Building Perfect Technique in Dryland

If you think about this for a second, this sounds impossible, right?
Well, hang in there with me for a second and let me explain what we have done with our beginners BEFORE they even hit the water. AND IT WORKS!

We start our beginner group with a 15 minute dryland. No, this does not mean burpees and cardio. This is VERY SWIM SPECIFIC dryland. By starting them at the beginning of their swim career with dryland that is swim specific, they instantly KNOW the importance of dryland.

Why is dryland so important?

That answer is pretty simple actually. You can build muscle easier and quicker in dryland than solely in the water. Of course, the combination of in water and dryland need to compliment each other while also building opposing muscles. I will get into building the swimmers body for longevity of the athlete as well as how to do this for all ages and levels in another blog (coming soon).

Now, back to the topic at hand.


We START their practices with a 15 minute dryland. That doesn’t sound like a lot of time, but when done right this will expedite the learning curve in the water. We break up the dryland in different parts of the stroke. With beginners the main problems we see are:

  • High Catch and Upper Body Strength
  • Too much bend knees in the kicks
  • Core strength for stability in the water
  • BR Kick

This is a lot to focus on in a short amount of time. For the first few weeks, you should focus on only the High Catch and the Flutter Kick as these are the basics and the start of all dryland exercise connection to in-water. Once you get the correct technique on the High Catch and the Kick, you can start adding in more Core and eventually the BR Kick.

1) High Catch – Fingertip Paddles and Short Stretch Cords

For our beginners, we have them use the easiest cord (Yellow-10lbs) and the Fingertip Paddles. As you see in the image above, we have the swimmers grab over the top of the paddle. This is because the muscles attached to the fingertips have not been developed enough to pull the arm into that high catch position. Even though the swimmer is grabbing over the top they still do feel the cord pull from the fingertips. This does not prevent the swimmers from dropping their elbow BUT with a quick reminder by placing a finger at the swimmer’s elbow the swimmer can correct themselves.
This is the FIRST swim-specific dryland exercise the swimmers need to learn to get the technique down and also engage the different muscles. Once they feel these muscles engage then you can add in some wide push-ups to connect a basic dryland exercise to the muscles in the stroke. Most of the time, even with young swimmers, they can still point to the muscles they feel engage and see when the muscles connect with a push-up and a high catch. This will be the goal of all exercises from all groups. This is where the buy in comes from.

2) Straight Leg Kicking – Dryland Kick Assembly

I first lay them on their stomach on a bench and have them lift their legs up and together with toes pointed. This helps them engage their lower back, Hamstrings, and Glutes. These muscles are ESSENTIAL to all of the kicks. These are the muscles that are engaged to keep a long leg, minimal knee bend kick. On Breaststroke, you use mainly the lower back and the core to bring the upper body up and in position for the stroke.
Drlyand-Flutter-KickNow they know how to engage the right muscles, they can start kicking on their stomach and back while laying on the bench. Do this for 10-30seconds. At first they may not be able to do this for long. You do have to remind the swimmers to keep their knees from hitting the bench and keeping a straight leg.
The next step to this is using our Dryland Kicking Assembly. This is going to work the core AND the straight leg kick which is a two-fer! This is something easy to incorporate while doing a station dryland set up. My favorite way to do this is with their arms in streamline while they are kicking. You can vary the difficulty of this by doing it in streamline or holding a med ball over the head.

3) Core Stability

The core is uber important in swimming. The core should be engaged 100% of the time while swimming. When you see a swimmers stroke moving side to side like a snake swimming in the water, this typically means they are not engaging the core at all. On Breast and Fly, the power of the stroke stems from the core. On Breast, the core is where the speed of the recovery to the glide. It also helps the legs get into the right position to kick. On Fly, similar to Breast, this is where the speed and power comes from to set up a speedy recovery of the arms and setting up for a powerful catch. Most importantly the core is used in the Fly to keep the legs from sinking during the recovery of the arms and breath.
So, now we know how important the core is in swimming, how do we translate that from dryland to in-water? How do we build the core and explain to young swimmers the ‘WHY’ of it all? Swimmers NEED to know the WHY of it all in order to buy in to the exercise. Here is a simple way to explain it to the swimmers:

  • Top and Front abs – for BR and FLY
  • Obliques aka side abs – for FR and BK
  • Lower abs – Straight Leg Flutter Kick

Start simple with the core exercises and slowly vary each exercise to be slightly harder. Here is an example: basic Russian Twists with feet on the floor, feet in the air, adding a LIGHT med ball. The below link is an exercise reference file and dryland step-by-step file on how to start your dryland program for ALL levels of swimmers.

The biggest Free Swim Specific Dryland Exercise Reference File in existence

4) BR Kick

The BR Kick is probably the most difficult kick for swimmers to get right. Mainly this is the hardest because if they aren’t natural kickers, it is VERY hard to build from scratch. Much like the stroke technique we train the BR Kick in dryland FIRST. This lets them get used to the process and steps BEFORE doing them while trying to stay stable in the water and clearing out their snorkel and all the other distractions that come from in-water training.
Here is a full blog about how to build the BR Kick from scratch: Read Full Blog Here
I will go over a few points:

  • Use these short KEYWORDS ‘Up, Out, Point, Around’
  • Stay with the keywords in and out of the water…do not confuse the swimmers while teaching them
  • Use ONEFocus Headsets in the water so you can have ALL swimmers on the same step and you can correct down the lane