Swimming Stretches

Swimming Stretches

Why is stretching important for Swimmers?

Newcomers to the sport of swimming and lap swimming may think that athletic success is entirely dependent on speed and strength – but performance and wellness cannot be achieved without proper flexibility.

Read on to find out how these basic stretches add huge benefits to your Freestyle stroke.

Stretching Maximizes Swimming Performance

A swimmer’s full athletic potential cannot be reached without training flexibility through stretching.

Without stretching, swimmers are unable to make the most of their strength and technique, causing them to sacrifice bio-mechanical efficiency, negatively impacting both speed and endurance.

Stretching Helps Prevent Swimmer Injury

Swimmers that lack flexibility are more prone to injury. Because swimming is a full body exercise that demands extraordinary range of motion, flexible joints and elastic muscles reduce physical stressors and recover more effectively.

3 Basic Swimming Stretches For Freestyle

Improving Kick With Ankle Stretches

Developing an effective kick requires strength and ankle flexibility. At its worst, a foot held at a ninety degree angle to the leg cannot produce efficient kicking force. Ideally, toes and feet must be pointed to be completely in line with the legs, allowing the greatest active surface area to maximize propulsion.

Inflexible ankles prevent swimmers from pointing their toes in line with their legs during a kick and reduce propulsion efficiency.

How To Stretch Your Ankles

Using a comfortable exercise mat,

  • Drop to your knees and sit on the backs of your heels.
  • Use your weight to drive your toes and feet into straight alignment with your legs, striving to remove any space between the mat and front part of your ankle (below your shin and above your foot).
  • Reps: do this twice, for 45 – 60 seconds each time.
  • When can you do this stretch? Any time, always before swimming.

Improving Rotation With Hip Stretches

Good hip flexibility allows for proper hip & body rotation during swimming, causing your body and stroke to open up and elongate to maximum length, allowing the longest possible reach for a long, powerful stroke.

Without proper hip flexibility, swimmers will have a poor rotation during freestyle, thereby encouraging 3 technique problems to arise:

  • The head reaches too far while taking a breath, reducing speed and disrupting the natural stroke rhythm.
  • The stroke will shorten and lose efficiency and power.
  • The back will arch, causing the body to sink and encounter more water resistance in a less hydrodynamic position.

Hare are two basic hip stretches that increase the range of athletic motion in hips:

Hip Circle Stretches

Standing in front of a mirror,

  • Place feet at shoulder’s width apart, with hands on hips.
  • Move your hips in continuous hula hoop style circles without dropping your hips.
  • The Goal: Strive to achieve a smooth and continuous smoother, fuller circles each you perform the movement.
  • Reps: do this twice (one clockwise, one counter clockwise), for 90 seconds each.
  • When can you do this stretch? Every day.
Lateral Hip Stretches

Standing in front of a mirror,

  • Place feet a shoulder’s width apart, with hands on hips.
  • Keeping your hips tucked underneath your torso, move your hips side to side without arching your back.
  • Keep your hips straight across the front of your body, aligned straight with your feet, being careful not to push your hips forward or backward.
  • The Goal: Strive to achieve smooth and continuous lateral hip movements, without losing proper hip alignment.
  • Reps: do this one for 90 seconds.
  • When can you do this stretch? Every day!

Hang Loose Swimmers!

Add these stretches to your regimen – they may seem basic, but they can do a world of good for your freestyle stroke.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

See you at the pool!


About Robin Kiefer

Robin Kiefer is the Grandson of Adolph Kiefer, the Founder of Kiefer Swim Products. Today Kiefer Swim Products is a multifaceted company focused on serving the aquatic industry, lifeguards, and swimmers.

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  • Tom Shroyer says:

    What stretchs/exercises would you recommend for improving shoulder flexibility?

    • Emily Milak says:

      Tom there is such a wide range of beneficial stretches and exercises out there I will give you a few of my staples to get you started. Being a swimmer shoulder problems have been common for me, but I luckily have extremely flexible shoulders. Keep those muscles loose by using a ball sandwiched between your chest and a wall. Roll to find spots that are tight or sensitive and apply pressure. You can use a foam roller to hit your lats too, lay on the ground, on your side and roll both sides. Doing yoga or pilates can be helpful too, particularly downward dog stretches. I also like to lay on my side and let my top arm travel from my head down to my hips, keep the arm straight and feel the stretch!

  • Many coaches attend clinics and conferences as well as read articles that teach them how to administer exercises and which exercises are best for certain types and ages of swimmers. Your daughter should definitely let her coach know if she if experiencing pain from dry land exercises.

  • Lori says:

    Thank you for this information. I wish some of the coaches would read these articles. Right now my daughter is in pain from doing dry land exercises. She has pain radiating out from her inner knee areas and lower back. How do we know if the coach knows what he is doing with these exercises?

  • Thank you! Great information. I would love a whole dry land program for a high school team. I look forward to reading future articles.

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