Swimming: How to Warm Up Properly

Swimming: How to Warm Up Properly

Why is it so important to warm up? When you begin your session with a 15-minute warm-up, you’re preparing your body for the exercise to come. With warmer muscles, you’ll improve your performance and, most importantly, reduce the risk of injury. Finally, you’ll also speed up your recovery after the session. Plus, your attention will be focused by warm-up exercises and you’ll find your concentration increases during the session that follows. Concentration is essential in swimming, and is key to ensuring you can synchronize your breathing with your movements. With just 15 minutes spent warming up, your focus will be refined and your muscles response will be improved. With higher concentration, your technique is sure to be enhanced. Basically, once warmed up, you’ll be a better, more efficient swimmer!

Easy to apply and validated by our advanced swimming coach, Stéphane Avennec, here are nine NABAIJI points to make sure that your session runs smoothly.

First things first: warm-up on land (10 minutes)

"Start up the motor so that the machine warms up nice and gently!" This is the overall aim of the warm-up. It starts before you even dip a toe into the pool, with a 10-minute dry warm-up on land. During this warm-up, you’ll use a rotating movement for the five body parts most engaged when you swim:

1. Ankles
Whether you’re kicking your feet in front crawl or you’re using a scissoring movement in breaststroke, ankles play an important role in swimming. So, let’s start by warming up the right ankle. With your right leg lifted in the air, circle your ankle ten times. Put your leg down, raise your other leg and circle your left ankle ten times.

2. Knees
Once your ankles are warmed up, place both of your hands on your knees. Circle five times, using a rotating movement, as if you’re bringing your knees inwards. Then, repeat this rotating movement another five times, but in the opposite direction, outwards.

3. Pelvis
Place your hands on your hips and pretend you’re hula-hooping! Circle your hips five times in one direction, then five times in the other direction.
Next, with your hands at lung level and elbows in the air, using a pendulum movement, turn from left to right, then right to left. Repeat ten times.

4. Shoulders
Draw circles with your arms, just like you would for front crawl. Start with the right shoulder, doing a set of ten rotations forwards and ten rotations backwards. Then do the same thing with your right shoulder.

5. Neck
Now, circle your head, five turns to the right and then five turns to the left. A little like when you turn your head to take a breath in front crawl, next you should turn your head from right to left. ten times in total. Bear in mind that these movements should be very gentle. You don’t want to over-stress the muscle chain. You’re waking up your body, little by little.

6. General muscle strengthening
Next, you can do a little muscle strengthening. Five lunges, five squats, core and back strength movements, and core-building moves for both sides for 15 seconds. Core building is useful for all sports as well as in everyday life, not just for swimming. It’ll help you improve your posture in general, even when you’re spending a lot of time in front of a computer. In regard to swimming, it’s interesting because it allows you to improve tone, and helps ensure that your body is well supported in the water!


Next, let’s get warmed up in the water (5 minutes)

"No two sessions are the same or are in line with your mental condition, how your day has been, stress levels, etc. Warming up in the water should be a gentle process. You’ll need to deliberately reduce your speed and be using your reserves to create a lack, and the a need to accelerate."

1. from 400 meters to 800 meters of gentle swimming in the stroke of your choice

Start with a 400-meter swim in the stroke of your choice, whether it’s front crawl, breaststroke, backstroke, or even butterfly if you’ve mastered it. “Warm up gradually, it’s a case of quality of quantity”. Make your choice based on what you enjoy. Listen closely to your body. Increasing effort intensity little by little. Add on another 400 meters, or gradually increase the swim speed. 8 x 50 meter freestyle swimming with 15-20 seconds of rest between each lap, for example.

2. Concentrate on your breathing

Use this time to concentrate on your breathing. Find the best frequency to time your breaths and breathe “as if on land”. Breathing is essential for your swimming technique.

Stéphane’s tips for boosting your respiratory volume:
Start by exhaling as much as you can. The more you exhale, the more you’ll fill your lungs with your next inhalation - it’s an automatic reflex.”

It’s no coincidence that hyperventilation is practiced in yoga and meditation. When you maximize ventilation, you’re relaxed. The more you breathe, the longer and more efficient your movements will become, and you’ll glide more through the water.

Another interesting fact: “You float best at the moment when your lungs are filled with air.“

3. Work your arms and legs a little

After three gentle swims, you can warm up using equipment to isolate a particular muscle group. Start with a pull buoy between your legs so you can focus on your arms, then hold a board to work your legs.

To cap this off, if there are two words to take back from this, in regard to warm-ups and the effort you exert in them, they are "gently" and "progressively".

It’s like whetting your appetite to make sure you’re psychologically ready for the session ahead, and to make sure you’re set to take it on. Ease into it and gradually increase the intensity of the warm-up, until your mindset aligns with the increase in power in your body, and soon you’ll be saying: Bring it on!

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