As the weather starts to warm up, you might be thinking it’s almost (not quite!) time to get back in the pool and hit the laps. After time off, however, getting back to a regular swim routine can seem like a daunting task.
Here, the National Fitness Manager from Genesis Health & Fitness Sam Merza, provides six exercises that you can knock off now (on dry land!) to take the pain out of the pool when you dive back in.
“Swimming is a great low-impact, full-body workout, but diving back in after a break can sometimes be a bit of a shock. You might find you’re very sore after your first few swims and your lap numbers might not be quite where they were before winter,” said Sam.
“The good news is, it doesn’t take long to get back up to speed, especially if you can do some groundwork on dry land before you get back into the pool.
“If you can start engaging the key muscles used in freestyle swimming and ramp up your cardio a little, you’ll find that getting back in the water will feel a lot easier and you may even avoid some of that post-swim soreness altogether.
“As with most types of exercises, your swimming form is really important to prevent strain and injury. Due the repetitive action in swimming, it can sometimes highlight weaknesses in certain areas of your body, as your form can break down and you compensate for weak muscles by putting strain on other muscles and ligaments. Doing some focused training out of the water can help improve your swimming technique and reduce the chance of hitting an injury roadblock.”
Single leg hip bridges
Single leg hip bridges will help you focus on glute and hip stability and build strength for those kicks in the water. This exercise will help ensure you’re balanced too and not favouring one side when you swim.
Lie on your back with your hands by your sides, knees bent and feet flat on the floor under your knees. Lift one foot, extending the leg fully so it is roughly 45 degrees to the floor. From here, raise your hips up until your shoulders and knees are in a straight line, tightening your abdominals and buttock muscles. Engage your core, pulling your belly button towards your spine. Hold this position for a count of three. Lower the hips to the floor slowly with control, keeping the leg extended, to return to the starting position. Repeat reps on the same leg before swapping to the other leg.
Reps: 8-10 on each leg
When you swim, you’re using opposing sides of your body in tandem, so mimicking this opposing movement on dry land trains your muscles and your brain to coordinate in the same pattern in the water and get your weaker side working hard too (as everyone has a weaker side). This exercise is great for your upper and lower back, glutes and core.
On all fours, ensure your hands are directly under your shoulders and your hips over your knees. Extend your right arm forward while extending your left leg back – keep your hips level and your leg and arm parallel to the ground. Hold the position for a few seconds before repeating with your other side.
Reps: 6-8 on each side, holding for 3 secs
Side plank with rotations
Swimmingrequires core stability and axial rotation. The side plank helps with core stability and when you add the rotation, it helps give your more rotational power through the water and improve your body position, meaning your body stays high in the water without your arm or hip dropping during the stroke. This exercise also targets your obliques and rotator cuff muscles.
Start with a proper side plank set-up on your right side:chin tucked, feet on top of one another and glutes/core contracted. Ensure your right shoulder is over your elbow, your body is in a straight line and reach your left hand toward the ceiling. From here introduce the rotation by twisting your torso forward and slowly placing your left arm under your body. Repeat reps on your right side and then switch to your left.
Great for back muscles and your lower posterior chain – lower back, glutes and hamstrings – the deadlift will help you build strength where it matters and improve your body position in the water. Be really careful with your form with this exercise and build up the weight gradually.
Shoulder strength and stability is important for swimmers but you don’t want to stress the shoulder either – that’s why this particular exercise is great.
To perform this exercise with a resistance band, wrap the band around a post or similar, at around the level of your abdomen. Grab a handle/loop in each hand, leaving a little tension in the band. Keep your elbows straight and pull back gently on the band, pushing your shoulders backwards, then break at the elbow and complete the ‘row’ bringing your elbows back past your ribs and squeezing the muscles in the middle of your back.
Get the heart and lungs ready to hit the pool by getting in some other cardio activities before you dive in – and you can introduce some functional, multi-joint movement too. Swimming is a fantastic, low-impact cardio exercise, so it’s recommended to stick with something similarly low-impact on dry land. That way, you don’t risk an injury that may delay your return to the pool. Cycling is a great option, as is rowing, boxing and Reformer Pilates.
Frequency: At least once a week