Yoga for Swimmers: Seven Poses to Help Improve Your Freestyle

A yoga practice designed for swimmers can be an effective way to develop the strength and mobility you need to improve your freestyle performance.

Freestyle is the most common training stroke for swimmers and multi-sport athletes. With the volume of conditioning done using this stroke there are two primary focuses for a yoga practice designed for swimmers:

  1. Develop functional movement to allow for more effective technical precision
  2. Prevent injury by addressing common imbalances

Five areas that these yoga poses focus on to help you develop an effective and efficient freestyle include:

  • Core/Cross-Body Strength
  • Shoulder Mobility
  • Shoulder Stability
  • Ankle Mobility
  • Breathing

Core/Cross-Body Strength

Yoga Poses for Swimmers – Two Point Plank

This pose takes your standard plank to the next level. The two-point plank links the two sides of the body through the core which increases functionality of this plank variation.

Benefits:

  • Strengthens the core and shoulders
  • Improves balance
  • Develops body awareness

Yoga for SwimmersYoga for Swimmers

Cues:

  • Start in a plank
  • Bring your feet approximately mat distance apart
  • On an inhale bring your left foot a few inches off of the mat
  • On the next inhale bring the right arm up and forward
  • Keep both the shoulders and the hips square in this pose

Variation: Bird Dog

Benefits:

  • Strengthens the shoulders, core, glutes, quads and ankles
  • Improves posture
  • Develops a cross body connection
  • Improves balance

Yoga for swimmers

Cues:

  • Start in table top
  • On an inhale lift your left foot off the ground extending the leg curling your toes back towards your shin and pointing your toes towards the ground keeping the hips even
  • At the same time bring your right hand up and forward extending the arm keeping it in line with the shoulder socket with the fingers extended and the thumb pointed towards the sky
  • Keep active length in your spine
  • Ensure that your left shoulder is over your elbow and your elbow is over your wrist
  • Press the strongly into your left hand to stay balanced

Yoga Poses for Swimmers – Locust – Alternate arm and leg variation

Benefits:

  • Strengthens the shoulders, glutes and low back
  • Increases hip and shoulder mobility
  • Develops a cross body connection
  • Improves body awareness

Yoga for Swimmers

Cues

  • Start by lying flat on your stomach
  • Extend your arms straight forward from your shoulders with your palms on the ground
  • On an exhale press your right palm and the top of your left foot firmly into the ground
  • On an inhale keeping your hips flat on the ground press lift your left arm and your right leg off of the ground

Shoulder Mobility

Yoga Poses for Swimmers – Bow

*Before doing bow or half bow ensure that you have done a proper warm up for the spine, shoulders and hips.

Benefits:

  • Stretches throat, chest, shoulders, biceps, quadriceps, hip flexors and ankles
  • Increases shoulder and hip mobility
  • Improves posture

Cues

  • Start by lying flat on stomach
  • Place your ams on either side of your body palms up
  • On an inhale bend your knees bringing both heels towards your seat
  • Reach behind you and hold onto your left foot with your left hand and then your right foot with your right hand
  • Ensure that you keep your knees and thighs as close together as possible
  • On an exhale kick your feet into your hands
  • On an inhale bring your chest and shoulders off of the ground

Variation: Half Bow

Benefits:

  • Increases shoulder and hip mobility
  • Strengthens the quadriceps, back and shoulders
  • Improves posture

Half Bow

Yoga for Swimmers

Cues:

  • Start by lying flat on your stomach
  • Bring your right elbow just in front of your right shoulder with your finger tips pointed to the left
    • Your chest and shoulders should naturally lift off the ground
  • Press your right forearm, hips and the top of the right foot firmly into the ground
  • On an inhale bring your left heel towards your seat
  • Hold onto the left foot with the left hand
  • Kick your foot into your hand feeling a stretch into your quads in the left leg

Half Bow Variation

Half Bow Variation

  • All of the same cues apply with the following modification:
    • Instead of bringing bending the elbow extend your right arm out in front of you with your palm down
    • Press your right hand strongly into the floor lifting the shoulders and chest off the ground

Half Bow Variation #2

Benefits:

  • Increases hip
  • Stretches the quads
  • Strengthens the core
  • Improves balance

Yoga for Swimmers

Cues:

