6 Dryland Exercises For a STRONGER Freestyle Pull

Do you want to develop a stronger Freestyle pull? Well, you’ve come to the right place because, in today’s blog, we will look at the 6 BEST Dryland Exercises to strengthen YOUR Freestyle Pull!

Nowadays, almost all elite swimmers incorporate some form of Dryland or strength training into their schedules. This is due to the huge benefits it can hold for us as swimmers, such as added strength and power in the water, improved athleticism, and a lower risk of getting injured.

How Dryland Exercises Improve Your Freestyle Pull

A study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine examined the effects of combined strength and endurance training on competitive swimmers. Twenty subjects participated in the study and were assigned to different training groups.

One group did 11 weeks of added Dryland strength training along with their normal swimming training, while the other group served as a controlled group and simply continued with their routine swimming practices.

The study concluded that Dryland strength training significantly improved the swimming force, ultimately allowing for improved middle-distance swim times. This study didn’t find improvements in sprint performance, but other studies have found correlations between Dryland strength training and sprinting performance.

When deciding which exercises to incorporate into your Dryland training for a stronger Freestyle pull, it is important to consider the main muscle groups involved in the pull.

In this case, it will primarily be the lats, triceps, shoulders, and abdominals, along with a few other smaller muscle groups that can easily get strengthened using compound exercises incorporating multiple muscle groups.

To learn more about the Freestyle Pull technically and how it works for swimmers, click here to read Coach Abbie’s blog series on it.

With that being said, let’s dive deeper into those 6 BEST exercises for your freestyle pull:

1.) Pull-Ups

The pull-up is one of the best exercises a swimmer can do. It is a great compound exercise involving many important muscle groups used in Freestyle swimming. The pull-up is great at strengthening the lats and traps but also uses the shoulders, biceps, and core.

Beginners will probably struggle with this exercise since it requires some initial strength. If you struggle with pull-ups, I recommend starting out with resistance band pull-ups or jumping pull-ups. If you have a training partner, you can do assisted pull-ups, where your partner holds your legs and gives you a boost.

How to perform the pull-up correctly:

• Start by grabbing onto your pull-up bar with hands shoulder-width apart or just outside of shoulder-width apart.

• Next, retract your scapula and brace your core.

• Then pull with your back and biceps until your head is over the bar.

• Avoid using momentum or swinging your legs. Make sure the movement is controlled.

• Lastly, lower yourself back down and repeat.

2.) Dips


Dips are another great bodyweight Dryland exercise swimmers can incorporate into their training schedule. They primarily strengthen the chest and triceps and activate the shoulders and biceps.

There are many variations of the dip, but for a stronger Freestyle pull, I recommend the bench dip or the straight bar dip since they emphasize developing the tricep muscles, which are very involved in the Freestyle pull.

How to perform the bench dip correctly:

• Grab a bench, step or chair and place your hands shoulder-width apart on top.

• Hold your legs extended in front of you with heels on the ground, then dip down.

• Make sure to bend your elbows backward and not sideways.

• Go down until your elbows form a 90-degree angle, and then push back up.

3.) Bench Press

Swimmers doing dryland workouts at the gym to improve their freestyle pull.

The bench press is one of the most popular exercises among athletes and regular gymgoers. It is great for strengthening the chest and tricep muscles and developing explosive power, which is handy when swimming Freestyle.

Since this is a weighted exercise, I recommend you learn the proper technique before adding weight to the bar. This will teach you good bench-press mechanics and prevent injuries in the future.

If you want to emphasize the triceps more than the chest, you can try doing a close-grip bench press or placing your feet on the bench when performing the exercise.

How to perform the bench press correctly:

• Start by lying on the bench with your eyes on the bar.

• Grab the bar with a medium-grip and make sure that your thumbs are wrapped around it.

• Squeeze your shoulder blades together and brace your core, then straighten your arms to unrack the bar.

• Lower it down until mid-chest, then push back up to the starting position.

