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3 Things Your Swimming Dry-Land Warm-Up

Updated: Apr 26

Over the long weekend, I was down the beach with the family, and I watched some swimmers getting ready for their weekend swim in the ocean. This is one of the best things about living in Perth. 

So many people use the beautiful beaches and take advantage of our amazing coastline, and it’s hard to go to any beach and not see someone going for a swim. But, while watching these guys get ready with some social arm swings, some light bandwork, and a bit of chitchat, I realised something. One of the biggest missed opportunities for most swimmers isn’t in the gym or the pool.

It is before every swim they ever do.

It’s their warm-up.

Or, more appropriately, their lack of.

For some reason, the only warm-up exercises that swimmers do before getting started in the water are generic banded exercises, stretches, and maybe some socialising on a foam roller or spiky ball before diving into their session. 

And that’s better than the majority that do nothing at all…

But for these small few that do something, they could be doing a whole lot better.

And it is, hands down, the most frustrating thing I see swimmers doing.

Not only does it mean you're not properly preparing for your workout and not maximising your time in the water,

But it also means you're missing out on HOURS of lost opportunities each year to get stronger and more mobile every day.

I believe the time you spend before getting in the water is so important that I have made a comprehensive guide to how to Swimming Dry-Land Warm-Up properly in this blog post for you all

And I’ll be going into some detail on how we effectively prepare our swimmer's bodies to perform in the water and before the gym.

But first, what are the 3 elements that make a great dryland warm-up?

Firstly, Creating a Window of Trainability.

I did not come up with the term.

Like most things, someone far smarter than me with much more experience introduced it, and I have applied the concept in a swimming context.

I first heard the term when studying my CPPS course from Joe Defranco and James Smith (not the calories in, calories out one)

This is what they say about it, “pre-movement preparation phase of the training session will help prepare the athlete for the unique positions, bracing strategies, and patterns required for each exercise in the upcoming workout. However, these temporary adaptations are transient. They are not long lasting. What we are actually creating is a ‘window of trainability’ where the athlete can demonstrate optimal position and controlled movement. We will ‘open’ the athlete up with mobility drills and then ‘anchor’ these new ranges of motion with tension and activation drills to facilitate a more optimal training session.”

So what does that mean,

My interpretation of it is,

When we design a warm-up, we look at the swimmer's needs in relation to the sport, activity, and individual nature of the swimmer to create a transient state where the body has the required ROM, stability, and connection to maximise their performance and minimise their training risks for the session ahead.

So, how do we do this?

We identify the key areas that are required in the sport of swimming.

- 180-degree overhead shoulder flexion

- Thoracic rotation

- Shoulder capsule stability 

- Core connection

Then, we look at the key components required for the activity (or stroke) they will need.

The needs of a Breaststroker are different from those of a Freestyler. 

The needs of a 50 freestyle swimmer and an ultramarathon swimmer are different.

A Breaststroke will require more work on their hip ROM and stabilisers and need minimal rotational work, whereas a freestyler will need more rotational work but less hip mobility (unless their demands dictate otherwise).

A 50 freestyler requires more plyometric work and explosive work, whereas an ultra-marathon swimmer will require far less and needs to prioritise posterior shoulder capsule stability.

So, we need to look at both stroke and distance.

Then, we look at the individual needs of the swimmers themselves.

- Is the swimmer hyper/hypo mobile

- Do they have any pre-existing injuries

- Are there specific things their swimming coach has asked for

Answer these questions when designing your dryland warm-up to get the most out of your training sessions.

With the answers to these questions, we can create a window of trainability designed for swimming, stroke/ event, and individual needs.

Because if it doesn’t, you are missing out on the easiest way to get the absolute most out of your training every time you get in the water!

Secondly, Mirco dosing.

The concept of 'Mirco dosing' and how it can be a game-changer in your warm-up routine, helping you develop key strength attributes over time. This is super important if you do not do a structured swim-specific strength training program. So, what does the term “micro-dosing” mean?

Microdosing is a training technique where we prescribe small amounts of specific exercise at a higher frequency to swimmers to help them achieve a specific adaptation.

An example would be giving someone with bad shoulder overhead stability Alt supermans to be done 2x10 on each side with a 2-second pause as part of their warm-up.

