If there’s one thing important for all athletes to do before and after exercise to prevent injury, it’s stretching. Swimming uses all your main muscle groups and a wide range of motion, so it’s important to remember to warm up your joints before hopping in the pool and to help cool them down afterwards. Take five minutes before and after your swim to complete these stretches and avoid injury and increase your range of motion.
For your arms, neck and shoulders
Very gently, tilt your head as if you are trying to touch your right ear to your right shoulder. Place the palm of your right hand on top of your head if you need the extra weight to stretch your neck downwards. Hold for 10 seconds, then repeat on the other side.
To stretch your shoulders, place the palm of your right hand on the top of your back, behind your head, with your elbow facing straight up. Take your left hand and place it on your right elbow, slowly pulling it inwards. Hold for 10 seconds, then repeat on the other side.
You’ll need a wall for this one – to stretch the front of your shoulder, place your right hand on the wall at shoulder height with your right arm just slightly bent. Keeping your hand on the wall, twist your body to the left to face away from the hand on the wall as much as possible. You should also feel a slight stretch in the tendons around your wrist. Hold for 10 seconds, then repeat on the other side.
For your legs and behind
Staying on the wall you used to stretch your shoulders, place both hands flat against the wall at shoulder height. Bending your left leg, take your right leg behind you as far as you can so you are in a lunge. Try to place your right heel on the ground, so you feel a stretch in your right calf and Achilles. Hold for 10 seconds, then repeat on the other side.
To stretch your buttocks, which are used a lot during swimming, sit on the ground and fold your left leg in as though you’d be sitting cross-legged. Then, place your right foot over the left leg so that the right side of your right foot sits against the outer part of your left thigh. Next, twist your body toward your right hip while trying to look behind your right shoulder. Don’t let either buttock lift off the ground! Hold here for 10 seconds then repeat on the other side.
To stretch your inner thighs and groin, remain seated on the ground. Folding both legs in front of you, place the soles of your feet together so your knees fall to the sides. Holding your ankles so your feet stay together, gently press down on the insides of your knees with your elbows. Hold here for 10 seconds.
For your ankles and feet
Using the wall again, place the ball of your right foot as high up the wall as you can, keeping your right heel on the ground. You should feel a stretch in the tendons around your ankle. For a bonus hamstring stretch, lean your body towards your right thigh. Hold for 10 seconds, then repeat on the other side.
Remember, while stretching helps to loosen up your muscles and wake up your joints before exercise, it’s also important to warm up aerobically before you start racing to beat your Personal Best. With medium intensity, swim a few laps using your preferred stroke before pumping out everything you’ve got. Stretches are also just as important after your workout – make sure you take the time to give your muscles the love they deserve after you hop out of the pool!
Have you got any tips on improving swim performance out of the pool? Share them with us! #swimmingaustralia @swimmingaustralia