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10 Stretches for Swimmers to Warm Up Your Muscles

Swimming may be a low-impact activity, but that does not negate the need for stretching to warm up your muscles. When swimming, the entire body is engaged in fluid movements, making the need for targeted stretches to provide the ideal preparation and recovery. 

In this article, we will explore ten effective stretches designed specifically for swimmers, helping to activate and loosen key muscle groups while priming the body for an efficient and enjoyable swim.

Common Swimming Injuries

There’s no way around the obvious fact that injuries suck. Even worse, neglecting injuries can lead to chronic pain and longer recovery times, significantly affecting your ability to swim. In particular, these common swimming injuries can be painful. 

  1. Shoulder impingement: When the tendons in the shoulder become compressed, it can lead to pain and limited mobility. This can greatly affect a swimmer's performance, as the shoulder is integral for executing strokes and maintaining proper form.
  2. Knee Tendonitis: Pain and inflammation at the patellar tendon can result from the repetitive kicking motion in swimming. Any kind of knee pain can hinder a swimmer's ability to perform at their best.
  3. Lower back pain: Core muscle dysfunction and overuse can contribute to lower back pain. This discomfort can affect a swimmer's ability to generate power and execute clean strokes, which impacts speed and efficiency in the water.

How to Prevent Swimming Injuries

Incorporating proper warm-up routines, regular stretching exercises, and cross-training activities that strengthen supporting muscle groups can help prevent common swimming injuries. In order to perform your best and maintain the enjoyment you find in swimming, you should be doing everything in your ability to follow these steps to prevent swimming injuries.

  1. Foam Rolling - Using a Yoga Strong Roller can loosen tight muscles and break up adhesions that affect muscle and joint health. When your muscles can move freely, swimming strokes can be performed with much more ease.
  2. Stretching - Increasing the range of motion in your muscles allows you to maintain proper technique and form while swimming while inhibiting any muscular compensations from arising. 
  3. Rest & Recovery - The repetitive nature of swimming, coupled with the intensity required to perform strong swimming strokes can take its toll on your body. Incorporating rest days is important, as well as increasing swimming intensity and volume only by 10-20% per week, in order to avoid overuse injuries and muscle compensations. 
  4. Strength Training - Muscles and joints need to build resiliency and durability for swimming. If you want to swim fast and efficiently, your arms, core, and legs all need to generate an immense amount of power, necessitating a strength training routine that may include weights, resistance training, and cardiovascular activity. 

The Best Stretches for Swimming

1. Hamstring Streamline Stretch

Mobilizing the hamstrings is important to generate power from your legs when swimming. When kicking, during a forward or backstroke,  the hamstrings produce a lot of force, warranting the need to maintain loose hamstrings for optimal performance. 

Here are the steps:

  1. Start on the ground in a seated position. Extend your right leg out straight and bend and open your left leg and place the sole of your foot to the inside of your right thigh. 
  2. Then, raise both arms straight overhead.
  3. After that, hinge from your hips and reach for your foot/ankle/shin to stretch the hamstrings. 
  4. Repeat 6-8x and make sure you’re pushing your hips back with each reach.

2. Cat Cow Pose

Cat-Cow Stretch is a common yoga warmup pose that combines two movements, flexion and extension of the spine. When you lubricate your spine through flexion and extension, you can gain a range of motion for your core muscles to move better for swimming. The length created in your spine will do wonders for your stride length. 

Here are the steps :

  1. Start by coming onto all fours on your Yoga Strong Mat with hands placed underneath the shoulders and knees underneath the hips. 
  2. Next on an inhale, drop your belly towards the ground and arch your spine lifting your chin off your chest for a cow pose. 
  3. Then, on an exhale, push into your hands to round your back, spreading your shoulder blades wide and tucking your chin to your chest. 
  4. Repeat 5-10 breaths.

3. Child's Pose

Child’s pose is considered a resting posture, but it still has benefits towards muscle repair and improving mobility in the shoulders, spine, and hips. After swimming, Child’s Pose can be beneficial for downregulating the nervous system and releasing muscle tension, thereby allowing your body to relax and recover faster. 

Here are the steps:

  1. From all fours on your Yoga Strong Mat, bring your knees slightly wider than your hips, nearly mat distance apart. 
  2. Keeping big toes to touch, push your bum towards your feet. 
  3. Keeping your hips back, begin to lower your chest, head, and shoulders to the mat. 
  4. Then, forehead releases to the mat, and arms stretched long forward. 
  5. Let elbows soften and hold 5 breaths. 

4. Goal Post Squeeze

The power generated from your shoulders for swimming can often cause tightness that requires specificity when stretching. The Goal Post Squeeze’s purpose is to keep the shoulder muscles pulled back, so that you can achieve full range of motion in your lats in forward or backstrokes. This will also assist with good postural motion, adding to the benefits of this stretch.

