Training TipsSwimStrength and Conditioning

Try these at home dry land swim exercises

by John Hansen


Being able to effectively stay in good swim condition, even when you do not have access to a pool, is critical for long term success. This can be done through dryland training.

The focus of dryland training is to develop muscle groups and movements that mimic those muscle groups and movements used in freestyle swimming. The goal with these exercises is to create a foundation of swim fitness so when you return to the pool your swim specific strength and efficiency can easily be regained.

I recommend doing the following set of exercises three times per week. These exercises involve minimal equipment and space so they are ideal for a home setting. In addition, the weight amounts for the equipment and stretch cord tension mentioned below varies based on your personal strength levels. 

Flutter kicks

flutter kicks

Engage your core (belly in) and tuck your hands next to your hips.. Kick from the top of your leg. Keep the kick small, with less than 12 inches of vertical movement at your feet. Point your toes away. Keep your knees straight, but not locked.

Keep a steady, even pace. Count your kicks in threes: "1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3," etc. Make every first kick in the set of three a little more forceful. Begin extremely slowly, gradually increase your kicking speed to about three kicks per second. Why count in threes? Because generally you will be taking a single arm stroke for every three kicks.

To begin kick for 10 seconds rest for 10 seconds, repeat six times. Build to 1 minute of kicking with 30 seconds of rest repeated three times.

Stretch Cord

Ts, Y and Is and Kneeling One Arm Rows - use a light to moderate strength band

stretch cords ts

Loop the stretch chords or bands around a fixed point at about shoulder level. Take one end of the cords in each hand (with an equal length of cord each side), stand facing the fixing point with your hands out in front of you parallel to the ground. There should be light tension in the cords. Pull on the bands so your arms form a “T” then release slowly.

Repeat for 30 seconds, rest for 10 seconds and repeat a total of three times. Then repeat with your arms raised into a “Y” shape and finally repeat with your arms pointing directly to the sky with your body in an “I” shape.

Stretch cord swim specific stroke movements

Use a moderate strength band

stretch cord exercise

Overhead Hinge - Face away from the attachment point, stand with a parallel stance and extend your arms overhead. Hinge at the elbow rotating your hands downward but keeping your elbows in place. Repeat for 30 seconds and then rest for 10. Repeat five times.

stretch cords

Double Arm Pull — Hold the cords, face the attachment point, bend at your waist, extend arms with the wrist and elbow bent (Catch position) out in front of your head.  Move forward or back until there is light pressure on the bands in this position. Pull both arms back to your thigh like the catch and pull part of the stroke. Release your arms and let them return to the starting position. Continue with a quick tempo for 30 seconds and then rest for 10. Repeat five times.

stretch cords single arm pull

Single Arm Pull — Same set up as the Double arm pull but instead of pulling with both arms simultaneously, pull with alternating arms. Pull your right arm back to your thigh like the catch and pull part of the stroke. Release your right arm and let it return to the starting position as you pull back with your left arm. Continue alternating arms with a quick tempo for 30 seconds and then rest for 10. Repeat five times.

Lower and full Body - follow swim specific strength


Lunges — Step directly forward with your right foot about 2 1/2 feet.  Upper body remains straight and leaning slightly forward; lower yourself down until your left thigh is approximately parallel to the floor.  Your right leg should also be bent, with your lower leg (shin) parallel to the floor. The heel of your trailing foot (right foot) will raise. Reverse the motion then repeat until you have completed a set, switch legs and repeat.  Don't let your front knee move farther forward than your front foot. Complete 10 reps and switch to the opposite leg. Complete two sets of 10 reps on both sides.

mountain climbers

Mountain Climbers w/Pushup — Start in a pushup position. Lift the left leg outward slightly, then bring the left knee towards the left elbow while completing a pushup, return to the starting position.  Each time each foot returns to its starting position is 1 repetition.  Repeat on the other side.  Complete two sets of six reps on both sides.

Foundation Strength

Upper Body and Core – follow swim specific strength


Pushup — Starting Position: Lying on your stomach, palms just wider than shoulders. Flex your toes so that your hands and soles of your feet share the weight of your body.

Pushing with your arms raise your trunk and legs off the floor. Keep your back straight and do not let your stomach sag. Continue for 20 seconds, rest 10 seconds and repeat five times.

cross plank

Cross Plank — Position the body in a push-up position. Lift right arm and left leg simultaneously and hold for 10 – 20 sec. Release and repeat on opposite limbs. Complete five times with both sets of limbs.

Supermans — Lie face down on a pad in a superman position with arms in front of you and your toes pointed. Tighten your back and lift your shoulders/arms and feet 2-6 inches off the ground. Hold for 5 seconds then slowly lower yourself back to the starting position. Repeat five times.

John Hansen, USAT, and USA Swimming Level 1 Coach and USA Cycling Level 3 Certified coach, Folsom California. Hansen has an MS in Exercise Physiology and previously worked at the UC Davis Sports performance lab for five years. Hansen currently coaches the UC Davis Collegiate Club Triathlon team. Hansen also has his own coaching business, primarily coaching long course athletes, 70.3 and 140.6. Visit or email

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.

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