While many people understand how to stretch, they may not understand that stretches can be specifically tailored to meet the needs of different types of athletes. Runners, dancers, swimmers, weight lifters and gymnasts all use different types of stretches to meet their maximum performance levels. Here are some simple stretches that can be of immense benefit to swimmers.
Stretch the Arms
Swimmers primarily use their upper bodies to propel themselves through the water, especially when doing strokes like the breast stroke, butterfly or front crawl. Arm stretches help keep the muscles of the upper body supple and long, and can improve upper body strength by allowing a greater range of movement and reducing muscle soreness.
You can stretch your arms and shoulders easily by following these steps:
- Raise your right arm and bend the elbow so that your right fingertips point down your spine.
- With the left arm, reach behind your back and grasp your right fingers with your left hand. Lock your hands together so that your right and left elbows point straight up and down.
- If you're not flexible enough to clasp your hands behind your back in this manner, that's okay. You can achieve the same effect by clasping a belt, tie, dishtowel or other length of fabric in your right hand. Reach behind with your left hand and hold onto the fabric instead of onto your fingers. In this way you can add as many inches of length to your right arm as you need.
- Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat it on the other side.
This stretch works on the biceps, triceps and muscles of the shoulders and chest, all of which are important for swimmers.
Stretch the Chest
The muscles of the chest are also important to swimmers. You can stretch these muscles in several different ways. Try this easy and relaxing stretch:
- Stand upright with your feet no further apart than your hips.
- Clasp your hands behind your back.
- Lean forward, allowing your head to dangle; if it's difficult to keep your legs straight while bending forward, then bend your knees and let your chest rest on your thighs.
- Keep your hands clasped and allow your arms to fall forward towards the floor. Ideally they should extend straight out from your shoulders.
This stretch works on the muscles of the chest and shoulders. It also allows the neck to relax and has a calming effect on the nervous system.
Stretch the Upper Back
Swimmers rely on core strength to help propel them through the water, but swimming can tighten your core muscles, especially the muscles of your upper back. Stretch your upper back like this:
- Stand upright or sit upright in a chair.
- Extend your arms; tuck your left bicep into your right elbow and bend your right arm.
- Pull the left arm toward your chest, then pull it gently away from the left shoulder until you feel a stretch in the left shoulder blade.
- Hold this stretch for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.