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3 Dryland Exercises To Improve Your Front Crawl

3 Dryland Exercises To Improve Your Front Crawl

Front crawl is the fastest of the competitive strokes. That’s why the majority of swimmers choose it for freestyle events. Whilst it is naturally faster than butterfly, back crawl and breaststroke, you can still refine it to get the most from the stroke.

The legs provide a bit of propulsion in front crawl, but the arms really do most of that work.

The majority of swimmers know that a capable front crawler needs strong:

  • Shoulders
  • Neck
  • Upper back

But we’re going to look at some of the smaller tweaks you can make in areas that are sometimes neglected.

These changes will help make you a fitter overall swimmer. And they’ll take a good front crawl and turn it into a downright powerful one.

Here’s what we’re going to cover :

Shoulders For The Win

When it comes to swimmers’ shoulders, strength alone is not enough. Flexibility is required.

What condition are your shoulders in? If you’re not sure, try this little dryland exercise in front of a mirror:

  1. Bring your hands together, one flat on top of the other. Point them straight out in front of you as if you’re about to dive into the water.
  2. Keeping your elbows straight and looking straight ahead, lift your arms up to your head.
  3. How far back can you bring your arms without causing any pain? To your eyes? Ears? Past your head?
  4. Do your hands separate? If so, how wide do they go?

Make note of where your arms end up. As you work on their flexibility, periodically repeat the exercise to check if you are able to bring them closer together or further back on the head.

To increase flexibility, yoga is always a good suggestion. Yoga not only works joint rotation, but it also builds strength in the smaller muscles around the joint to provide good support.

Silver Surfer is a yoga pose that will challenge your shoulders and thoroughly stretch your chest at the same time.

  1. Start in a high lunge.
  2. Interlace your fingers behind your back and look up for the initial chest stretch and front shoulder stretch.
  3. With fingers still interlaced, lean forward over and past your forward leg, letting your arms lift skyward behind you. This is the main shoulder stretch.
  4. Hold for a few seconds and gently release the hands.
  5. Repeat with the other foot forward in the lunge.

Strong To The Finish

3 Dryland Exercises To Improve Your Front Crawl

Forearms are easily overlooked in swimming when everyone is fawning over those lovely shoulders. But they’re crucial! Forearms meet the bulk of the water resistance during the pull in the front crawl. They extend down into the water column and move vertically through the water to propel your body forward.

One of the easiest ways to strengthen the forearm flexors is the wrist curl. This is really two different dryland exercises for front crawl. So, two for the price of one here. You can use small dumbbells or resistance bands for this exercise. Or in a pinch, a couple of tins will also work. Just be sure to keep a strong grip.

For dumbbells:

  1. Sit at or lean over an exercise bench or table. Rest your arms on the bench, palms up.
  2. Hold a dumbbell in each hand.
  3. Curl the wrist up toward the elbow without lifting the arm from the bench. Slowly uncurl. Repeat.
  4. To exercise the other side of the arm, turn the arms palm side down and let the hands hang over the edge of the bench.
  5. Hold a dumbbell in each hand.
  6. Flex the wrist up toward the elbow without lifting the arm from the bench surface.

To use an exercise band:

  1. Stand with legs shoulder-width apart.
  2. Loop the middle of the band underneath your feet for stability. Hold the ends of the band in each hand. Make sure the band is taut in this position.
  3. With your arms down by your sides, perform the same wrist movements as above. Keep the arms as still as possible.

Do 3 sets of 20-25 reps of each dryland exercise.

Kick It Up a Notch

Sporty women kickback exercise

Look at an elite swimmer and you’ll see that they take full advantage of the kick. A fast, powerful, consistent leg kick drives the stroke forward by pushing the front half of the body into the water. And it keeps the arms well aligned for an efficient catch.

You want to build muscle to allow an extended leg to kick vigorously for a long time. The downbeat of the kick at least has gravity assisting it. Not the upbeat. Don’t underestimate the benefits of strengthening this part of the stroke.

You’ll want to build the glutes to pull the extended leg up through the water column. A great dryland exercise for front crawl is the kickback.

  1. Get onto your hands and knees. Keep arms shoulder width apart and knees hip width apart. Lower legs should be directed straight behind you with knees bent at a 90 degree angle.
  2. Keep the spine neutral. Don’t let it bow down between your shoulder blades. Your body should form a box shape from wrist to shoulder to hip to knee.
  3. Lift one leg up behind you until your heel is pointing toward the ceiling. Your knee should maintain its 90 degree bend the entire time.
  4. At the top of the lift, pause for up to 3 seconds for an isometric hold. This will maximise strength building and explosive power along all glutes.

Do 3 sets of 10-15 reps on each leg. When this feels easy, introduce a resistance band around the legs.

I really hope you have found the most useful and see the benefits.

Interested in personalised coaching to improve your swimming in the pool? We’re ready to help you take it to the next level!

by Alistair Mills

In 2016 I saw an opportunity for a new swimming company that did things a little bit differently and here we are almost 4 years later, having built a family of teachers and clients that we are all really proud of.

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