Warm-Up for Your Swim Workout

warm-up

Before you "hit it hard" in a swim workout, you want to be sure you have warmed up. Just like there are a countless variety of ways to do and types of swimming workouts, there are a countless variety of ways to do and types of swimming warm-ups.

Most swim warm-ups probably include some swimming, possibly some stretching, kicking, technique drills, and pulling, and then more swimming. As I get older (and possibly lazier) I find myself doing less stretching as an isolated part of a warm-up, but I still think it is a good idea.

Like I said above, there are many, many ways to do a workout and a warm-up. What you do in the warm-up might be based on the workout. For example, if you are going to swim butterfly during some part of the workout, it might be a great idea to do some butterfly drills during the warm-up for that workout.

You might do a shorter warm-up if you are squeezed for time, or if the main part of the workout is a lot longer than your usual workout. Maybe you don't want to increase your total time or distance swimming too much, so you shrink the size of the warm-up a little bit.

I am going swim you through two example warm-ups for a freestyle workout. The first warm-up has multiple parts: swim, stretch, swim, drill, kick, pull, swim, drill, swim. There won't be any other strokes in the example, but you could do any or all strokes at any point in the warm-up. The second warm-up is shorter with less parts.

Sample Swim Warm-up #1

  1. Swim for 5-10 minutes at and easy effort.
  2. Climb out of the pool and do 5-minutes of dynamic stretching. Do stretches like arm swings and leg swings, jumping jacks, etc.
  3. Back into the pool and swim another 5-minutes.
  4. Do 6-10 lengths of stroke technique drills, with 10-20 seconds rest in between each.
  1. Grab a kickboard, or go without one, and kick for 5-10 minutes. You could do a non-stop kick, or you could do short repeats with rest between each.
  2. Get rid of the kickboard and grab a pull-buoy (or go without and aim to limit your kicking) and pull (swim without using your legs) for 5-10 minutes. You could do a non-stop kick, or you could do short repeats with rest between each.
  3. Swim for 5-10 minutes, alternate lengths at an easy and a moderate effort.
  4. Swim 4, one-length efforts at your best possible speed. Take 45-60 seconds rest between each swim.
  5. Do more technique practice, 6-10 lengths of drills, with 10-20 seconds rest in between each.
  6. Swim for a minute or two, then get to the workout. For some swimmers, the warm-up may be the workout - nothing wrong with that!

Sample Swim Warm-up #2

  1. Swim for 5-10 minutes at and easy effort. Include a length of technique drills every 2nd, 3rd or 4th length.
  2. Swim for 5-minutes, start with an easy effort and build that effort from easy to moderate by the end of the swim.
  3. Swim 4, one-length efforts at your best possible speed. Take 45-60 seconds rest between each swim.
  4. Swim for 5-minutes at an easy effort, then move into the main part of the workout.

Sample Swim Warm-up #3 (warm-up and get it going)

  1. Swim for about 5 minutes at and easy effort. Include a length of technique drills every 2nd, 3rd or 4th length.
  1. Swim for about 5-minutes, start with an easy effort and build that effort from easy to moderate by the end of the swim.
  2. Swim 2 to 4 x one-length efforts at your best possible speed. Take 45-60 seconds rest between each swim.
  3. Move into the main part of the workout.

The important thing to remember with any warm-up is that you are preparing your body for the work to come. You want to loosen up your muscles and joints, get the blood flowing, get used to the water, and get your heart rate elevated (and then get it back down again). Try the above ideas at one of your next workouts, or use them to help you design your own warm-up.

Swim on!

Updated by Dr. John Mullen, DPT, CSCS on January 28th, 2016.