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Great Britain goalkeeper Elliot McHugh’s top drills for staying active out the pool

Elliot McHugh, Great Britain’s U19s goalkeeper and member of the Swim England National Youth Advisory Panel, shares some drills that can be done out of the pool.

The goalkeeper in water polo plays a key role in co-ordinating the defence and preventing the attacking team from scoring.

While this position is physically demanding, the goalkeeper should also be mentally strong and able to adapt to different defensive situations.

Although much goalkeeper training is done in the water, there are lots of drills you can do at home to stay fit and mimic being in the water.

The drills below focus on developing flexibility, explosive strength, stamina and reactions.


Upper body flexibility is important for all water polo players to minimise the risk of injury. For goalkeepers, it is crucial to have a good range of movement in the lower body (hips, adductors, abductors, etc).

This will help to widen your eggbeater kick and enable you to jump higher out of the water. Hold stretches for 45 seconds and aim for three times a day for maximum improvement. Some good stretches are:

  • split stretch
  • hamstring stretch
  • hip-flexor stretch
  • frog stretch (great for eggbeater).

Cardiovascular fitness

Goalkeeping requires short anaerobic bursts of energy, so dry-land training should alternate between high and low intensity to mimic the speed of play in a game situation.

Circuits are a great way to improve your anaerobic fitness. Try this one:

  • 20 jump squats (explosive squats)
  • 15 jumping alternating lunges (explosive) – keep knees at 90-degree angle when lunging
  • 30 seconds quick shoulder taps while holding press-up position
  • 45-second wall sit – find a wall and hold squat (again knees at 90 degrees)
  • Rest and repeat three times. Keep intensity high to mimic 30-second water polo attack.


A great way to improve your hand-eye co-ordination and reaction time is to do this drill (you’ll need some tennis balls or spare balls of any size in a bag):

  • Ask a partner to stand a few feet away from you while you sit on a chair. Your partner should have the bag.
  • Sit with your arms ready (as if your lower body is under water and your arms are out)
  • Have your partner throw balls around you in quick succession – try to block every ball.
  • You can change up the speed and distance to make things more difficult/easier.

Rotator cuff strength

Can’t pass with a water polo ball? You can always develop your rotator cuff strength, which can help to improve your long passing and overall ball distribution.

Watch this video for a full exercise routine.

Elliot said: “These are my favourite dry-and exercises, which can be used by all players.

“Remember, you can also take this opportunity to think more about the tactics of the game, which will help you when you return to the pool.

“Good luck and stay safe!”