Combos – Upper Body

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    We like to focus on swim-specific stroke movements as much as possible. Of course besides our Fingertip paddles and actual in-water stroking, most ways to target the upper body will be more muscle specific, or similar muscles but in the wrong order of engagement. Combining cardio with the work on the upper body is something we strive to include as much as possible but some circuit components will have a very low cardio. So it can help to balance upper body circuits with circuits that target the cardio system. Many of the components we include in our upper body sessions will also target the core muscle group quite well. We feel strongly that every practice should include some element of upper-body focused session (10-20 min) until swimmers are old enough (13+) to start using weights more and more. But even for 13+ year olds, we want to focus some of our in-water time with very swim-specific muscle engagement out of the water and quickly tie that to in-water stroking to constantly reinforce that fast swimming has to be more than just proper technique but also proper muscle engagement. When swimmers have large sessions of long-distance yardage they tend to engage less and less muscle and actually neglect to build the swim muscle chain. Combining in-water with dryland can help train them how/when to engage their muscles and not just find the easiest way to move through the water.

    Digging Deeper with Articles on this topic:

    Combined In-Water + Dryland Circuit Examples:

    • The Power Slider is a great way to train true power and help swimmers reach maximum capacity. In tandem we are working other swimmers with their upper body.
    • Products Used: Power Slider, TRS, Battle of the Beast Ropes

    • Include both dryland and in-water elements in your sets. This example demonstrates doing push-ups until one swimmer finishes their butterfly race.


    • Assisted pull-up and pull-outs are ideas when you can use the water as the assistance. For pull-ups you can use bands and stretch cords for assistance with younger swimmers. For Pull-outs pools with gutters are too low to really be of much value so adding weight belts can help or we recommend a large stack of kickboard on top of the gutter to add the height that we have in our pool design. Overhead battle rope slams are a good added all-around workout. For the pull outs we do 2-5 min non-stop where they get their counts and we track their progress over the years. For pull-ups and battle slams we do 15 sec (aiming for 8-10 in 15 sec) and then 15 sec rest… continue this for the 4 min of pull-outs and rotating swimmers through the circuits.
    • Products Used: Weight Belt


    • Warming up the guns with some unbalanced push ups just before an all-out race for time.
    • Products Used: Physio Ball


    • Another way to warm up the guns just prior to a 50 sprint for time. Each group is on a 10 sec restart to give them time to do their push-ups and straight up to the blocks to race.


    • Thanks to headsets, we can pipe a tempo to each of the swimmers’ to train a tempo and develop power in a host of ways. Here we have a circuit on our Fingertip paddles with stretch cords for catch engagement, another circuit with our Battle of the Beast Ropes (stretch cords), and in the water we are using the IM Paddles and Dual Ankle buoys for added resistance
    • Products Used: Fingertip Paddles, IM Paddles, Dual Ankle Buoy, Battle of the Beast Ropes, Headsets

    In-Water Only Examples:

    • Kids love to work hard!. A simple corkscrew drill (5 free/5 back) but with ample resistance. Here we have our Power Bags on the forearms, IM Paddles, and the dual ankle buoy on the feet. The buoy keeps the feet up so they can focus on body rotation but it also adds a surprising amount of drag resistance.
    • Products Used: Power Bags, IM Paddles, Dual Ankle Buoy

    Dryland-Only Examples:

    Circuit Components (Ideas to help Build your own):

    • Fingertip paddles on stretch cords
    • Fingertip paddles on ONE pulley

    Battle Ropes (on unbalance devices)

    • Battle of the Beast Ropes
    • Push-ups (on unbalance devices with hands… TRS on feet)
    • Pull-ups (assisted for most – water assistance, bands in air,
    • Narrow and Wide ROWS on TRS,

    In Water:

    • Resistance Pulling (paddles, parachutes, power chutes, dual ankle buoy, etc…)
    • Pull outs (maybe need to elevate if doing from a gutter… stack up kick boards on gutter or such)
    • Flip Wall Outs