5 Killer Dryland Workouts For Backstroke Swimmers

Backstroke is the third fastest stroke, after Butterfly and Freestyle, and is also one of the most complex strokes due to the obvious fact that it’s swum on your back. In today’s article we’ll be taking a look at how you can improve in this stroke without actually swimming more of it, rather we’ll be taking a look at something you have probably heard of before called Dryland Training.

Dryland training involves using a range of different exercises to strengthen important muscle groups, as well as to develop functional and explosive strength that can help you to swim faster. Dryland training can also sometimes refer to different flexibility and mobility enhancement activities such as yoga, stretching, and foam rolling or even things like breathing exercises.

The point is that it’s meant to make you a better swimmer in some way, shape, or form without actually spending more time in the water. For today we’ll be taking a look at how you can enhance your strength and power for improved Backstroke swimming.

The main muscle groups involved in Backstroke are the following: the lats and core in your upper body, in addition to the glutes, hamstrings, and quads in your lower body. Sure, other muscle groups will still definitely get used, but these are the most important ones to train.

So with that said, let’s get straight to the workouts as well as taking a look at the purpose of each to give you a better understanding.

5 Dryland Workouts for FASTER Backstroke Swimming:

Workout #1: Core

Developing a strong core is one of the most beneficial things that you can do for your swimming. A strong core plays many different functions in the water. Some of which include linking your upper and lower body for increased power output, improving your stability and body position for lower drag, as well as ensuring a killer underwater dolphin kick.

When training your core as a swimmer, it is always important to focus on all of the different elements and to do well balanced core workouts that target all of the major and minor core muscles.

Some swimmers may get confused by the popular workout trends of looking as big as possible- this is wrong, as a swimmer you want to be functional and effective in the water and looking as strong as possible shouldn’t be your priority.

So with that said, here is a very well rounded core workout that will target all of the important muscles and functions of a strong core for swimming-

Workout #1:

  1. Deadbug 
  2. Russian Twist
  3. Toe Touches
  4. Leg Raises
  5. Plank
  6. Mountain Climbers

Sets, reps, and rest: you can perform separate sets and reps (3-4 sets of 10-15 reps recommended) with a minute or two rest in between or you can perform the workout as a circuit style training where you do one exercise, rest a few seconds and move onto the next. For that I recommend doing 3-4 rounds and taking 2 to 3 minutes rest between rounds.

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Workout #2: Full Body

Full body workouts are very popular among swimmers and are mainly used in strength training and weight training conditions. They are a time-effective way to target and strengthen all of the big muscle groups in your body while allowing for adequate rest between workouts and not overloading you with volume.

This training style can be a good option if you have access to weight training equipment, but can also be performed in bodyweight variations for younger swimmers. It is recommended to perform full body workouts 2-3 times a week with at least a day rest in between workouts.

Here are 2 full body workouts that you can perform — one with and without weights!

Workout #2 with Weights:

  • Pull Ups, 3 sets of 6-12 reps.
  • Back Squats, 3 sets of 6-8 reps.
  • Bench Press/ Dumbbell Press, 3 sets of 6-12 reps.
  • Deadlift, 3 sets of 6-8 reps.
  • Hanging Leg Raises (or other core exercise), 3 sets of 12-15 reps.

Rest: 3-5 minutes rest between sets and exercises.

Workout #2 without Weights:

  • Pull Ups, 3 sets of 8-12 reps.
  • Bodyweight Squat Variation, 4 sets of 10-15 reps.
  • Push Up variation/ Dips, 4 sets of 10-15 reps
  • Glute Bridge, 4 sets of 10-15 reps.
  • Hanging Leg Raises (or other core exercise), 4 sets of 10-15 reps.

Rest: 2-3 minutes between exercises and sets

Workout #3: Lower Body

Believe it or not, but the leg kick is more powerful, than the upper body pull when it comes to generating speed and propulsion in the water. Thus developing strong legs is only a good idea.

The idea of separate lower body workouts is to apply more volume to your legs when training them, thus allowing for more strength and muscle growth in those particular muscles as well as being able to isolate certain muscle groups.

For this section I’ll give you another 2 workouts that you can try out– one with and without weights!

Workout #3 with Weights:

  • Back Squats, 3 sets of 6-10 reps.
  • Romanion Deadlifts, 3 sets of 6-10 reps.
  • Walking dumbbell lunges, 3 sets of 8-12 reps.
  • Weighted calve raise variation, 3 sets of 10-15 reps.

Workout #3 without Weights:

  • Bodyweight squats, 4 sets of 20 (use pistol squats if too easy).
  • Bodyweight single leg romanion deadlift, 3 sets of 8-12 reps each leg.
  • Jumping lunges, 4 sets of 20. (Do last set to failure).
  • Single leg calve raises, 4 sets of 20.

Workout #4: Upper Body

Likewise to the idea of a separate lower body workout, we can also complete separate upper body workouts with the same idea- getting more volume in on those upper body muscles and isolating certain important muscle groups that may need more attention or lack strength.

The upper body plays an important role in developing a strong Backstroke pull, as well as giving you a stable stroke in the water. 

Here are another 2 workouts that you can try out — one with and without weights!

Workout #4 with Weights:

  • Lat pull-downs, 3 sets of 8-12 reps.
  • Overhead Press, 3 sets of 6-8 reps.
  • Dumbbell Bench Press, 3 sets of 10-12 reps.
  • Chest supported barbell Rows, 3 sets of 6-10 reps.
  • Deadbug (or other core exercise), 4 sets of 10-15 reps.

Workout #4 without Weights:

  • Pull Ups, 3 sets of 8-12 reps.
  • Push Ups, 4 sets of 10-15 reps.
  • Inverted rows, 4 sets of 10-15 reps.
  • Dips, 3 sets of 8-12 reps.
  • Deadbug (or other core exercise), 4 sets of 10-15 reps.

Workout #5: Explosive Power

So far we’ve covered a lot of strength development workouts and exercises. In this section I want to focus on a very important aspect that swimmers should also take the time to develop and train, namely explosive power.

Explosive power is utilized in things like your backstroke start, underwater dolphin kick, push-offs, and anywhere else where a fast and rapid burst of power may be required for some additional speed and propulsion. 

Here is a great overall workout to develop explosive power in both your upper and lower body.

Workout #5:

  • Box Jumps, 3 sets of 10 reps.
  • Clap Push Ups, 3 sets of 10 reps.
  • Burpees, 3 sets of 10 reps.
  • Jump Squats, 3 sets of 10 reps.
  • Jump rope, 5 minutes as many reps as possible.

You can also complete this workout as a circuit if you’d like to.

Important Things to Remember when Dryland Training:

Warmup: Before starting your dryland workouts it is always important to warm up properly. Personally I recommend doing a minute foam rolling on all of the muscle groups that you will train and then to also do some basic resistance band warmup exercises like band pull aparts, overhead flaps, and external shoulder rotations.

Nutrition: Fueling your body with the proper nutrients at the right times is important for both performance during your workout and recovery afterwards. Make sure to consume enough carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. For more information about some good meals you can check out this informative swimming nutrition article.

Mobility: Flexibility and mobility will always be an important part of being a good swimmer. To maximize your flexibility you should do dynamic stretching before your workouts (you can do this as part of your warmup) and static stretching afterwards once the muscles are already warm.

Do not do static stretching before your workout as it will negatively impact performance.

Read the final part of our mini series for Dryland Workouts for Freestylers Here!

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!

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