The best land-based exercises and stretches for swimming

Updated: Nov 17, 2021

Here you can find the best land-based warmup stretches and exercises prior to jumping in the pool for a swimming session. These exercises can be attempted by the young and old and are quick and easy to attempt. These exercises are used by elite swimmers such as Olympians, open water swimmers and other athletes around the world.
FSC Personal Trainer, Ryan Evernden, working with 2021 Rottnest solo winner, Andy Donaldson

You might think that swinging the arms around on pool deck like those wacky inflatable balloon men at car dealerships is a great way to warm up before a swim. While it gets the blood pumping, there are land-based exercises that are much more beneficial.

There are specific muscle groups you want to contract, stretch and stabilise prior to jumping in the water. It's why the team at Swimclan have collaborated with the best personal trainers in Ryan Evernden and Simon Le Couilliard out of Formidable Strength and Conditioning in Wembley and North Fremantle.

Not only are both Ryan and Simon former champion swimmers themselves, they also have exercise and sport science backgrounds and work with dozens of elite and former swimmers in the gym. This includes Olympians, multiple solo winners of the Rottnest Channel Swim and many others.

We've compiled a list of seven exercises in the videos below all instructed by Ryan from FSC that are fantastic for activating the muscle groups associated with swimming. These can be attempted before or after sessions at your own pace.

Exercise 1: Walk Outs

These are one of the most common exercises used by elite swimmers to stretch out their entire body before hitting the pool. As demonstrated by 2012 Rottnest Channel Swim solo winner, Jarrad Lawford, this exercise activates and stretches out your core muscle groups through the abdominals while also providing a solid stretch out for your hamstrings, latissimus dorsi muscles and spine. Make sure to breathe deeply during this stretch.

Exercise 2: WTYI Holds

As demonstrated below by 2021 Rottnest Channel Swim solo winner, Andy Donaldson, this exercise is brilliant for warming up the muscles in the back and shoulders such as your rhomboid, trapezius and teres muscle groups.

Holding these positions promotes blood flow through your shoulder blades and is one of the best preparations for any swimming sets as these are the dominant muscle groups used during all swim strokes.

Exercise 3: Glute Walkouts

This is one of the most simple, yet effective core body workout exercises before a swim and can be seen demonstrated below by Swimclan Coach and youngest ever Rottnest Channel Swim solo finisher, Luke Smoothy.

By walking the legs out, your oblique, gluteus maximus and hamstring muscles will stabilise and activate. These muscles are heavily responsible in stabilising and activating as you swim to keep you rotating and buoyant moving through the water.

Your arms extend out in front during freestyle and you rotate sideways when catching underwater. During this phase, your glute's will contract and stabilise throughout the underwater catch of each stroke.

This exercise is also great for those who struggle with sit ups or have back issues as it still provides an adequate glute workout without having to lift your back off the ground.

Exercise 4: High Tension Plank

Are you one of those people who hates shaking like a leaf while trying to hold a plank for 30-60 seconds? We feel your pain! That's why the crew at FSC has a 10-second plank hold that produces just as good a core-strength workout as longer, standard planks.

This plank requires squeezing your shoulder blades together with a slight knee bend, then tucking your hips under and attempting to bring your feet and elbows together while they remain planted on the ground.

This provides a much tighter and heightened activation on your abdominal muscles and only requires ten seconds of holding. Say goodbye to 60 seconds of struggle town and swap it for 10 seconds of improved planking instead!

Exercise 5: Spine Twists

This is one of the most common exercises used by elite swimmers before jumping in the water as it is a simple yet effective exercise that provides an adequate upper body stretch while rotating the hips and thoracic spine.

This exercise also stretches out those hard to reach major muscle groups in your back with ease and is brilliant for lengthening out your latissimus dorsi muscles which are heavily used in swimming. We highly recommend deep breathing during this stretch as it promotes a better range of motion.

Exercise 6: Spiderman Twists

Cool name, slightly more intense exercise. This stretch promotes a great range of motion through your hips, with flexion and extension occurring through your gluteus and hip flexor muscle groups that are commonly used in swimming.

The rotation movement also helps entice a better range of motion through the adductor, abductor, obliques and abdominal muscle groups, making this one of the best exercises for core strength while maintaining stabilisation through your shoulder and foot.

To gradually increase your full range of motion doing this exercise, try to breathe in and out deeply. This will help open your chest out more and help relax you into a better rotation through the hips and shoulders.

Exercise 7: Dead Bugs

This exercise also uses very similar muscle groups to those used in the pool and is great for working on the coordination of aligning your stroke mechanics while receiving a solid core muscle workout.

By moving the opposite arms and legs simultaneously, this promotes pelvic floor and diaphragm alignment to allow trunk stability while your limbs move. This is critical when looking to develop power and decrease resistance in the water.

Try to maintain a deep and steady breathing rate as holding your breath will increase the difficulty of attempting this exercise.

Many of the best swimmers in Western Australia work with both Ryan and Simon outside of the pool for the best injury rehabilitation workouts along with strength and conditioning exercises. Feel free to check out their Wembley or North Fremantle session availabilities by visiting and they'll be happy to help you overcome injuries or improve your overall fitness and strength for swim sessions!

#jointheclan #beformidable

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