If you want to improve your swimming speed but cannot get to a pool regularly, it is possible to incorporate dry land exercises and techniques that will still help your performance in the pool.
To get faster at swimming without actually swimming, you can improve your cardio fitness outside of the water through aerobic exercise, work on ankle flexibility which will aid speed, use stretch cords to keep your swimming muscles strong, and build your endurance through skipping or running.
Not everyone can get to the pool every day to work on their technique, but they still want to progress their swimming ability.
If you are a swimming fanatic like me, it can be really motivating to know that any dry land exercises you do at home or in the gym can still help your swimming.
In this article, I want to cover some great ways to get faster at swimming outside of the pool. Some of these exercises can be done while watching TV, which makes them even more appealing!
1. Improve Cardiovascular Fitness
Cardiovascular fitness refers to how well your body can move oxygen around your body for a prolonged period during exercise. It is a good indicator of heart and lung health. [source]
Swimming is a wonderful exercise to improve cardiovascular fitness as it gets your heart pumping and lungs working hard.
Just 30 minutes of continuous swimming at least three times a week will improve your cardiovascular fitness in as little as 8 weeks. [source]
In order to swim fast and maintain a quick pace, you need good cardiovascular fitness. If you are not getting to the pool to get a cardio workout, you should continue to improve your cardiovascular fitness while out of the pool.
Two simple exercises to improve cardiovascular fitness are running and skipping.
What Is The Best Exercise For Cardio Fitness?
Although any exercise that gets your heart and lungs working hard will progress your cardio fitness, there are some exercises that are far more effective than others and can give better results in a shorter time.
Here is a list of some quick and super effective cardio exercises that will make your next swim feel easier:
- Skipping or Using A Jump Rope [see a demo video here]
- Jumping Jacks [see a demo video here]
- Burpees [see a demo video here]
- Squat Jumps [see a demo video here]
All these exercises will test your fitness to the maximum.
If none of these exercises appeals, you could incorporate high-intensity training (HIT) into your existing workouts.
High-intensity training involves going hard and at full speed for a few seconds, then resting for a few seconds and then repeating.
The high intensity of the activity will test your heart and lung capacity and will have you feeling out of breath very quickly.
HIT is very effective at improving cardiovascular fitness and you will feel the benefit of HIT work when you return to the pool.
Dr Michael Mosley provides a detailed description of how to do HIT safely in the book Fast Exercise: The simple secret of high-intensity training: get fitter, stronger and better toned in just a few minutes a day.
This is a fantastic read for anyone, but especially those who do not have the time to exercise!
2. Improve Ankle Flexibility
Good ankle flexibility is a secret weapon for many fast swimmers.
If you have good ankle flexibility, you will get more propulsion from your kicking and, as a result, you will swim faster.
Although it is possible to improve ankle flexibility in the pool, for example, by using training fins that will place more pressure on your ankles as you kick and increase flexibility, it is possible to do some ankle flexibility exercises while sitting on your sofa at home.
Here is a fantastic video on how to improve ankle flexibility that does not require any additional equipment.
There are many great ankle mobility exercises out there, and if you are not comfortable with this exercise, it is worth looking at all the experts on YouTube who have some very nice alternative ankle flexibility exercises.
3. Use Stretch Cords
A great way to work your swimming muscles while on dry land is to use stretch cords or resistance bands.
Unlike lifting weights, you can target your swimming muscles by completing swimming stroke movements, using the resistance of the rubber cords to strengthen your muscles, similar to the resistance of the water.
It is even possible to purchase stretch cords with paddles attached so you can keep your hands in the swimming position, mimicking swimming as closely as possible without getting wet.
Here is one of my favourite dry land stretch cord exercises for swimmers.
To learn more about the awesome potential of stretch cords to improve your swimming outside of the pool, check out this article where I cover this topic in much greater detail: Stretch Cord Exercises For Swimmers – Improve On Dryland
4. Work On Core Muscles
Swimming is a wonderful exercise for your core muscles, which include your abs.
When away from the water, and continuing to focus on swim speeds, it will help to keep your core strong.
There are many ways to improve your core muscles, but here are some of the most effective exercises to keep your core muscles strong that don’t require any special equipment.
Best Exercises For Core Muscles:
- The Plank [click here for a demo video]
- The Glute Bridge [click here for a demo video]
- The Superman Pull [click here for a demo video]
- Plank Knee Crosses [click here for a demo video]
- Leg Raises [click here for a demo video]
5. Build Endurance Through Running Or Skipping
In swimming, endurance is the ability to swim for a long and sustained length of time.
The fitter, stronger, and better conditioned you are, the better your endurance.
When you are away from swimming for a while, it can be very frustrating when you next get back in the pool to find your swim speeds and swim times have deteriorated.
Endurance is one of the first things you will notice a decrease in.
In order to keep your swim speeds and times up while away from the water, it will help to work on endurance.
Two of the best exercises to help with endurance and stamina are:
- Skipping (using a jump rope)
6. Watch Technique Videos
A great way to get faster while away from the pool is to improve your technique.
Although you will need to be in the water to work on your technique, while away from the water, it will help to watch lots of instructional videos on YouTube that will help you swim faster.
Simple tips and tricks can help you swim faster in a more effective way than hours of mindless training.
If you cannot get in the pool, but want to improve your swim speeds, take some time to see what is working for others through YouTube.
Some of my personal breakthroughs in swim speed have not been through training, but through learning how to swim better from instructional videos.
From there, you see how others swim and see what you can do to improve, all from the comfort of your sofa.
If you want to get faster at swimming, there is a lot of work that you can do outside of the pool to help you progress.
Although nothing beats actually swimming and working on your stroke while in the water, sometimes we just can’t get to the pool enough to improve at the rate we would like.
In 2020, during the global pandemic, millions of swimmers across the globe found themselves without swimming pool access.
Since then, so many swimmers have realised that they can still work on their swimming, although they don’t have access to a swimming pool.
Nothing will beat jumping into a swimming pool, but as I reluctantly run laps of my local park, I remind myself I am doing it because it will help my swim times.