6 Dryland Exercises For a STRONGER Freestyle Pull

Do you want to develop a stronger Freestyle pull? Well, then you’ve come to the right place, because in today’s blog we will be looking 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 amount of benefits that 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.

A study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine looked at the effects of combined strength and endurance training in competitive swimmers. 20 Subjects took part 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 swimming force, ultimately allowing for improved middle distance swim times. This particular study didn’t find improvements in sprint performance, but other studies have found correlations between Dryland strength training and sprinting performance.

When deciding on which exercises you should incorporate into your Dryland training for a stronger Freestyle pull, it is important to take a look at the main muscle groups involved during the pull.

In this case, it is primarily going to be the lats, triceps, shoulders, and abdominals, along with a few other smaller muscle groups that can easily get strengthened using compound exercises that incorporate 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:

1.) Pull-Ups

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

Beginners will probably have a hard time with this exercise since it does require some initial strength. If you struggle with pull-ups I recommend starting out with resistance band pull ups, jumping pull-ups, or if you have a training partner you can do assisted pull-ups where your partner holds your legs and gives you a bit of 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 it 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 is another great bodyweight Dryland exercise that swimmers can incorporate into their training schedule. It is good for primarily strengthening the chest and triceps, but it will also 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 it places the most emphasis on 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.

• Keep your legs extended in front of you with heels on the ground and 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

The bench press is one of the most popular exercises among athletes and regular gym goers. It is not only great at strengthening the chest and tricep muscles, but it’s also good for developing explosive power–which definitely comes in handy with swimming Freestyle.

Since this is a weighted exercise I recommend you to really spend some quality time learning proper technique before adding weight to the bar. This will teach you good bench-press mechanics and it will also prevent injuries in the future.

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

How to perform the bench press correctly:

• Start by laying down on the bench with your eyes underneath the bar.

• Grab the bar with a medium-grip with 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 and 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. I recommend incorporating this exercise if you lack tricep strength.

This exercise can be done with a resistance band, or you can use 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 and slightly bend your knees and back forward.

• Set your shoulders in a stable position 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 primarily strengthening the obliques, but is also great for strengthening the general abdominal muscle area. The core is an important factor in having a good Freestyle pull, since a strong core will allow 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 you can 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 to the other and so on.

• Avoid using momentum or swaying your feet.

6.) Medicine ball slams

The medicine ball slam is one of my favorite exercises for developing explosive power. Like mentioned earlier, power is an important part of having a strong and fast Freestyle pull.

The medicine ball slam will strengthen the arms and back, while getting 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 in front of you.

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

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

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

Injury prevention: Proper Warm-Up and Technique is IMPORTANT!

Dryland training can actually be a great way to prevent injuries in the long term when done correctly, since it will strengthen vulnerable and weaker muscle groups. But unfortunately, it can also create injuries if you are impatient in learning proper technique and avoiding warm-up because you want to finish as soon as possible.

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

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

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 press and pull-ups. And about 8-12 reps of 4 sets for less intense exercise 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 and then experimenting with it and seeing what works for you.

Beginners can start by training 3 times a week and slowly increasing and experimenting with frequency from there–as you become stronger and more experienced.

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


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.

Always remember that your swim training is priority number one, so make sure not to over do Dryland training, since it may hinder your swimming practices if you are too sore and fatigued. I recommend starting out with 30 to 45 minutes sessions and gradually increasing and experimenting with it from there as you become stronger.

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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