Stretching exercises for a better swim – by Kate Halsall

What’s the best way to stretch if you’re swimming? Kate Halsall, a personal trainer who’s taking on Swim22, shares her tips.

Swimming hats and googles are GO! No more practice swims, from now on every length counts. If you’re going to smash these 22 miles for Swim22, you need to start to look after yourself and prevent injury. In my opinion, one of the best ways to do this is to stretch. Regardless of which stroke you do or how many lengths you do, it’s never too late (or early) to start stretching.

I’m a BIG fan of a good long stretch (it’s one of the many reasons I do yoga). Of course the benefits of stretching will vary based on who you speak to. Personally, I’m not a fan of stretching prior to exercising, I believe you need to be mobilised and warm before trying to stretch anything. I am however, a believer that stretching helps with flexibility, and some people believe it could help improve your performance….it’s a win win!

My advice would be to do some arm swings across the body and arm circles alongside the body before getting into the pool. This mobilises the shoulders and chest without looking too strange whilst doing it. Then it’s up to you whether you stretch during AND after your swim or just at the end of your swim. The key is, you can use the pool to assist with your stretches as let’s face it, if you get out and do them you’ll just get cold!


Neck – nice and slowly turn your head to look over your left shoulder, hold for 5-10 seconds, and then look over your right shoulder. Then take your chin down to your chest, hold, then slowly look up at the roof. I find myself doing this after my first 20 lengths and again at the end of my swim.

Shoulders  do a couple of slow and exaggerated shoulder rolls both forwards and backwards. Then, take a big deep breath in and bring the shoulders up to your ears. Quickly breathe out and drop the shoulders down – it feels AMAZING!

Chest & Front Shoulders – stand with your back facing (not against) the poolside. Bring your arms up behind you and place your hands flat on the poolside. You should feel a stretch across your chest and the front of your shoulders. You may need to take a step away from the poolside to increase the stretch. Hold for 15-20 seconds.

Upper Back – There are two great stretches you can do for your upper back. Firstly stand facing the poolside. Keep your arms straight and put your hands flat on the poolside. Step back and bend at your waist until your head is level with your arms, push down into your arms and hold. Secondly, still with your hands on the pull side, tuck your knees up to your chest (you can put your feet on the poolside), tuck your head down towards your knees and hold.

Legs – Here are 4 great stretches for the main muscles in your legs.

  1. Calves
    Stand facing forward with one leg slightly bent close to the poolside. Step the other leg back and straighten it, keeping the heels on both feet down. Hold for 15-20 seconds and change legs.
  2. Hamstrings
    I do this by simply standing on one leg and straightening the other as high up the poolside as possible with my foot against the poolside. I hold for around 20 seconds and then do the same on the other leg.
  3. Hip Flexors & Lower Back
    Stand with your bum against the poolside for support. Keep one leg straight and bring the other knee up to your chest and pull it towards your with both hands (keeping your back straight). Again, hold the stretch and the repeat on the other side.
  4. Front Thighs
    Standing on one leg (you can use the poolside for support), lift the heel of the other leg to your backside and hold it with your hand. Repeat on the other leg.

Read Kate’s blog – My six tips for starting Swim22

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