• Remember to stay rigid and to keep the core braced.

• Avoid using momentum or doing fast reps; keep everything controlled.

4.) Tricep Pushdowns

The tricep pushdown is a great way to isolate the tricep muscles, allowing for greater muscle and strength development in this area. If you lack tricep strength, I recommend incorporating this exercise.

This exercise can be done with a resistance band or the cable tricep pushdown machine at your gym.

How to perform resistance band tricep pushdowns correctly:

• Start by tightening your resistance band overhead somewhere secure and stable.

• Then stand a meter or two behind it, slightly bend your knees and back forward.

• Set your shoulders stable and pull the band backwards by straightening your arms until your elbows lock out at the back.

• Then return to the starting position by releasing tension and repeat.

5.) Russian Twists

The Russian twist is a core exercise aimed at strengthening the obliques and the general abdominal muscles. The core is an important factor in a good Freestyle pull since a strong core allows for a stable and powerful stroke.

The Russian twist will also allow you to improve the rotational motion of your Freestyle pull since the obliques are heavily involved during this movement pattern.

How to perform the Russian twist correctly:

• Start by sitting on the floor with your knees bent.

• Next, lift your feet a few inches off the ground or keep them flat to make things slightly easier.

• Then, lean backwards with your back.

• Hold your hands together and twist your torso to one side, then the other.

• Avoid using momentum or swaying your feet.

The medicine ball slam is one of my favorite exercises for developing explosive power. As mentioned earlier, power is important to have a strong and fast Freestyle pull.

The medicine ball slam will strengthen the arms and back while keeping your heart rate up.

How to perform the medicine ball slam correctly:

• Stand in a stable position with feet shoulder-width apart while holding your medicine ball before you.

• Lift it overhead by creating a triple extension with your ankles, knees, and hips.

• Feel a stretch in your abs as you bring it overhead and slam it down as hard as possible.

• Drop into a slight squat and catch it as you prepare to do another rep.

Safe and Effective Dryland Training: Prevent Injuries and Optimize Your Swimming Performance

When done correctly, drift training can be a great way to prevent injuries in the long term since it strengthens vulnerable and weaker muscle groups. Unfortunately, it can also create injuries if you are impatient in learning proper technique and avoid warm-ups because you want to finish as soon as possible.

If you don’t enjoy Dryland training, it would be more beneficial not to do it.

Before starting each training session, spend 8-10 minutes warming up. Include dynamic stretches, resistance band pulls, foam rolling, and light jogging to warm the muscles and blood flow.

Sets, Reps, and Frequency for optimal results:

Many strength coaches will overdo sets, reps and frequency when “conditioning” their athletes. As a swimmer, you want to strengthen the important muscle groups while leaving energy in the tank to go all out in practice.

I recommend doing 5-8 reps of 3 sets for more intense exercises, such as bench presses and pull-ups, and about 8-12 reps of 4 sets for less intense exercises, like Russian twists and tricep pushdowns.

Sure, everyone is going to have different recovery rates, and some may be able to get away with doing more. But I recommend just starting with those numbers, experimenting with it, and seeing what works for you.

Beginners can start by training three times a week, slowly increasing and experimenting with frequency as they become stronger and more experienced.

Just like these minor details can affect your technique in the pool, they have the same effect in the weight room.


Dryland training can be very beneficial for competitive swimmers when performed correctly. It is a great way to strengthen important muscle groups used in certain parts of your swimming, ultimately increasing your power and force output.

Remember that your swim training is priority number one, so do not overdo Dryland training. If you are too sore and fatigued, it may hinder your swimming practices. I recommend starting with 30- —to 45-minute sessions, gradually increasing, and experimenting with it as you become stronger.

Check out these four short training programs for swimmers and coaches on each swimming stroke’s important technique and strength components: Dan Daly Collaborative Strength + Technique Training Plans.

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 run my own swimming website, SwimCompetitive.com, if you would like to check out more of my articles you can visit my blog, or you can check out my about page to learn more about me.

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