There is an ongoing debate in the sports world as to whether static stretching helps or hinders athletes. For swimmers in particular, the trend has moved toward active warm-ups versus static stretching. If you do stretch, do so after several minutes of warm-up or after your training. Your coach or sports physician can advise what is best for you.
To help you swimmers do your best in the water, here are five exercises and warm-ups you should add to your regimen:
- Ball on the Wall: First, find a small ball, like a tennis ball or racquetball. Standing straight with feet spread shoulder width apart, extend one arm and hold the ball against the wall. Squeeze your shoulder blades together—you should feel the tension in your shoulder blades throughout the exercise. Now, roll the ball in small, counter-clockwise circles for 15 seconds. Then, without stopping, reverse and roll the ball in clockwise circles for 15 seconds. Perform 3 reps of 2-minute sets for each arm.
- Hitch Hiker: Lie on your stomach with your head in line with your spine and your arms straight out to your sides and your thumbs pointing up toward the ceiling. Now, lift both arms off the floor while pinching your shoulder blades together. Hold this position for a couple of seconds, then return to the start position. Perform 3 reps of 2-minute sets.
- Pushups with a plus: For the exercise, perform a traditional pushup. Once your body returns to the elevated position and your arms are straight, roll your shoulders forward. You will feel, and look, like an angry cat arching its back. Hold this position for a few seconds, then repeat the pushup and arch for 3 reps of 2-minute sets.
- Dead bug: Lie flat on your back. For beginners, place your hands under your tailbone. Tighten your lower abdominal muscles. Keep your back flat on the floor throughout the exercise. Now, lift your legs and perform a tight “flutter kick” for 2 minutes or until you cannot keep your back flat on the floor. As you improve, remove your hands from under your tailbone and perform a tight “flutter kick” movement with your arms and legs simultaneously. You’ll look something like a dying bug on its back.
- Shoulder Phases: Keep your shoulder blades pinched throughout this series.
- Phase I: Start with elbows bent and forearms straight out in front of you. Then, rotate the forearms out, pointing away from the body.
- Phase II: Place your hands on your hips, elbows pointing away from your body. Then, rotate your elbows so the point behind you.
- Phase III: Place your arms straight out in front of you, elbows bent and forearms pointing straight up. Rotate so that you are in a field goal position, arms pointing away from you, forearms still pointing up.
- Phase IV: Place your arms straight out to your sides, elbows bent and forearms pointing straight ahead. Then, rotate up to the field goal position.
- Phase V: Start in a streamline position, arm extended overhead and one hand atop the other. Then, drop your arms, keeping your hands up, like you were dropping your elbows into your back pockets.
How do you warm up for a swim? Are static stretches still a part of your routine? Is there a specific warm-up or stretch you recommend to athletes of all sports?
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