, and clap your hands over your head
Repeat this exercise in 3 sets of 15.
You need some weight for this upper body exercise. However, stay light and stretch your shoulders well to reduce the risk of injury. To properly do this:
- Sit down at a pulldown machine and place your hands wide apart on the bar, palms facing forward
- Bring the bar down straight down to your clavicle
- Keep your torso still as you pull your arms down
- Draw your shoulders back, pulling the bar down as you exhale
- When the bar touches your clavicle and your shoulder blades are completely contracted, count to 2
- Slowly bring your arms back up to starting position, as you inhale
Control is key during this exercise. Trying to go fast will not work your muscles efficiently and can injure you. If you keep the weight low, you can do 3 sets of 25 for this exercise. Pro tip: don’t perform the exercise too fast or too slow
If you do not have access to a pull-down machine, pull-ups will also work. They’ll strengthen your back, shoulders, and arms, providing a great dryland workout. You can even use the monkey bars at a local playground for this one. To properly do this:
- Move your arms shoulder-width apart and grasp an overhead bar with a firm, overhand grip
- Hang so your arms and legs are straight
- Steady your core
- Keep your back straight and do not swing yourself
- Pull yourself up, so that your head is over the bar, leaving the bar at your chest
- Slowly lower your body back to hanging position
You should also do this same exercise with your hands gripped close together at different distances. Shoot for about 5 sets of as many proper pull-ups as your strength will allow.
This exercise works your quads and glutes. It will help you with changing direction and help you prevent injuries. To properly do this:
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart
- Step far forward with your right leg and shift your weight so that your heel hits the floor
- Descend until your right shin is vertical and your right thigh is parallel to the floor
- Lightly tap your left knee to the floor
- Put your weight back onto your right heel to bring yourself back upright
- Repeat with your left leg
When doing these exercises, keep yourself balanced. Make sure your knee is bent at a 90º angle and does not stick out further than your toe. Do 3 sets of 15 for this exercise for each leg.
This spin on the traditional pushup offers you a more intense workout. It provides a better core workout, while still hitting the upper body and hip extensors. To properly do this:
- Begin with a rigid torso in a standing pushup position with your arms and feet shoulder-width apart
- Descend, bringing yourself chest to the floor
- Start ascending until your arms are straight
- Shift over into a side plank position keeping your arms straight
- Rotate back to push up positions
- Repeat on the other side
Do 10 reps total, alternating each side, for 3 sets.
Incorporate these dryland workouts so you can be a stronger, more confident swimmer when you hit the water. Once you get back to the open water you might be in the market for a wetsuit. If so, keep our advice in mind when choosing a wetsuit.