Swimming can be really frustrating for some people, especially if you didn’t start at a young age. Perfecting technique and timing is challenging enough and then you throw open water swimming and ‘sighting’ into the mix. But whilst you keep plugging away at squad sessions, there are a few things you can do out of the water that can have dramatic effects on your performance in the pool.

In short, poor range of motion will prevent you from executing an efficient stroke.  If you have poor mobility through your upper back and shoulders and you struggle to find full rotation on land, then how can you expect your body to perform in the water? What's more if we don’t have good movement then we can’t expect to have any strength (or at least not without the risk of shoulder injuries.)  

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exercises for a better swim stroke


Focus: Shoulder mobility

This can be done with a long band, a towel or a broomstick. Hold the resistance band at either end. With your arms straight, engage upper back by shrugging shoulders as your hands pass overhead and lower behind back. Look for smooth even movement in both shoulders. Widen your hands to make it a little easier. (Stand in front on a mirror to check your symmetry)

T-Spine Lunge

Focus: Upper back mobility

In a long lunge position with back knee grounded, place your inside hand down next to your front foot. Rotate and extend your other hand up to the sky, holding for 3-5 seconds, switch hands to rotate other way

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 Band Pull Aparts

Focus: Shoulder/back activation

Holding on to the resistance band with both hands fully extend arms out in front. Maintaining an upright body position, straight arms and a tight core pull the band apart so hands travel away from each other. Try not to shrug your shoulders. Aim to pinch your shoulder blades together at the end of range. The closer your hands are together the harder the exercise.

swimmer poolside exercises

Why?: Scapula retraction is the action of pulling your shoulder blades together, (bringing them towards your spine). Good scapula retraction will stabilise your arm attachment to the body and strengthens your upper core. Now we don’t consciously retract our shoulders when we swim, but by spending time working on this out of the pool will ensure stability of the shoulder when under stress and prevent us from getting those nagging injuries. 


Supported Row

Focus: Upper Back Strength/ Core / Body position

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Try to maintain clean body lines, don’t hang off the straps or let your hips drop.

Why? Upper body strength is essential if you want a powerful swim stroke. A great deal of core control and body tension is required to maintain a strong body position throughout this exercise, transferrable across to the optimal streamlined position in swimming.


Core Rotations

Focus: Core activation/strength

Using your resistance band tied to an upright, grasp the other end with both hands. Facing side on, keep your arms straight and pull the band across your body aiming for 180 degrees, maintain tension through your core and control back to start position.

Why?: A better body position achieved through a strong core will help avoid that hip ‘wiggle’ and arms crossing your mid line, wasting time and energy.  This will help to promote a good body roll in the water, giving you a longer more powerful reach and streamlined stroke. 


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