Swimming, swimming, swimming… my old nemesis. Being blessed with heavy donkey legs and many years of not having great shoulder mobility, (but i do now - #winning), it's definitely not one of my favorite activities. Swimming for fun while relaxing in the pool is awesome, but start making me swim laps and it's all over. Being in SoCal, i come across a ton of people who take advantage of the water; either by going for a morning swim, enjoying water sports, surfing, etc. And I can't blame them!
Swimming is an excellent choice for improving cardiovascular endurance, strengthening the musculature of the core, and a popular alternative to traditional forms of cardio but I see the same issues pop up in my clients who swim… busted shoulders, mid upper back tightness, and depending on what stroke they use, chronic hip pain. Because of this, I wanted to share some ideas on what you can do to get the most of out of your swimming.
COACH IT UP
If you really want to get the most out of your swimming, I'd recommend hiring a qualified coach to help you. Usually what you think you look like swimming is vastly different than what’s actually happening when you’re in the water. A coach will come up with individual drills to improve technique, give you appropriate outlines on how much to swim for the week and help you figure out which stroke you should be using. This is especially important if you never learned proper swimming as a child. Imagine if you decided to learn how to run when you hit your mid 30’s. What a disaster that would look like. Same goes for swimming guys - find a coach!
MOVING IN THE WATER
If your doctor has told you to get into the pool to help with your lower back, please refer back to the paragraph above about getting a coach. In the meantime, feel free to get in the water and just move. Walking and light jogging in the pool is great for those who have chronic pain throughout the body. The water quickly warms you up by stimulating blood flow and allows the nervous system to feel super safe and relax a little bit due to the lower body weight in the pool.
Another great thing to do in the pool if you are returning to exercise or just want to feel better is CARS. By now, anyone who knows me knows all too well about CARS. For those who don't, heres a quick rundown. CARS stand for Controlled Articular Rotations and are the simplest, most efficient way to get your joints moving the way they’re meant to. They stimulate all of the tissue around the joints, provide nutritious blood flow in and out of the joints, and just plain feel awesome to do. Plus being in the water allows them to be even easier due to the lower load demand. Win, win! Two of my favorite CARS to do in the water are below.
MOBILITY FOR SWIMMERS
Swimming has a very high mobility demand no matter what stroke you do, so improving your mobility will ensure you can swim all day everyday for the rest of your life. What is mobility? It's the body's ability to control all of the ranges of motion you possess. Basically, if you can't lift your arms over your head with ease, internally and externally rotate those hips and shoulders, have excellent thoracic rotation and extension….well something in the body is going to eventually get injured. Don’t worry guys, below is an excellent mobility routine specifically designed for swimmers. Ideally, you would do the whole workout twice a week, but just take a look and start doing a little bit everyday.
STRENGTHEN THAT BACKSIDE
Last but not least, do yourself a favor and do some quick strength training to help with your swimming. It doesn’t have to be a ton of work, but adding direct strength training to the muscles on your back side (lats, rhomboids, spinal erectors, glutes, hamstrings, and calves) will go a long way in making your swimming more efficient and effective. Below is a quick routine you can do almost anywhere. You just need a bench and some light dumbbells. Do this workout once or twice a week and make sure that backside is doing its part in the pool.
Enjoy the water guys. Swimming can be both an amazing workout and an excellent way to relieve stress. Just make sure you’re prepared to do so by hiring a qualified coach, working on your mobility and strength, and of course make sure you are applying that sunscreen.
As always, we’re here to help those who want to be strong, and mobile. Hit us up on Instagram, Facebook, or YouTube for more tips and to ask any questions you may have.
ABOUT COACH MATT PIPPIN
Matt is a Strength and Conditioning Coach and Level 3 Fascial Stretch Therapist with over 15 years experience in his field. After years of playing sports as a child, Matt gained an interest in health and wellness and decided to pursue a career in strength and conditioning. He graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in Exercise Science in 2005. During college Matt played rugby and interned as a Strength and Conditioning Coach with the football team.
Post graduation, he worked with professional athletes as the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for NFL Europe's Berlin Thunder. For 8 years, Matt worked in Chicago, IL at the East Bank Club as a Master Personal Trainer, Performance Coach and Fascial Stretch Therapist helping athletes and weekend warriors achieve their personal goals. Inspired by the overall quality and active lifestyle that California is known for, Matt and his wife Jennifer moved to San Diego in the summer of 2014 and haven’t looked back!
NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist
Level 3: Fascial Stretch Specialist
Level 1: Institute of Motion Health Coach
Certified FRC Mobility Specialist (FRCms)