  • Start in a table top position
  • Bring your left leg up and back and right arm up and forward
  • On an inhale bend your left knee bringing left heel towards your seat
  • Hold onto your left foot with your right hand
  • Square your hips and kick your left foot into your right hand
  • Look forward and press your sternum forward feeling a widening of the collar bones

 

Yoga Poses for Swimmers – Child’s Pose

Benefits:

  • Increases shoulder, spinal, hip and ankle mobility
  • Increases shoulder stability
  • Stretches the back

Yoga for SwimmersYoga for Swimmers

Cues:

  • Start on your knees
  • With the top of the feet on the ground with your big toes together and your knees out wide
  • Fold forward at your hips bringing your head down onto the mat
  • Allow your seat to fall back towards your heels
  • Fully extend your arms out in front of you
  • Once you come to full extension press down into the ground with your finger tips and feel as if you are pulling the mat back towards your arm pits

 

Shoulder Stability

Yoga Poses for Swimmers – Down Dog to Plank Plus to Down Dog Twist

Benefits:

  • Shoulder stability and mobility
  • Core strength
  • Thoracic spine mobility
  • Body awareness

Lachlan and Emily Photography

Plank Plus

  • Start in a plank position
    • Fingers spread wide and pointed straight forward
    • Shoulders over elbows and elbows over wrists
    • Externally rotate your shoulders
    • Your seat in line with the rest of your spine
  • On an exhale press the ground away protracting the shoulder blades
  • On the same breath bring your hips up and back coming into down dog

Down Dog

  • Come into an inverted ‘V’ position
  • Ensure your shoulders are stable and your spine is long before extending your legs
    • Do not sacrifice the stability in your shoulders and length in your spine to straighten your legs
  • Press your sternum towards your thighs

Move into the Down Dog Twist

  • From down dog
  • Feel strongly into the right hand, pressing the ground away and stabilizing your shoulder
  • On an inhale reach the left hand towards the outside of the right shin or ankle
  • As you bring the hand over look underneath the right armpit
  • Continue to press the ground away strongly staying connected through the shoulder, core and spine
  • Hold for a breath cycle
  • On an inhale return back to your down dog and shift forward to your plank plus once again

Ankle Mobility

Yoga Poses for Swimmers – Ankle Plank Variation to Down Dog

Benefits:

  • Ankle mobility
  • Core strength
  • Shoulder stability and mobility

  • Start in a plank position
    • Fingers spread wide and pointed straight forward
    • Shoulders over elbows and elbows over wrists
    • Externally rotate your shoulders
    • Your seat in line with the rest of your spine
    • Press the ground away just enough that you feel the shoulder blades strongly on the back
  • Slowly bring the top of your feet onto the ground and press into the top of the feet as you stretch the ankle
  • After two breath cycles tuck the toes under once again and press back to down dog
  • Once coming into down dog pedal your knees
    • On an inhale bend both knees
    • On an exhale bring one leg towards straight while continuing the bend the knee of the opposite leg

Breathing

Yoga Poses for Swimmers – Supported Fish

Supported fish is not only an excellent restorative pose, but it is also a pose that gives you a great opportunity to work with your breath. When doing supported fish practice either a three part or three dimensional breath (explained in the videos below) to help develop your breathing efficiency.

Benefits:

  • Thoracic spine mobility
  • Engages parasympathetic nervous system

Yoga for Swimmers

*For this pose you can use a rolled up blanket, bolster or a half foam roller

  • Place the half foam roller width wise across the mat
  • Come onto your lying with the half foam roller at the bottom of the shoulder blades
  • Have the the top of the roller at the armpits with the arms lying flat on the ground
  • When placing the head back make sure there is no discomfort in the neck
    • If you feel is comfort in the next use a cushion or a block to elevate the head and bring the neck into a more neutral position

This Yoga for Swimmers article is brought to you by Swimming-Specific Yoga the world’s top resource for online yoga classes and content designed for swimmers and multi-sport athletes.

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About Jeff Grace

Jeff Grace

Jeff is a 500 hour registered yoga teacher who holds diplomas in Coaching (Douglas College) and High Performance Coaching (National Coaching Institute - Calgary). He has a background of over 20 years in the coaching profession, where he has used a unique and proven teaching methodology to help many achieve their …

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