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Deck-Based Dryland

The main goal of deck-based dryland (or simply “dryland”) within this
program is to increase the overall density of work performed and to increase general working capacities. Another term for this is GPP, or General Physical Preparedness. A high level of GPP will not only increase general fitness, but help facilitate recovery from swim and weight training and, in all, bring your ability to train in the water to a higher level. Increasing your GPP will lead to faster swimming!

Multiple qualities can be addressed with a well designed dryland program.
Overall GPP can be enhanced through improvements in energy system
efficiency, strength (general and core), power output, mobility, flexibility and balance. The goal of this program is not to lay out a cookie-cutter, year-long program, but to give an idea of how to set up dryland work, how to improve some of the basic qualities of GPP, and some general guidelines to evaluate dryland abilities and progression. Dryland workout examples are included, as is a full 7-week dryland taper program.

An individual dryland training session will include an active warm-up, the work sets of the day, and a cool-down including active and passive stretching. Most weeks will consist of two lifting workouts. Micro and meso cycles are less important in dryland (than in weight lifting) as GPP can be incorporated at the levels presented here throughout a season. Instead of back-off weeks, dryland training includes test weeks. General qualities can be tested with the exercises listed, and ideal test values are listed, as are specific test workouts. If there is an exercise that is difficult to reach specific test values for (especially the first, easiest test), it is suggested that this exercise (or a variant) be placed first in subsequent workouts. Front-loading is another term to describe this; placing the weakest link of dryland ability first in a workout so that it can be trained in a fresh state.

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Other than the planned training session itself, you need very little to perform effective dryland work. A willingness to perform the work as indicated is obviously the most important thing to bring to any training session. For dryland training, additionally you will want comfortable clothing that is easy to move in, workout shoes, an exercise mat and/or towel, and a full water bottle. Effective dryland work can be accomplished with none of the above, but having most or all of these items will make the workout more comfortable. An index card with the full workout written on it is also easy to take to the pool and make notations as necessary. An additional item that you may want for dryland work is a medicine ball. Any med ball, bouncy or “dead”, from six pounds to ten pounds (depending on your strength levels) will work. A med ball can be used in conjunction with many exercises to make work more challenging and can be a great addition to improve core strength and power development. You can lift it, throw it, carry it, bend with it, twist with it, hold it close, hold it away, balance on it (cautiously), and use it to augment almost any movement pattern. If you have only one piece of exercise equipment for dryland or at home, it should be a medicine ball.

GPP, as defined above, is heightened with all that we do in dryland training.
If we improve any of the following qualities, we improve our GPP. Increased
dryland ability = improved GPP = faster swimming. Broad definitions of some general work qualities follow.

Energy System- The focus here is on using a large amount of our musculature to produce work. Basic work sets move to longer sets, and then to more dense work. Heavy breathing and a lot of sweat are the norm. Rest intervals vary from half to double the amount of time worked (2:1 to 1:2 work-to-rest ratio).

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Strength- The focus here is on improving relative strength, or the ability to move one’s own body. Basic sets move to multiple, short sets, and gradually progress to longer sets with increased density and or intensity. Rest intervals can vary greatly here, but are generally short (1:1 or less).

Core- Improving static, dynamic, and rotational strength in the core of the body (the trunk, or top of the neck to bottom of the hips). Sets can vary, and core work should always be included liberally within a given workout. Rest intervals are very short (4:1 or less).

Power- Increasing the rate and magnitude of force production is the focus here. Short, multiple sets will gradually progress to longer, more dense multiple sets. Rest intervals are usually longer here to facilitate nervous system recovery (1:2 or greater).

Mobility- Increasing the body’s ability to move efficiently through a full range of motion is the focus here. This quality is improved with increased exercise ablility (as we move through a full range of motion in many planes), and with active and passive flexibility work included at the end of each workout.

Now that the list of GPP qualities is defined, it is important to note that the
specific qualities trained in a given session are less important than simply
putting in work at an increasing density and/or intensity to enhance GPP.
Similar to the weight lifting program, a focus on improving movement quality is the goal. What those movements are accomplishing other than work is a secondary concern. In any given workout the focus should be on the movements and their parameters.

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Why do we train some qualities (i.e. energy system work) in dryland when
we can train many of these same qualities in the pool? The best answer is: to avoid over-training in the pool. Including an effective dryland (and weight training) program with a swim training program can help avoid over-use injuries and staleness. A variation in effective training means such as this will lead to higher levels of GPP and increased swim training tolerance and efficiency. Running can also be introduced into dryland training. Short sprints, hill sprints and running stairs can all constitute energy system and/or power work. If shorter efforts (i.e. sprint 3 x (8 x 40m on :25)) are utilized, place this after the regular warm-up (be sure to include lower-body work in this warm-up!) and before any work sets. Count efforts as energy system work if shorter intervals are used (as above), and as power work if more total rest is taken throughout (i.e. sprint 6 x 80m on 3:00 send-offs). If longer running workouts (more than 30 minutes) are part of your training, it is advised that you drop a dryland workout
in its favor, or (less commonly) drop a weight lifting workout. This will allow for the recovery needed to accentuate your swim training. Tri-athletes and multisport athletes should gauge volume and intensity for total work (all sports/workouts) performed first, and then plan individual (sport) workouts based on this information. To realize swim performance improvements the total workload must be judged appropriately.

Design your program now. Get more information in the Crosstraining book and /or the back chapters of the Faster Swimming book. Both can be found here:

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