Why do we do dryland?

  • Warm up
  • Strength and conditioning
  • Flexibility
  • Injury prevention
  • Team learning
  • Technique fundamentals

Warm up

We warm up larger muscle groups before smaller more refined and complex muscle groups; typically we use this order in a warmup sequence:

  1. Legs
  2. Core
  3. Shoulders (arms)

When access to pool time is limited, for example, before a tournament game, we use a longer dryland set to prepare for the upcoming game. This is why we typically meet one hour before game time at a tournament. Often the game warm up will include a chalk talk and provide for getting ready to play with focus.


  • In-place: We start with legs, for 2-3 minutes, running in place, mixing in a variation every 30 seconds, such as star jumps (jumping jacks), regular jumping, cross countries (switching leg jumps, like cross-country skiing), moguls (again like skiing, but downhill feet together, switching side to side with hip rotation).
  • Short runs: When available outside, we also can add in a series of building short runs/sprints. For example starting at 70% effort and ending at 100%. This is particularly effective for warming up when pool access is limited in tournaments. Alternative variations to add in to short runs before the builds include high knees, rear kicks, chain breakers, backwards, crossovers and side-to-sides.
  • Squats: 8-10, slowly on 4 to 6 counts down and 4 counts up. Feet pointing forward, shoulder width apart, at least 90 degree bend in knees
  • Jump squats – add a jump instead of coming up slowly, go down in 6 count, when jumping practice getting into streamline position, hands up and together squeezing the head if possible
  • Burpees – the classic exercise combines a little of everything, legs, core, pushup, … do it after you are more warmed up

Strength and conditioning


Water polo depends a lot on the core, and dryland work is a great area to use to improve core strength and conditioning more rapidly


  • Cat-camel – a stretch borrowed from yoga, on all fours reach belly-button to ground, then up to sky, imagining it going through your back
  • Crunch – on back, knees up, raise head to sky, not toward knees, pressing lower back into ground, only raising tops of shoulders slightly off ground, in fact shoulder blades stay rooted on ground.
  • Hissing crunch – same as crunch, but add hissing sound at end while extending arms at sides.
  • Plank – on elbows straight back and legs, to balls of feet
  • Side plank – on one elbow, point the other hand to sky, keeping arms, shoulders and upper arm of hand on ground all in a straight line
  • Flutter kick on back – feet six inches off the ground, legs pointed
  • Criss-cross kick on back – like flutter except feet criss-cross, turn out if possible, ie bounce calves against each other in the criss-cross
  • Slow punching motion – with knees bent, always looking forward to mimic head position during throwing motion. Improves rotating core strength. Always reminds me of those who do Tai Chi on the beach in the morning.
  • Windmill – bend over at waist, arms straight to sides, rotate 90 degrees or to limit of core rotation flexibility, keep hand to hand in straight line across back during rotation
  • Toy soldiers – raise one leg to opposite outstretched hand and repeat other side


Please note that we don’t do stretching (especially static) before we are warmed up. Always work in flexibility as dryland goes along, when the muscles are warm and ready. Hip and ankle flexibility are very important for eggbeater, body position, and general mobility in the water. Balance and flexibility are very important for the shoulder joints as well to enable proper throwing and shooting technique.


  • Hurdles – Right side, then left, raise knee in front with toe down, rotate around to side and back as much as your hip rotation allows and place foot back down on ground. Then lift, and repeat back to front, like a hurdler. A form of this can also be done on all fours making it look like you are a dog taking a fancy pee. Knee comes up and around to the side and back.
  • Leg lifts – On all fours, extend a single leg pointing the toe and lift high. Repeat other side.
  • Downward dog pushup into chaturanga to Upward Doghttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ikJ_fr3X0go
  • Scapular pushups – on forearms on ground, collapse upper back in to try to touch shoulder blades together, then try to expand them as far apart as possible. To start with minimal effort this can be done slightly leaning against a wall.

Injury Prevention

When used effectively, dryland exercises can reduce the risk of injury. For water polo players, key areas to focus for injury prevention are the shoulders, the hips and the knees. Band work can be very effective for the shoulders, after warming them up, for both strengthening and flexibility. Some dance related exercises can help both the hips and the knees. In the knees, we can focus on balanced strength on both sides of the knee, by rising to the balls of the feet and contracting the knee and stomach muscles, keeping as straight a body line as possible.

Team learning and incorporating dance

Dryland can be an excellent time to have the players learn about each other. Doing things together in rhythm can aid in this learning. Often we can incorporate dance warmups and techniques into the water polo warmup, to have some fun and learn about each other, as well as learn how to understand spacing. Awareness is an important skill for young water polo players to learn. It can also help in the synchronization of the hip and core with shoulder and arm movement for throwing.


  • The Twist – emphasize the hip rotation to increase flexibility and awareness for the start of shooting, and passing motion. Do it a bit on the right and then the left, just like the dance!
  • High knee tap – a side-to-side movement lifting the leg and tapping next to your other foot. Then step to back to the other side and repeat. Increase to 3 steps to the side and a tap.
  • Isolations – hip, chest, shoulder, head (neck roll), typically isolating with moving in each of four directions. The shoulder isolations can incorporate great scapular movement as well.
  • Body rolls – forward, backward, side-to-side
  • Turning – practicing head spotting, this is important to understand how to control your head while your body does something else. We use this all the time in the water to be able to focus where the ball and other players are, while moving the body. For example, in our drill where we swim head up looking left 5 strokes and right 5 strokes.
  • Jumping – any time you can incorporate jumps into dance movement, you are improving muscle synchronization, strength, conditioning (they do it more repeatedly in the dance context), and teaching the body about explosive movement.

Technique Fundamentals

We can use dryland to incorporate proper fundamentals for water polo technique. In particular, we can provide exercises that link to what we do in the water for fundamental throwing (shooting, passing). Throwing technique leverages strong leg and core conditioning. We can build awareness for horiziontal-to-vertical and vertical-to-horizontal mobility, for transitions from egg-beater to breastroke kick based lunges, for hole set and defender body position and movement, for perimeter positioning stability and driving setup.


  • Split squat – this specialized squat is designed to provide awareness of the role of the back leg, hip and core rotation, for the initial phase of a throw.
    1. Start hands straight out front together with feet squared up.
    2. Take the strong arm back with the strong leg, ie right leg and arm for right-handed players. The leg will swing back and turn out with foot pointed out 90 degrees from initial squared up position, and arm and shoulder will rotate back just less than 180 degrees.
    3. Lower into this split squat on a count of 6.
    4. Rise up from squat by emphasizing a push from the back foot with a turn-in of the back leg. The push and turn-in causes the body to rotate, pulling the shoulder with it. Note how quarterbacks use the same footwork and body rotation to throw footballs. The strong arm moves up and forward as if finishing a shot as a result of the body movement. The weak arm can mimic pulling back on the water as if over a barrel to emphasize the crunch drill finish. Optionally, continue momentum with a small step forward with the strong leg.
  • Split jump squat – when the above exercise is fairly well mastered, the jump can be added as a second part of a split squat sequence. The 4th step above is modified to incorporate a jump for emphasizing explosiveness and building strength in the back leg and core action. Optionally, in step 2, rotate the strong arm into initial throwing position with elbow just above the ear. Use fist to imitate hand holding ball, while the front of the wrist faces the direction of the throw. Ie be careful not to face fist out in same direction as back foot.