5 Dryland Workouts for a FASTER Freestyle

Freestyle is the fastest swimming stroke with the 100m world record standing at an astonishing 46.91 held by César Cielo. With that said, you might be asking yourself how you can become a faster Freestyle swimmer and edge closer to becoming the next person to break a big record- whether it be your championship meet record or something even bigger.

Well, in today’s article we’ll be taking a look at how you can do exactly that with Dryland Training. Dryland Training is an effective method for swimmers to become faster and stronger without actually spending more time in the water.

When incorporating Dryland Training into your workout schedule you need to make sure that you are following always warming up properly before each workout to ensure maximum results as well as avoiding injury. Keeping an eye on your nutrition and following a good meal plan is also highly recommended.

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Quickly before we get started here, I should mention that this is the final article in our 4 part Dryland series, where we cover all of the swimming strokes. If you want to check out some of the workouts and exercises for other strokes you can do so by clicking the links below.

Let’s dive in!

Workout #1 (Legs): Developing Your Motor

The legs are one of the most important aspects of developing a fast and powerful Freestyle. One study published by the BioMed Research Journal even found that the Freestyle kick was able to generate up to 29.7% of propulsion for male swimmers and 33.4% for female swimmers.

By training your legs separately from other muscle groups, you are able to maximize the growth and results from these muscles by applying more resistance and intensity to them, instead of having your efforts and focus spread over a variety of exercises.

Below are 2 leg workouts that you can try to develop a powerful Freestyle kick that will power you to the wall.

Workout #1: Weighted

  • Barbell back squat, 3 sets of 8-10 reps.
  • Single leg dumbbell Romanian deadlift, 3 sets of 12 reps per leg.
  • Standing barbell calve raises, 4 sets of 12 reps.
  • Split squats, 3 sets of 10-12 reps per leg.
  • Box Jumps, 3 sets of 8 reps.

Rest 3-5 minutes between exercises and sets.

Workout #1: Bodyweight

  • Bodyweight squats, 3 sets of 15-20 reps.
  • Bodyweight single-leg Romanian deadlift, 3 sets of 15 reps per leg.
  • Single leg bodyweight calve raises, 4 sets of 12-15 reps per leg.
  • Walking lunges, 3 sets of 20 reps per leg.
  • Box Jumps, 3 sets of 10 reps.

Rest 2 minutes between exercises and sets.

Workout #2 (Core): Creating Your Foundation

As swimmers, we all know how important a strong core is. The core plays many roles in developing a good swimming stroke, but the 2 most important aspects are linking the upper and lower body for maximized power output and developing a stable stroke that will allow for good body position and ultimately lower resistance while swimming.

Following is a great all-around core workout that will develop all of the different core muscles and get them ready for various swimming mechanics in the water such as the underwater dolphin kick, the Freestyle kick, and obviously good stability. 

Workout #2 (Circuit): Complete 3-5 rounds with 1-2 minutes rest in-between.

  • Laying leg raises (10 reps).
  • Plank (Hold for 45-60 seconds).
  • Flutter kicks on your back (20 reps per leg).
  • Crunches (20 reps).
  • Mountain climbers (30 seconds).

You can do this workout daily or every other day to develop a really solid core that will help you to swim faster Freestyle. As you become stronger you may need to increase the intensity, number of rounds, reps, or reduce rest to ensure optimal progress.

Workout #3 (Upper body): Maximize Your Speed

Keep in mind, just because the legs are able to generate up to 30% of the speed in Freestyle swimming doesn’t mean you should neglect your upper body- in fact not at all! That 70% of propulsion generated by the upper body Freestyle pull can make a massive difference in your swimming speed.

For example, let’s say these percentages were perfectly accurate to 50 and 100m Freestyle world-record holder César Cielo. That would mean for his 100m Freestyle his legs are responsible for “32” seconds worth of speed and his upper body responsible for “14” seconds which is still a ton and definitely can be the difference between winning and losing.

Plus as a swimmer, your body should have a balanced build anyway. So with that said, here are 2 good upper body workouts for Freestyle swimmers, once again one weighted and the other bodyweight.

