How To Improve Swimming Performance Outside Of The Pool

Nick O’Connor – Osteopath

Swimming is one of those sports in which there aren’t many other exercises you can do to encapture the feeling of water resistance.  However there are a number of things you can do outside of the pool that will inevitably help when you hit the water again.

One of the most important attributes a swimmer can improve on is their mobility or otherwise termed flexibility.  Swimming unlike other sports encompasses many different joints, muscles and tendons to all work as one to propel yourself through the water.  Commonly our work does not allow us to be moving, it is commonly static postures which over time can begin to replicate how our body is moving in general.  If we can begin to improve our mobility it provides us with the building blocks to then increase strength into our program, but in turn we will begin to swim at a faster pace, be able to move legs, arms at a higher rate providing us with an overall better workout.  Below are three of my favourite mobility exercises:

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Thoracic mobility with a broomstick:  This exercise is one of my favourites as you are able to replicate freestyle and backstroke by utilising the broomstick as your resistance
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Pec release: Highly important to release through the anterior structures of our chest, the lives we live are constantly pulling us forward, if we can open up the front of the chest it allows us to have better range of motion into extension
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Thread the needle:Rotational exercises, specifically focusing on the movement between our ribs, thoracic vertebrae and our shoulders.  Great exercise for those people that feel like they can’t reach out and catch the water or feel as though they cannot extend and push through.
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Strength outside the pool can directly affect our performance in the pool.  Even though swimmers are putting their bodies through a high level of load, external load from weights and power bands is imperative.  The more load they are able to tolerate outside of the water the more force they are going to be able to produce in the water.  As our shoulder region in swimming is under the most amount of load in a large range of motion, it is important to provide them with adequate strength work outside the pool so that they can tolerate this when returning.  Three key strength exercises are below, these are all focused on the rotator cuff strength and scapula control which are both imperative to an efficient swimming stroke

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Prone holds:  This exercise although it may be a small movement, specifically targets our rhomboids, rotator cuff, lats to contract and hold.  This type of isometric loading is ideal for increasing the tolerance of these tissues.
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Shoulder isometrics: Similar to prone holds above, this video focuses on external and internal isometric holds.  This tendon loading is a great way to begin to build strength in your rotator cuff if you have not done strength work before.
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Theraband Rows:  Building strength in the posterior parts of our thoracics will allow us to have better scapular control when swimming.
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Incorporating the above into your daily routine at work, home or before training, will provide you with the building blocks to an increased performance in the pool.  These exercises can be changed in multiple ways and may not be applicable to every athlete or person.  If you are after a more tailored program specifically targeted to improving your swimming performance, book an appointment and we can run through some screening work to then provide you with a specific program for you.

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