Staying in good condition for swimming or even becoming a better swimmer doesn’t just happen in the water. With dry land swimming exercises, you can work on your strength and fitness between visits to the pool.

But dry land training is so much more than just a convenient alternative – it’s a great way to complement your time in the water and give you a rounded training routine. Because our bodies are lighter in water, it can be difficult to build the key muscle groups necessary for swimming. If you want to become more explosive in the water, increase your speed and stroke rate, or simply reduce your risk of injury, expanding your training can make a real difference.

To help you get started, we  checked in with triathlete and Ironman World Championships  finisher Rachel Rutherford to learn all about the best dry land exercises to enhance your swimming performance.

Why is dry land training important for swimmers?

Dry land training such as weights exercises really help to build strength and power, which can make you more efficient in the pool. Gym work and activities such as Pilates and yoga also help to improve balance, posture, and alignment. Finally, boosting your endurance on dry land will improve your recovery times in hard intervals, meaning you can swim faster for longer!

What are your main aims in doing dry land exercises?

The main target is to prevent injury, while also gaining strength and power which can be translated into the pool. It is much easier to overload the muscles using weights in the gym than it is in the pool! Likewise, dry land exercises enable you to properly isolate individual muscle groups for additional gains.

How do you build endurance for swimming on land?

While there is not a direct correlation between swimming stamina and dry land endurance, the fitter you are generally, the easier swimming will become – even if you’re just starting out. This dry land endurance can be built in a number of ways. Anything that raises your heart rate consistently for a reasonable period of time is great, so try classic cardio exercises such as running, skipping, speed walking, cycling, and cross training!

How do you build strength for swimming on land?

The best way to do this is through a mixture of free weight and bodyweight training in the gym. Working with a Personal Trainer is a great place to start here, as they will be able to build you a varied plan which will be tailored to your goals whilst keeping things interesting. The top six exercises I would recommend are:

  1. Planks
  2. Press-ups
  3. Triceps dips
  4. Bicep curls
  5. Squats
  6. Lunges 

How do you build flexibility in dry land training?

In addition to attending holistic classes such as Pilates and yoga, I also incorporate dynamic stretching into the warm up of my gym workouts, and ensure that I complete a good cool down and stretching routine at the end of the workout. A final thing you might not have considered is having a regular massage; I find this really helps to ease a lot of the tension in my muscles.

What facilities do you use for dry land exercises?

Where I can, I do all of my endurance work outside. I do my strength work in the gym at my  David Lloyd club, and also head along to Blaze classes for that extra bit of motivation when I need it. David Lloyd Clubs also have a number of Pilates and yoga classes each week, which are great for when I need to focus on stretching and flexibility.

How often are you doing dry land swimming exercises?

I would look to do dry land training sessions 2-3 times a week. They don’t have to be long sessions, so can easily fit into your day or at the end of a session in the pool.

Which exercise would help a swimmer the most?

The best exercise is a plank as it works the whole body. You will really reap the benefits of having a strong core in the water, as it underpins the whole stroke.

Do you play any sports as part of dry land training?

No, but as a triathlete I do a lot of biking and running. I also love hiking in the Peak District!

Ready to move your swimming skills to the next level? Don’t miss our expert advice for backstroke, breaststroke, and front crawl — and visit our website to find the nearest swimming pool to you.