Updated: Feb 5
For day to day life, stretching is important to keep muscles flexible, strong and healthy. Without stretching, our muscles will shorten and as a result, will feel tight.
When it comes to sport, stretching is vital to maintain good range of movement and prevent injuries from happening. As swimming uses pretty much every muscle in your body, you’ve got find time to do lots of stretches within your training routine.
The best time to stretch is when your muscles have been warmed up. Stretching when they haven’t been warmed up can lead to pulled or torn muscles.
Here is 5 upper body stretches that are key for swimmers to do regularly. As a general rule of thumb, hold each of the stretching positions for at least 20-30 seconds before relaxing or changing sides. It's also important to remember to breathe normally as you stretch. If your breathing is shallow or hurried, your muscles won’t be as relaxed as they can be, making your stretches become less beneficial.
Your chest is one of the biggest muscles in your upper body. Stretching your chest or your pecs is a good idea for everyone to do as it can help with your posture as well as your range of movement in and around your shoulder.
For this, you can use a small towel to help you perform it. To do it, grab your towel at either end and put behind you. You then raise your arms up behind you as high as you can go to feel the stretch in your pecs. Not only does this stretch your chest out, but also your anterior deltoids which are the front of your shoulders too.
Try to keep your body upright when doing this to make sure the stretch is effective and doesn’t cause any injuries. And also to avoid injuries, raise your arms up gently behind you rather than doing a jerking sort of motion.
The latissimus dorsi muscles are the largest muscles in your upper body. There are a number of ways to stretch out your lats but as this is swimming focused, this is way to do it.
First get yourself into a SL position, whether it’s standing up or lying on the floor, either way is fine. You then, whilst maintaining the SL position, lean sideways until you can feel the stretch down the side of your body. Doing it this way also stretches your obilques.
To get maximum benefit from this stretch, you must push your chest out and keep your body posture straight. Leaning forward or backwards will lose the effectiveness of the stretch.
This stretch specifically targets your posterior deltoids. This is quite a common stretch that most people would know. It's a stretch that swimmers should be doing after every training session they do, as their shoulders would have been worked hard.
To do it, reach one arm across your body and use your other arm to lock it in place. Then slowly pull your arm toward your chest as much as you can. You should feel the stretch in the back of your shoulder.
Remember when doing this stretch, that you don’t pull your arm towards your chest touching any of your joints such as your wrist or your elbow. This will put pressure on your joints when doing stretch which may lead to injury. Pull with your arm either placed on your forearm or your tricep.
The triceps are muscles that swimmers should also be stretching after every session as they are worked nearly as much as the shoulders are in training sessions. Your triceps are the biggest muscles in your arms and they help with extending your arms to your hips at the back end of your swim stroke.
Place the palm of your hand on the back of your neck with your elbow pointed towards the ceiling. You then use your other hand to gently push your elbow lower to move the palm of your hand from your neck further down your spine.
If you don’t feel this stretch much, you can do it slightly differently with a small towel. Doing it this way stretches the tricep a bit deeper. Hold the towel at each end and place one hand on your neck ,similar the previous way. With the towel dangling behind you, use your other hand to pull down on the towel to feel the stretch in your tricep.
The final stretch in this list for your upper back, specifically your rhomboids. Similar to the chest, rhomboids are important for posture and range of movement. This means that stretching them is key, especially if swimmers want to keep drag to a minimum when swimming. There are few ways that rhomboids can be stretched and this is one of them.
To begin with, stretch your arms out in front of you and interlock your fingers so both your hands are together. You then reach out as far as you can so that you feel your shoulder blades stretching apart from each other.
To feel the stretch even more, gently bend your head forward so your chin is tucked in towards your chest.
Check out the video below!!