Stretching for Swimmers to Help Avoid Injury

Training & Technique
Written by: Thomas Board at 17 March '22 0
You are reading: Stretching for Swimmers to Help Avoid Injury

A good stretch before a workout will do your body wonders in any physical activity. Even though swimming is a low-impact sport, there is still a risk of injury, especially for those of us that hit the pool regularly. A solid stretching routine can improve your range of motion and your training longevity. Whether swimming is a fair-weather hobby for you or a full-time job, your body is yours for life, and a few minutes of stretching is definitely worth it to keep it healthy.

In this article, we will find out why stretching for swimmers matters. Then, we’ll take a look at some examples of essential stretches, explaining why each stretch is important and the benefits they offer.

Stretching for Swimmers: Does It Really Matter?

Swimmer getting out of a swimming pool

We all live busy lives; many of us are already thinking about our daily tasks during our swim workouts. Surely, there’s no time to stretch as well.

A good training session should be focused. If your mind is elsewhere, your progress and body will suffer. Making every rep count is a solid training mindset that works well in any competitive sport. Thinking that adding 10-15 minutes of stretching to your workout is a “waste of time” is a recipe for disaster. Try to think of stretching as a vital part of your swim workout. Simply put, stretching is as important as swimming.

A full-body stretching routine is one of the best things you can do for injury prevention. Stretching regularly will keep your muscles lean, long, and flexible. This means that you won’t be putting excess force on the muscle itself. Unstretched colder muscles are more likely to become injured. Injured muscles are not strong enough to support the joints, which can lead to joint injury. This is a much more serious injury that is harder to treat.

If you find your muscles are still tight and you are dealing with unwanted pain even after regular stretching, speak to your physician. They may recommend a more rigorous stretching routine or advise another form of treatment.

5 Essential Stretches for Swimmers

Stretching for swimmers: swimmer stretching her arm

Now that you know why stretching matters, let’s take a look at some of the most essential stretches you can do that will work all the muscle groups. It’s best to swim a very gentle 10-minute warmup before you begin your stretches. Warmed-up muscles have a better range of motion, making your stretches more effective.

1. Child’s Pose

You may recognize this famous stretch from your yoga class. Just like your class, you will need a mat for this stretch since you’ll be putting significant weight on your knees and the tops of your feet.

  • Kneel on the floor with your knees together and your big toes touching each other.
  • Stretch your hands as far as you can across the mat.
  • Push your shoulders into the ground to feel the stretch.

This relaxing yoga stretch can help with back pain and shoulder pain, as it targets the lower back and shoulders. As you stretch out and make little movements in your body, your lats and other muscles will thank you.

The best thing about this stretch is that it’s easy to perform, as there is zero balance involved.

2. Tricep Extension

The tricep extension is a type of stretching for swimmers that isolates a particular muscle. Make sure that you perform this stretch with your back erect while standing up, either on dryland or in the pool.

  • Take one arm and bend it down toward your back.
  • Use the opposite arm to grab your elbow.
  • Pull down on your elbow to activate the stretch

The tricep extension is perfect for freestyle swimmers hoping to improve their freestyle catch. As with any isolation exercise, you will also inevitably activate other muscle groups. In this case, you will also stretch your lats and your shoulders.

3. Quadricep Pull

Let’s move onto the legs. Another great type of stretching for swimmers is the easy-to-learn, hard-to-master quadricep pull.

  • Stand up straight and bend your left leg at the knee.
  • Grab your left foot with one or both hands.
  • Pull your foot into your back.
  • Repeat with your right leg.

It’s undeniable that whichever swimming stroke you swim, you’re going to be using your quads. Competitive swimmers will have mastered this stretch over many years. For the beginners out there, don’t feel you have to use both hands to grab your foot. Feel free to grab something solid nearby with your other hand. Whenever stretching on one foot, source a dry patch on the poolside before you begin to avoid slipping.

4. Toe Touches

This classic hamstring stretch is always quick to reveal tight muscles. It’s a satisfying stretch over time. As your fingertips inch their way closer to your feet (or even the floor), you can clearly see the progress of your own flexibility.

  • Stand straight, placing your feet together.
  • Bend down, attempting to touch your toes without bending your knees.

If you want an even deeper hamstring stretch following the classic toe touch, you can try placing your right foot in front of your left foot and then touching the toes of your right foot (then switch sides).

5. Cobra Pose

The cobra pose is another type of stretching for swimmers that requires you to bring your yoga mat to the pool. It’s also a great stretch for open-water swimmers who can stretch out as nature intended, on the beach or beside a lake.

  • Put yourself in a high plank position.
  • Then, sink your hips into the floor, and push out your chest.

This pose puts quite a bit of strain on your wrists. To alleviate this, you can plank off your fists rather than your palms. Most competitive swimmers have long torsos and are therefore more susceptible to back problems. The cobra pose stretches the spine and can even strengthen the muscles that support your head and neck.

This yoga classic is also great for swimmers with sedentary jobs, as it counteracts the effects of too much slouching. These positive effects on the upper body can lead to a better overall posture as well.

There’s No Excuse to Not StretchStretching for swimmers: swimmer stretching his arm

When we’re passionate about our sport or hobby, it’s inevitable that we will ”overuse” certain joints and muscles. This can of course lead to injury, especially if we don’t do anything to help prevent it.

Remember that stretching is just as important as the benefits you reap from your workout, such as strength gains and beating your PR. It’s all about longevity, so you can swim tomorrow and in 10 years from now.

Bring your yoga mat to the pool to relax into child’s pose and cobra pose. Improve your freestyle catch with a tricep stretch. And never skip leg day by including quadricep pulls and toe touches in your stretching routine.

Whichever stretching and warm-up routine you incorporate, one thing is for sure: Looking good and feeling good at the pool is essential. To find quality swimwear and swim training tools, look no further than arena’s online store.


Written by:

Thomas Board

Tom is an outdoor and adventure travel writer and full-time firefighter based in Leeds, UK. He spends his free time summiting the mountains of Wales and wild swimming in the lakes of Snowdonia all year round.