We can agree that it’s not a lot of work in isolation, but when done 5+ times a week for six weeks, it will add up to a lot of extra training to help them support their overhead stability.

Now, when you consider how many sessions you do in the pool and gym in a week, you can see how it adds up to a large volume of highly specific work that will yield big results throughout the training block.

This is why it is so important when you design your warm-up to make sure you carefully micro-dose to help improve your weaknesses and deficiencies.

Here is an example for you with an outline of why we might use these exercises:

  • Plank Toe touches x 10 total = help develop hamstring flexibility, shoulder strength and trunk connection

  • Side-lying windmills x 6 on each side = help increase trunk rotation 


  • Handcuffs x 10 = help increase shoulder range of motion and posterior shoulder stability

  • Single leg RDLs x 6 on each side = foot, ankle & hip stability 

  • Alt Supermans x 6 on each side with a 2-second pause = overhead Range of motion & stability, hamstring & glute strength + full body connection 

  • Single leg Hip bridge with Abduction x 6 on each side = Tunk control and stability + single leg strength 


  • Pogos x 20 on the spot = lower limb stability/ reactive power and tendon health

  • Side Bear Crawl = Trunk stability and connection

This is the exact warm-up most of my swimmers are doing now. It ticks many of the boxes we know they need in their training and will help enhance the programs we do in the gym and before they get in the water.

It also takes 15 minutes.

They are all very normal exercises and are not overly swim-specific.

However, they all have a specific function and work together to achieve great long-term results.

If you want to see what this looks like, check out video!

Finally, Stimulate, Not Annihilate

Now it’s time for the warning.

The third and final part of this is a caution to all thoughts that might take their Swimming dry-land warm-up from social rolling to a 60-minute workout extravaganza!

And that is, remember, it's a warm-up. It isn’t meant to fatigue you. It's meant to stimulate you. This means a warm-up is meant to help you physically & mentally prepare for the session. 

It is not meant to leave you in a pool of sweat needing an ice bath.

When done correctly, this means that no matter the day you had or how bad your night's sleep was, the specific routine of the warm-up will ensure you're ready to go.

You shouldn’t be gassed after it, but you should have worked up a little bit of a sweat.

Getting the balance of this is key to a warm-up that helps you perform.

It allows you to work yourself into a physical and mental state that has you completely focused on the task ahead.

It gets the blood moving, the heart rate rises, and your nervous system is fired up and ready to go. Without crushing you before the real session has even started.

The balance is key, and I’ve found that 10 to 15 minutes of nearly continuous work is the sweet spot for achieving this.

It looks something like this;

2 - 3 dynamic mobility exercises that cover rotation, spinal flexion/ extension, and if you're built like a plank of wood something you specifically need. Do 6-8 reps for each.

3 - 4 specific exercises, 1x lower body stability, 1x upper body stability, and 1 to 2 to connect the upper and lower body. Give each of the 6 - 8 reps and go through it twice.

NOTE: make sure these exercises are going to help you; don’t just pick exercises you like

And 2 exercises that help prime you. These can be plyometric exercises like jumping and throwing or some form of crawling/ animal flow to connect everything before entering the water.

When this is done correctly, it will help achieve better positions in the water (Window of trainability), give you consistent improvement week to week (micro-dosing), and leaving you feeling mentally and physically ready to take on whatever session lies ahead of you.

This is how you build a kick ass Swimming Dry-Land Warm-Up that allows you to maximise your performance in the water by properly preparing you outside of it!

Now, do you feel like you are overcooking yourself before training?

Do you feel like you are wasting one of the greatest opportunities you have to improve your swimming?

Want to feel what it's like to do a warm-up that incorporates these 3 things?

We have 2 options for you.

1. Click here to book a call with me, and only for those that have read this blog you can book in for me to assess and design you a kick ass Swimming Dry-land Warm-up.

2. Join our Swimming Strength and performance program, where you will not only get one of our kick-ass Swimming Dry-land Warm-Ups but also join a community of Swimmers who are all looking to maximise your performance in the water by properly preparing you outside of it through our swimming-specific strength and performance program.

If you want to know more about how your Gym program can help you with your swimming goal, no matter how big or small. Click the link and book a call.



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