Workout #3: Weighted

  • Dumbbell bench press, 3 sets of 10-12 reps.
  • Chest-supported barbell rows, 3 sets of 6-8 reps.
  • Weighted pull-ups, 3 sets of 6 reps.
  • Barbell overhead press, 3 sets of 6-8 reps.
  • Tricep pushdowns, 4 sets of 10-12 reps.

Rest 3-5 minutes between exercises and sets.

Workout #3: Bodyweight

  • Dips, 4 sets of 8-10 reps.
  • Inverted bodyweight rows, 4 sets of 10-12 reps.
  • Pull-Ups, 3 sets of 8-10 reps.
  • Pike push-ups, 3 sets of 6-8 reps.
  • Push-Ups, 4 sets of 12-15 reps.

Rest 2-3 minutes between exercises and sets.

Workout #4 (Plyometrics): Developing Power

You’ve probably heard about plyometric training at some point or another. Well, it is a really great training method for increasing your explosive power in the pool which is highly important for developing things like fast starts, turns, and underwaters which, at the end of the day, can all make a big difference in your swimming times.

Anyway, here’s a good plyometric circuit workout that you can try out which will develop some good explosive power and speed for your Freestyle swimming.

Workout #4: Complete 3-5 rounds with 2-3 minutes rest in between.

  • Box jumps, (10 reps).
  • Medicine ball slams, (10 reps).
  • Streamline squat jumps, (10 reps).
  • Push up burpees (5 reps).
  • Jump rope (30 seconds).

Workout #5 (The Combo): Maximize Your Efficiency

Let’s face it — we are all going to have those busy weeks here and there where there just isn’t much extra time for Dryland training in our schedule. Or maybe there is, but you are already swimming 2x a day and your body is quite fatigued as it is.

To combat this problem we can do full-body workouts where we combine all of the different training elements that we discussed in this article to create a really time-efficient workout that will develop all-around strength, power, and explosiveness.

These types of workouts should ideally be performed 3-4 times a week with at least a day of rest in between each. 

Workout #5: Weighted

  • Barbell back squats, 3 sets of 8-10 reps.
  • Weighted pull-ups, 3 sets of 6-8 reps.
  • Bench Press, 3 sets of 8-10 reps.
  • Medicine ball sit-ups, 4 sets of 15-20 reps.
  • Box jumps, 3 sets of 10 reps.

Workout #5: Bodyweight

  • Bodyweight squats, 4 sets of 15-20 reps.
  • Pull-ups, 4 sets of 8-10 reps.
  • Push-ups, 4 sets of 12-15 reps.
  • Bodyweight sit-ups, 4 sets of 20 reps.
  • Box jumps, 3 sets of 10 reps.


Dryland Training is a great training method to spice up your workout schedule and also become a better swimmer while doing so. I hope this article taught you something and that you can apply it to your training to become a better and FASTER Freestyle swimmer.

Feel free to play around with these workouts and experiment with different exercises, workout variations, and pieces of training equipment. Many swimming brands develop Dryland training tools like swim-specific stretch cords and medicine balls that you might also want to try out.

About the Author:

Hey, I’m Benjamin — a competitive swimmer with many years of experience in the sport of swimming. I am very passionate about competitive swimming and love sharing my knowledge of the sport. I also run my own swimming website called SwimCompetitive.Com and love writing articles covering various swimming-related topics, including Dryland!

13 Responses

  1. Hey what’s your 200 and 500 free time in yards I am a sophomore in high school in the 200 I go a 1:50.47 and in the 500 free I go a 4:59.23 any tips on how to drop as well

    1. Hi, I am new to this kind of things. Would you mind explaining how it Works? Is it one workout a day except for 2 days so in a week I work out 5 days and have 2 Days off?

      1. It would be a workout of your choice, then a rest day – then repeat (option to choose another workout then too). So workout, rest, workout, rest, etc.

  2. Note that You have that arm vs leg percent backwards. The paper you reference says for men they measured 70% from arms and 29% from legs. Similar for women

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