Warming up your body before exercise is as important for swimming as it is in any sport.
Stretching plays a key role in this process, as it helps to prepare your muscles and joints for the intense workout ahead.
While a warm up will generally involve low-level activity to raise body and muscle temperature in preparation what's ahead, stretching is equally important to prepare the body and reduce the risk of injury.
Stretching should also focus on key areas of the body that are used by a particular sport. In swimming, special attention should be paid to the shoulders and arms.
When carrying out stretches in your swimming warm up, remember that they should never hurt. If you overstretch and feel pain, relax slightly and hold the stretch where it feels more comfortable.
A good amount of time to hold stretches is between 10 and 30 seconds. Any quicker, and the muscles won't be sufficiently lengthened. Any longer, and you could put too much pressure on them.
With that in mind, we take a look at 13 essential stretches for swimmers to do before exercise.
13 Essential Stretches for your Swimming Warm Up
Our first four stretches focus on the shoulders. The shoulder is the most intricate joint in the entire body, so you must stretch and warm up properly by performing a series of rotations to really extend them. The smoother these exercises are performed, the more effective they will be.
1) Forward shoulder rotation with one arm only
2) Backward shoulder rotation with one arm only
3) Forward rotation using both arms
4) Backward rotation using both arms
After starting work on the shoulders, it makes sense to also focus on the arms. Our next three stretches will help you warm up the shoulders and arms together. If you can, perform these exercises in front of a mirror to check you are doing them properly, particularly if you are not being followed by a coach.
5) Lateral arm raises
6) Alternating arm raises moving on arm forwards and one arm backwards
7) Lateral arm raises finishing with the movement with straight arms
REST OF THE BODY
Now let's move on to the rest of the body.
8) Lean forwards with your chest making sure your legs apart and slightly bent, then slowly straighten your legs and bring them together
9) Straight-leg hamstring stretch with one leg resting on a starting block or box
10) As above, but with your foot flexed
11) 'Roll' your back forwards and then 'unroll' again until you are back in an upright position
12) Standing with your legs apart, bend your upper body sideways, first in one direction and then the other
13) Twist your upper body, first in one direction and then the other, making sure you are standing with your legs apart
Breathing is also extremely important, particularly when performing 'static' exercises such as these. Breathing out as you stretch and extend as far as possible helps you relax more and makes these exercises as effective as possible.
Feeling slight pain – but nothing excruciating – is normal, and remember to keep proper posture at all times when performing these exercises.
Now you have warmed up, you can enter the water…. enjoy your training!