To start, I want you to think about a soccer team (or gymnastics, or basketball, or track and field).
When the soccer team starts a warm up for practice or a game, do they hop right into the sport or do they start with a dynamic warm up? You should’ve answered that they do a dynamic warm up first and then begin more sport specific work.
Now think about a swim team(This applies to everyone, age group to masters). When the swim team warms up, do they start with a dynamic warm up or just hop in and warm up with swimming?
More times than not, they just hop in and start swimming. Swimming is one of the few sports where many athletes still warm up with the sport instead of preparing their bodies beforehand.
Have you ever started a practice and your shoulder felt a little off? Chances are this has happened in your swimming career. Let me guess, then the next step was to just keep swimming because it would loosen up eventually. Right?
The feeling of an off shoulder can turn into a aggravated shoulder. Then an aggravated shoulder can turn into an injured shoulder. See the trend?
Have you ever warmed up for a race and just felt flat? A proper warm up outside of the pool could’ve helped with making you feel more coordinated and engaged. Dryland tactics can elicit a greater amount of motor recruitment and have you primed at a level greater than needed for the sport of swimming. The result, you feel more engaged and racing feels easier.
I often get the question, “What five exercises would you recommend for any swimmer to do before a race?”
Well let’s get to it! These can be implemented before practice and before a race as well.
1) Shoulder Pullapart Series + Band
This movement will help wake up the shoulders and get the scapular region ready to perform. Focus on keeping the rest of your body still while doing this movement and control the return of the hands (Don’t let the band pull you back out of control).
2) Single Leg Layout
One thing I have found in swimming is a lack of focus on hamstrings when warming up. Hamstrings are a critical piece of the equation. With the single leg layout, aim to feel a stretch or lengthening of the hamstring. Also, aim to minimize side to side shake in the plant knee.
This movement is all about getting the core involved. Struggle with “wet noodle syndrome” whenever you swim? This is a good one to wake up the core musculature. Also, by activating the core musculature pre-race, you do not have to place as much thought into core engagement during the race. Focus on exaggerating your brace and engage your glutes as you get to the push up position and past it.
Now we need to give the hips some love! The hips get used heavily in every swimming stroke, so making sure they are ready to race is critical. You should feel a stretch in the back leg hip when doing this stretch. If you don’t lengthen your stance a bit.
5) Speed Squats
Now that we worked on some range of motion, I want to finish off with my mind and body ready to go fast! Speed squats are a great way to accomplish this feat. Want a little extra challenge? Try to hit a streamline position overhead as you stand. Want to take it a step further? Go into a full squat jump.
When should you do this routine?
These five exercises are super helpful before a practice or a race. I like to have athletes do this routine about 15-20 minutes before their race. How many times have you seen athletes standing behind the blocks, arms crossed, and probably mentally freaking out? This is a great way to take the focus off of nerves. Also, 15-20 minutes before a race will allow the performance effects to carry over until your race starts.
What about fatigue?
I’m not looking for you to be totally gassed at the end of this! You should aim to have your heart rate slightly elevated, body warm, and maybe even a light sweat. Many times we step up to the blocks with a low heart rate. Then once the race starts, our body is playing catch up.
Having a slightly higher heart rate already makes the switch to race mode less of a shock!
Do three rounds of the following exercises:
Shoulder Pullapart Series + Band: 10 each position
Single Leg Layout: 8 each leg
Spiderman: 8 each leg
Speed Squats: 20 seconds *Start at a moderate pace and then get faster each round!
Want to see how we program dryland training for swimmers and triathletes? Check out a sample week of programming: www.rittersp.com/rmsp/
About the author:
Bo has spent a majority of his life in the water, mainly through a passion of surfing. His other regular athletic endeavors include the sports of basketball, marathon running, swimming, golf, and soccer. Bo has worked with a multitude of ability levels, from beginners to Olympic trials competitors. His training has led him to roles at the Facebook company headquarters as well as with the United States Department of Defense. Bo has completed a B.S. in Kinesiology and a M.S. in Exercise Science. He is also a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA.