How Tos,  Training and Technique

Six post-swim stretches

Why, when and what should you stretch? In our busy lives it’s easy to forget to stretch and it is often overlooked as the results are not immediately visible. However, when muscles get tighter they can pull areas of the body away from their intended position causing poor posture and unnecessary tension. For example many of us have tight chest muscles which pull the shoulders and head forward creating a hunched shoulder posture. Stretching can therefore assist correct posture.

Secondly, flexibility is important for increased performance and to decrease the chance of injury. When you improve your flexibility you improve your joints’ range of movement. Greater mobility in the joints allows for better movement and a better swimming technique and stretching can help improve flexibility.

Finally, stretching can help you become more aware of yourself as it’s a mechanism that makes you listen more closely to your body. Stretching increases your blood flow sending more oxygen to your brain for a clearer mind and happier mood. It helps us feel good.Static stretching is ideal after your swim and when you are not about to recruit your muscles for exercise as stretching will temporarily  decrease the muscles’ ability to generate force. After your swim your muscles have worked hard and are warm and ready to be stretched. Instead of trying to stretch your entire body every time you swim, stretch the muscles you have worked. If you are aware of areas that feel tight then focus on them. I am going to focus on the trunk of the body and on the following three areas:  pectorals (pecs/chest muscles); trapezius (traps/broad, flat muscle on each side of the upper neck , shoulders and back); and latissimus dorsi (lats/large back core muscles).I do however highly recommend a full flexibility session at least once a week to improve your overall flexibility for balance throughout the body. 

All you need is a flannel and to hold each stretch for 20 seconds.

Upper traps

With your hands and arms relaxed, pull your shoulders down and back and encourage your right ear to your right shoulder making sure that you do not lift the left shoulder up whilst doing so. Then tilt the chin down and relax into this stretch. Repeat on the other side.

Shoulder mobility

Mobilise the shoulders and back by creating a big circular movement. 

Do this six times each way.

Mid traps

Hold the flannel in front of you, lowering the head, rounding the shoulders and then pull gently at the flannel.

Pecs

Hold the flannel behind you and feel yourself rotating the shoulders out and lifting the chest up. Use your breath to increase this stretch by breathing into the chest.

Lats part 1

Hold the flannel overhead and pull yourself to one side trying to keep the weight even into the feet and your shoulders away from the ears. To intensify the stretch cross your leg over so you can push your hip further sideways.

Lats part 2

Again holding the flannel overhead, allow the top of the body to tilt slightly forward and then pull gently on the flannel.