The Essential Total-Body Warm Up for Swimmers
The more functional the joints, the better your extension and range of motion. These simple, targeted exercises are designed specifically to align the body to be more efficient in the water.
With the correct alignment and form, swimming is a single fluid motion—each movement connected to the next; stroke into roll into flutter kick. It’s a beautiful thing to watch. But if a shoulder or hip is out of alignment, the rest of the body compensates and the whole process is thrown out of whack. Without proper alignment, you don’t have full range of motion. Limited range of motion ultimately limits the total-body extension so fundamental to swimming.
It works like this: picture the eight load bearing joints: the shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles. All four pairs of joints should be in a straight line from shoulder to ankle to allow the limbs to move at a full range of motion. But, for most of us, it’s a bit wonky. Hips might thrust forward a bit, knees might hyperextend. Even if these dysfunctions are subtle, they limit range of motion.
And swimming itself can create and perpetuate dysfunction. If you’re a left-side breather, for example, you’re used to twisting further to the left (to breath in just after your left arm downstroke) than to the right. It seems fairly harmless but over time, this one-sidedness creates asymmetry in the shoulders. Your right shoulder will round slightly more forward than your left, your body ever so slightly twisted to the left. This creates a cascade of dysfunction that affects the hips, knees, and ankles. In other words, if one joint is off, the whole synergistic system suffers.
The below warm up and cooldown is designed specifically to accompany the dynamism of swimming. The exercises will not only improve roll, extension and efficiency, they will also reset subtle asymmetries that are inevitable with repetitive aerobic exercises. Give it a try!
Polar Opposites | 25x:
- 1. Lying on your back, bend your knees with your feet flat on the ground. Interlace your fingers behind your head and keep your elbows back.
- 2. Simultaneously lift your feet and head a few inches off of the ground, using your abs to lift and your hip region to lower. Do not use your arms to lift your head and keep the shoulder blades pinned together so that you can’t see your elbows.
Bird Dog | 8x each side:
- 1. Start on your hands and knees.
- 2. Lift the left leg and right arm and straighten both, reaching with your hand and foot.
- 3. Hold for five seconds, then drop and repeat process with left arm and right leg.
- 1. In a standing position, reach your arms straight out and run in place, bringing your knees high, for thirty seconds.
- 2. Drop your arms and run in place so that your heels kick your butt for thirty seconds.
- 3. For the final thirty seconds, squat low and spring up as if to jump, but do not let your feet leave the ground. Really put all your power into the upward drive. Repeat these “fake jumps” for thirty seconds.
Alps | 10x:
- 1. Start on your hands and knees then pike into a downward dog position. Pinch your shoulder blades toward each other.
- 2. Roller coaster your head down and forward before lifting into an elevated cobra position, pulling your shoulders down and back and holding that for a moment.
- 3. Return to pike position and repeat.
Jumping Jack | 50x:
- 1. In a standing position, jump and simultaneously spread your legs while you bring your hands together above your head.
- 2. Make sure your hands clap as this ensures a full range of motion.
Repeat for the allotted amount of time.
Gator Walks | 8x per arm:
- 1. From a hands and knees position, pop onto your hands and feet, bring your right foot to your right hand and extend your left hand forward, putting your weight on that left shoulder.
- 2. Step forward with your left foot up to your left hand.
- 3. Reach your right hand forward, placing the load of your weight on that right shoulder, and now step forward with the right foot up to the right hand.
Air Bench | 2 Minutes:
- 1. Stand against the wall then walk your feet out to just past the knees. Your legs should be at an angle of 110 to 120 degrees.
- 2. Lean against the wall, using your heels to help press your lower back and hips to the wall. Focus the work in your hips.
- 3. Hold position for allotted time then walk backwards into standing position.