Warm-up exercises for swimmers are often skipped and their importance glossed over.
Good warm-up exercises are proven to be fundamental to the swimming experience.
So, while it is tempting to just jump right in the inviting pool water, warming up before taking the plunge can improve performance and enjoyment and diminish risk of injury or even fatigue.
Studies and experts conclude that the best warm-ups for swimmers are known as dynamic ones.
A dynamic warm up is 5-10 minutes of gentle cardio exercises, incorporating dynamic stretches (requiring the body to move as it stretches). The best warm up exercises for swimmers increase the blood flow to the muscles and raise the body temperature.
Side Note: Static stretches (holding a stretch for 10 or more seconds while motionless) should not be incorporated into a swimmer’s warm up routine.
Some believe that warm-ups are simply precautions against injury, but this just isn’t accurate. A good warm up routine will provide many benefits that extend beyond safety.
What do dynamic warm-ups do?
- Prepare for additional workload.
Warming up delivers oxygen and nutrients to muscles. It increases blood flow to working muscles, which prevents getting out of breath too early.
- Allows a longer, harder workout.
Warming up avoids a rapid change in blood pressure and increases blood temperature. It prepares the heart gradually for increased activity.
- Loosens up joints.
Warming up reduces the chance of injuries by allowing muscles and joints to move through a greater range of motion easily.
- Improves coordination and reaction times.
Warming up primes nerve-to-muscle pathways to be ready for swimming, thereby improving performance.
What is the proper warm-up before swimming?
The amount of warm-up time depends on the intensity of the swim session. For example, a warm-up should be longer if swim sprints are planned. Keep in mind that the best warm-up exercises for swimmers should be done outside of slippery areas (i.e. anywhere near the swimming pool) and should be done wearing proper athletic shoes.
Above all, swimmers should listen to their bodies. Some may perform optimally with 10-15 minutes of warm-up time while others have similar results with 5 minutes of warm-up.
Great warm-up exercises include:
Start standing with legs together and arms on sides. Jump up and raise arms up high, separating feet. Jump again and return legs and arms into the original position. Keep this up for about 1 minute.
Kick legs up to butt while jogging a lap around the area. Keep this up for about 2 minutes.
Grab a rope and jump rope for 2 minutes. Focus on an even pace and small jumps, not large jumps.
Raise arms to shoulder length. Move hands in circles for about 2 minutes.
Kick knees up towards torso while jogging for about 2 minutes.
Lunges are a great way to incorporate dynamic stretching into a swimmer’s routine. Start standing up straight. Take a step forward with one leg and lower the hips until both legs are at 90 degree angles. Make sure the knee in front is directly above the ankle, and the knee at the back isn’t touching the ground. Take the knee at the back forward and return to neutral standing position. Repeat 10 times each leg.