Dryland Foundations: Part Two

This continues from our Intro to Dryland: Part 1 where we discussed why dryland training is important in developing muscular strength and overall athletic skills. Today we cover topic #3.

3. Corrective Benefits

Movement Quality

As previously mentioned in Part One, a dryland routine should offer an opportunity to improve the way in which an athlete moves.  This could be to teach correct movement or simply to provide an environment rich in movement patters otherwise not prevalent in an athlete’s swimming routine. In other words, as a swimmer travels up and down the lane, he/she repeatedly experiences many of the same motions and movements. A properly designed dryland program would provide the missing movements that are key in attempting to keep the athlete balanced. The goal would be for a movement not only to be performed, but also executed with great focus on proper technique.

Mastering the technique of specific movements should be easier to achieve on land versus in the water. Reason being, we are all pre-programmed to teach ourselves how to roll, crawl and walk. Land movement is more natural. For swimmers, however,  it’s not heavily emphasized or challenged. In theory, the more discipline  an athlete has towards movement control on land, the more he/she should be able to demonstrate technical discipline in the water. Not every athlete needs to, or will,  move in identical manners, however, there should be some standards. At a minimum, there should be a demand for awareness of movement qulity. Note: Some athletes move poorly due to flawed motor control, while others may have structural limitations.

It is easy to understand that from a nueromuscular development standpoint, multiple sports involving diverse movement  can have added benefits. Unfortunately, young athletes are specializing in one given sport early within their development.  This could be out of choice or be the result of scheduling logistics. Afterall, it is common for swimmers to commute in excess of 30 minutes one way to swimming practices.  This commute not only takes away from time for other physical activities (other movements), but it also confines them to the overly occurring seated position. Between school, computer usage, travel commutes, video gaming, and eating, the athletes are simply sitting to much with undoubtedly poor postures.

Swimming involves much of the same postural issues as does prolonged sitting: curved back, rounded shoulders, head forward. These factors make it important for dryland activities to keep the athletes moving in multiple planes of motion.  Spine specialist, Dr. Stuart McGill, suggests that an ideal posture is one that constantly changes. If they are young age group athletes, then creating a dynamic atmosphere that mimics hopping, rolling, skipping, jumping, pulling and throwing maybe growing even more critical.

Muscular Imbalances

As with any repetitive motion, whether it be from sport, lifestyle habits, or job related tasks, there is the tendency for overuse and under-use.   When performing a given exercise, a dominant and overactive muscle will repeatedly take on the work, leaving other muscles weak and under active.  It is believed that  this less-synergistic scenario could potentially lend itself to a less durable and more injury-prone athlete. Swimming is no exception.  A swimmer has both dominant and under-dominant muscles, and certainly is accustomed to high repetition exercise (also referred to as “pattern overload”).  Bottom line: the body likes balance. Most joints become aggravated when  subjected to this  prolonged and imbalanced “tug of war” scenario. The fix? Identifying an imbalance, or understanding where they typically occur, and interjecting with some moderate corrective action.

Note the excessively protruding right shoulder blade

For the purposes of this blog we will look into using dryland training to offset these imbalances in the form of resistance exercises, movement drills, or soft tissue techniques like self massage and stretching.   Clearly, resistance training is an effective measure to restore muscular balance and tendon health, as it is the very basis of any good physical therapy program.

Check back for
Part Three on the Conditioning  Benefits of dryland training.