Swimming is a highly effective cardiovascular exercise as it works on many muscles at once. This has the potential to cause injury, however, if a swimmer doesn’t adequately stretch the primary muscles involved. Swimming stretches can also help to increase the performance of an athlete by allowing for more flexibility and hence more efficient swimming. Some of the most important muscles which should be included in swimming warm up stretches include the calves, shoulders and upper arms.
To achieve an efficient swimming action, flexible shoulder muscles are essential. For this reason, swimming stretches that focus on the muscles surrounding the neck and shoulder are important. An example of a shoulder swimming stretch is the front shoulder stretch. To perform this stretch the swimmer should stand close to a wall and then place his or her arm at shoulder level. Once in a stable position the elbow should be rotated until a stretch is felt at the front of the shoulder.
Flexible rotator cuff muscles are also important for swimming. These are found on the outside of the shoulder. To stretch them the swimmer should stand a small distance away from a wall and then place the right arm across the body between the torso and the wall. The opposite shoulder should then be moved slowly forward until a stretch is felt. As with all stretches, this should be held for at least 30 seconds and repeated several times.
Aside from the shoulder and neck muscles, the next most important area of the body to focus in with swimming stretches is the legs. Having strong, flexible legs will help a swimmer to propel his or her body forward through the water. To perform a moderately intensive calf stretch the swimmer should stand on the edge of a step with heels hanging over the side. The heels should slowly be lowered until a stretch is felt along the back of the leg. This can also be repeated with bent knees in order to achieve a slightly different stretch.
Swimming stretches should be held for at least 20 seconds and should not cause any pain. If pain is involved during a stretching routine then this is a sign that the stretches are doing more harm than good. It’s important to stretch both before and after a swimming session in order to achieve maximum flexibility gains. This also gives the swimmer the best possible chance of avoiding injury.