Here are the steps:

  1. Raise both arms in front of your face with your elbows bent at a 90-degree angle
  2. Then, while keeping your elbows bent, start to move your arms away from each other, making sure to squeeze your shoulder blades as you pull the arms back.
  3. Once the arms are parallel to your shoulders, return back to the starting position and repeat 6-8x 

5. Goal Post Rotation

Since your shoulders is a ball-and-socket joint, having excellent rotational capacity is important for the health of the shoulder. To swim effectively, the shoulder needs to move efficiently through both internal and external rotation, which is what the Goal Post Rotation aims to address. The improved range of motion with this stretch will certainly pay dividends in your next swimming session. 

Here are the steps:

  1. While standing, start by raising your arms at your side with your elbows bent at 90 degrees. Your palms should be facing down towards the ground.
  2. Then, rotate your shoulder externally by raising your arms up to the goal post position without your elbows changing position. 
  3. Now, to rotate your shoulder internally, return back to the starting position. Make sure your muscles are engaged through all ranges of motion. 
  4. Repeat 8-10x 

6. Wall Press - Chest Stretch

The chest muscles also take a primary role when swimming. Maintaining mobility in these pectoral muscles is crucial for achieving efficient mechanics and a powerful swim stroke. This stretch allows swimmers to maintain proper swimming posture, ultimately aiding their breath capacity, thereby enhancing their technique and reducing the risk of shoulder injuries.

Here are the steps:

  1. Start facing a wall with your arm in full extension so your palm is firmly placed against the wall. Your thumb should be pointing up. 
  2. To stretch the chest, begin to rotate your sternum and torso away from the wall. As you rotate away, you should feel a stretch in your pectoral muscles. 
  3. Once you feel a good stretch, hold for 10 seconds. Make sure your hand maintains good contact with the wall for the duration of the stretch. 
  4. Repeat on both sides

7. Lying Twist

Supine twist can reduce tightness in your spine in rotation. When swimming, your spine naturally moves in rotation. As a result, you need freedom of movement in rotation to swim effectively and maximize your swim ability. This stretch is great because it emphasizes mobility in the rotational position that some stretches like the Cat-Cow stretch do not. 

Here are the steps:

  • Lay on your back on your Yoga Strong Mat and hug your right knee into your chest. Let your right arm extend wide out to the right. 
  • Using your left hand, guide the right leg up and across the body to the left.
  • Now, let your knee fall to the left. The bottom leg stays straight. Release your left arm to the left and if comfortable, bring your gaze to the right. 
  • Hold for 5 breaths. Repeat on the other side 

8. Cobra Pose

Dynamic back stretches that help extend the thoracic spine are helpful in promoting flexibility for swimming. This yoga for core stretch not only loosens up the thoracic spine, but also loosens up your abdominals, obliques, and intercostal muscles that help lengthen the body to create a more streamlined position in the water, reducing drag and increasing speed.

Here are the steps:

  1. Lay prone (facing down) on your stomach on your Yoga Strong Mat 
  2. Next, place your forearms on the mat so your elbows are directly underneath your shoulders. Lay hands face down on the mat.
  3. After that, lift your chest and head up and pull your chest and chin forward and upwards while maintaining forearm contact with the ground. 
  4. Return to neutral position and then repeat 6-8x

9. Hip Flexor Stretch

Your anterior front-side hip muscles (including your hip flexor) can be consistently tight. Hip flexors have a responsibility to help stabilize the pelvis, which can impact your knee up to your abdominals and spine. The hip flexor stretch can help alleviate any restrictions that may prevent you from maximizing your kicking power or rotating your torso position with each stroke. 

Here are the steps:

  1. Start in a half kneel position, with your right leg upright and your left leg down.
  2. Then, squeeze your left glute and lunge forward driving the left hip forward and right knee forward.
  3. Return to the starting position and repeat 8-10x each side.

10. Figure Four Stretch

Figure Four Stretch hits your outside hip muscles, such as your piriformis and glute med and max. The hip mobility this stretch provides is beneficial for your knee and lower back health. The positioning of this stretch places your hip in external rotation, allowing your hip capsule to open up and prevent imbalances that cause pain. 

Here are the steps:

  1. Start lying on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor
  2. Now, cross your left ankle over your right knee, so your left shin is perpendicular to your right thigh. Keep your right foot flexed.
  3. Then, lift your right foot off the ground and interlace your hands under your right thigh, bringing your right knee towards your chest. 
  4. To get a deeper stretch, use your hands to pull the knee closer.


If you’re a swimmer, these 10 stretches to improve flexibility and enhance performance in the water should be a vital part of your routine.. From the chest-opening doorway stretch to the hip flexor stretch, each stretch targets key muscle groups involved in swimming movements. 

Remember, stretching not only increases muscle flexibility for injury prevention but also improves circulation for long-term durability and health. Nevertheless, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new exercise or stretching program, especially if you have pre-existing injuries. So, take a proactive approach to your swimming training by prioritizing these stretches, and stay on the path to success in the water.