• Ian Thornley

Awesome 7 step land based warm up so you can make the most of your swim time.

With pools now open and the weather improving making outdoor swims more palatable it's time to get back in the water!


Swimming is amazing exercise for the whole body and can be great for cardiovascular fitness and also mental health. Obviously - stay within the limits of your capability and experience - especially if venturing to the open water for the first time in a while.


As amazing as swimming is as an activity I do unfortunately see people with aches and pains they have developed while they swim.


I hear comments such as 'I thought swimming was going to be great because it's non weight bearing, but my back hurts' or 'I love swimming because it really helps my low back, but my shoulders are always sore'


Well here's the thing - swimming is great, but just like any other activity if you do not prepare for it you might come a cropper.


A great land based warm up is a brilliant way to get the joints and muscles limbered up and it won't even impact on your precious pool time!


Building a routine warm up into your swim session will help to improve your mobility once you are in the water - leaving you less prone to injury.


So here is my 7 step warm up for a comfortable swim


1) Ankle rotations



The ankles are often forgotten so I have put them in first - good range of movement and flexibility are important - think about the flexion and extension needed for propulsion in front crawl or back stroke, or the rotation needed in breaststroke.



Getting the ankles moving in all directions and easing out any stiffness before you start will help your leg kick, whatever your stroke.


6 rotations in each direction with each ankle plus 6 x point toes on each foot


2) Forward Flex



A mobile back helps all the strokes and using a forward flex will allow the long back muscles to stretch. Spend a couple of minutes going into a toe touch position, relax and breathe.

This will have the added benefit of giving your hamstrings a little stretch as well - and who hasn't got a bit of hamstring tightness!


Roll slowly down from the neck to the low back and back again x 6. Can you touch your toes?


3) Lunge and stretch



A great little exercise to get your back moving side to side and also wake your quads up and is important particularly for backstroke and front crawl swimmers, but everyone will benefit.


Lunge onto your left leg and at the same time reach upwards with your left arm. The result will be a lovely stretch down your left side. Do the same on the right and repeat 5 or 6 times until you feel looser and more mobile.


6 lunges on each side


4) Standing back bend



This one is exactly what it says on the tin!


Stand with feet shoulder width apart, extend both arms up as far as you can then bend backwards by pushing your rib cage forwards. A great move to stretch out the whole front of the body and can really help with breaststroke (and butterfly if you are feeling brave!)


6 times - focus on pressing your rib cage forward and upwards rather than just bending the low back


5) Standing T's



We are starting to get the shoulders and upper back mobile here.


Again standing with feet slightly apart bring your arms horizontal in front of you then take them out to the sides, feeling your chest open and your

shoulder blades squeeze together at the back.


Repeat the movement for 30 seconds or so until the movement is comfortable and free


6) Windmills



Of all the swimming warm ups most people will do a couple of windmills with their arms before jumping in.



Spending a bit more time on this one will loosen up the shoulders, the shoulder blades and the upper back.


Aim to spend a little time doing both arms together, both forwards and backwards, and each arm forwards and backwards on its own, twisting through the back to get maximum rotation.


15 seconds forwards and backwards with each arm then 15 seconds forwards and backwards with both arms together


7) Standing rotations



Back mobility is really important in swimming and lack of it can be a factor in things like shoulder pain. If the back isn't doing it's share of the movement the strain on the shoulder can be increased - leading to pain and loss of swim time!



For this exercise stand with your left foot slightly ahead of the right with both arms directly in front of you at shoulder level. Then keeping the right arm still, bring your left arm out to the side so you open your body and get a great rotation through the spine. Switch your feet round and take your right arm round for the other side


Repeat 5 or 6 times until feeling looser then repeat on the other side.



If you've not been great at warming up for a swim in the past why not give these a go. a few minutes spent before you swim will allow you to swim more fluidly from the outset and might even prevent you picking up that niggle that keeps you out if the water, which is the last thing us swimmers need after so long being landlocked!


Want to see what it looks like in practice? See the video here


Ian was a county level junior swimmer and in adult life has moved from the pool to the open water, regularly enjoying lake and sea swims including English Channel relays.


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