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Coaches Blog

Who Does a Dryland Swim Workout? (And how)

Who does a swim warmup? You're thinking, "Me! I do a swim warmup. I get in the pool and have at least 500 yards of swim, kick, pull, and a few drills."

Let me modify the question. "Who does a DRYLAND swim workout?"

After this blog post, I hope you'll answer that YOU will do a DRYLAND swim warmup.

Like other warmups, this one is designed to prepare your body to get into the water and swim.

If you observe athletes from the pool deck while they're swimming, you'll see heads turning, heads looking up, arms moving through a variety of strokes, trunk rotation, legs kicking, feet pushing off walls, arms extended overhead, and heads ducked. There are a lot of moving body parts when swimming. The more prepared those muscles and joints are to move, the better your swim will be.

You can do this warmup on the pool deck or in a gym. If you choose the pool deck, look for a dry area, take a towel, and use caution when jumping up and down.

The warmup takes 5-10 minutes. Move with a purpose and move purposefully. Meaning, don't just go through the motions. Make the warmup count so that your swim will go better than if you haven't warmed up.

Let's go!

My favorite method for a dryland swim warmup is to work from the head down to the feet.

Be gentle when moving your head and neck through the motions, especially if you've previously experienced neck issues. The six movements are:

  • Turn your head to the left

  • Turn your head to the right

  • Tilt chin up to look at the ceiling

  • Tuck your chin to look at your chest

  • Tilt your left ear toward your left shoulder

  • Tilt your right ear towards your right shoulder

Hold each position for 15-20 seconds each and go through two rounds of the movements.

The following three exercises require either a band or a tube. Do at least 10 of each exercise.

  • Band Pullaparts (

    • Hold the band at shoulder level

    • Pull the band apart and squeeze your shoulder blades together

  • Band Up and Overs (

    • The band goes from the front of your body, over your head to the back of your body

    • You may have to adjust your hands on the tube to accommodate shoulder flexibility

  • Band Around the World (

    • Circle your body in one direction, then the other

    • Take your time and make sure you aren't over-extending your shoulders

The following four exercises wake up the lats, traps, and scapulae. Do at least 10 of each exercise:

  • Standing Arm Snow Angels (

    • You can do these on a wall or not on a wall.

    • I start with my pinkies touching my outer thighs, palms facing away, then raise the arms overhead in an arc to my side where my thumbs then touch.

  • Scapula Pushups (

    • This exercise will require the most work.

    • Take your time and make sure that you can feel your scapulae retracting.

  • Michael Phelps Backslaps (

    • This really gets the shoulders moving.

    • Remember, Phelps has extreme mobility in his shoulders! Your backslaps will likely look different.

  • Lying Supermans (

    • This simulates how you look once you've pushed off the wall.

    • You get a great stretch in the lats and arms and start to wake up the glutes!

Onto the lower body! Again, 10 of each exercise is recommended. The exception is the "World's Greatest Stretch" - I'd recommend 3-5 per side.

  • World's Greatest Stretch (

    • This stretch wakes up everything, especially the hip flexors, and quads.

    • Initiate some twisting in the torso.

  • Leg Swings - front to back (

    • Waking up the legs, glutes, and inner/outer thighs.

    • Make sure you're using a wall for balance.

  • Leg Swings - side to side (

    • Waking up the quads, hamstrings, hip flexors, and calves.

    • Make sure you're using a wall for balance.

  • Squats - (

    • Further movement of the body from the waist down.

    • Take your time, using a 2-count down/2-count up.

  • Calf Raises - (

    • Use a wall for support.

    • Raise and hold for 3-5 seconds.

    • Make sure your ankles aren't dropping out or falling in.

  • 2-Foot hop for explosiveness (

    • This mimics pushing off the wall!

    • Find a dry spot on the floor to jump effectively and safely!

Your body is now prepared to get into the water and move efficiently! You can start your in-water warmup and know you are ready to give your best effort.

Happy training!


Maria Netherland is a Northwest Florida-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Endurance and Youth & Juniors Certified Coach as well as a NASM Certified Personal Trainer and Performance Enhancement Specialist. Coach Maria loves working for athletes of all abilities, military athletes, and new triathletes as they pursue their goals. Maria is a veteran of the US Army and a United States Military Academy at West Point graduate. She can be reached at


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