Plyometric training involves quick bursts of explosive movements which stretch and contract the muscles repeatedly to increase your overall body strength for swimming. In order to help you see improvements in the pool, we’ve come up with the following land-based drills to help you develop more power for starts and turns during competitions. The aim is to increase your repetitions gradually over a number of weeks as you become stronger and more coordinated.
Don’t panic if the exercises seem awkward or challenging at first – it’s normal, and you’ll adapt quickly. Ideally, aim to practice 1-3 sets of these drills during weekly workouts to take your swimming to the next level.
Warm up. Perform the exercises a few times without an explosive jump. This allows you to rehearse your landing with a lower impact on your joints. Swing your arms, extend your torso, activate your core and move your upper body into position.
Working on your form is crucial. Focus on your landing for each drill to reduce impact on your joints. Aim to land softly with knees bent, shoulders up and forward with your spine in a neutral position.
Think about your landing. To reduce the risk of injury, perform these drills somewhere that will cushion your landing (think: non-slip mat, sprung floor, artificial running surface, grass or playing field). A small trampoline can be useful for swimmers with ankle, knee or hip issues.
5 plyometric exercises:
Begin with one set of each exercise and gradually increase over 6-8 weeks.
1. Squat jumps
Start from a standing position with your feet just slightly wider than shoulder-width. Bend your elbows and bring your arms up so your fists are level with your chin. Drop into a squat and take your elbows back so your fists are beside your hips. Jump for height, thrusting hands overhead above your shoulders to streamline position, and land softly back into your squat position. Hold the squat for 2-5 seconds, keeping your chest up and back flat throughout. Check your knees remain forward over your feet, not collapsing in. Repeat 3-10 times for one set.
For an extra challenge, take this exercise to the shallow end of the pool. Maintain your arms straight above your head, shoulders to ears in a streamlined position.
2. Bench or box jumps
Squat jump onto a low bench or box. Ensure that the knee, hip and ankle angles are the same on landing as on take off. Begin jumping onto a low bench of 30 cm. Maintain good form with your chest and shoulders raised and back straight. Progress to sets of 5-10 jumps from the ground up onto the box or bench. Step off (don’t jump) and ensure you’re maintaining soft landings, holding for 1-3 seconds. Absorb the landing into a squat and then jump onto a higher box to create a slightly more challenging exercise if you feel confident.
3. Advanced burpees
Start from a standing position, then drop to a horizontal plank position. Complete 1 press up, then jump your feet up behind your hands from the plank position. Perform a second jump to lift the body into a vertical position. Stretch your arms overhead on the vertical leap to help gain extra height, and to develop shoulder flexibility for optimal streamlining off wall turns. Land softly, absorbing the pressure into your knees, hips and ankles. Perform 10-20 repeats for one set.
4. Forward hops
You’ll need a long straight area for this set of exercises. Start from a standing position, feet positioned wider than your shoulders. Drop into a wide-leg squat, with arms behind you. Release your arms in front with a throw as you jump forward. Land softly, and stabilise briefly. Use your arms to balance you by bringing them behind you again. From a wide squat, repeat this forward leap. Aim to jump for distance on each forward hop as you develop power. Work through 5-10 repeats for one set.
5. Frog hops
Start from a standing position, dropping into a squat with hands touching the floor. Leap forward with arms hanging straight down in front of your body. As you land, touch the floor with both hands and drop into wide squat. Keep chest and shoulders high from hop to hop. Build more rhythm in consecutive hops and aim to complete 5-10 repeats for one set.
Add these dryland exercises for swimmers to your weekly routine and you’ll notice a significant boost in your speed, meaning you’ll be powering off the blocks in no time.
Disclaimer: Always consult with a professional healthcare provider before starting any diet or exercise programme, if you are pregnant or if you are potentially suffering from a medical condition.