Better Posture, Better Balance
Tone up to stand up straight and tall
Swimmers are seldom models of perfect posture. Countless hours spent swimming back and forth encourages slumped shoulders. In addition, swimmers are often believed to be clumsier than land-based athletes. But even for these seemingly systemic problems, there is a simple solution: Strength training.
Posture and balance are indicators of muscle efficiency and strength. If either your balance or posture is poor, it can be improved by increasing your strength. This simple solution may seem curious to some—for good reason—swimmers are strong athletes. However, weakness can occur in specific areas and movement patterns that swimming never uses.
Fix Your Posture
For postural issues, most swimmers need back and shoulder strengthening. Specifically, the muscles that line the spine from the hips to the neck need to be strengthened to help hold your torso in its preferable, straight and tall posture. Sitting for long periods of time and other societal factors can also hinder these muscles from developing appropriately.
Swimmers also need to maintain strong shoulders to avoid overuse injuries. Specifically, strengthening the back of the shoulders to help bring the head of the humerus into a more neutral position, instead of tipping forward, helps greatly to reduce injuries in the shoulder.
To accomplish better posture and improved shoulder strength, simply execute more pulling exercises (rows) than pushing exercises (push-ups). I virtually eliminate any type of pushing exercises for many of the swimmers I work with and give them a heavy dose of pulling exercises instead. Nearly 100 percent of the time, their shoulder complaints disappear.
Fix Your Balance
Several factors can play into poor balance, but it usually stems from weakness in the core, hips, and legs. We swim in a near-weightless environment, which is different from the one land-based athletes are operating in. As a nonweight-bearing activity, swimming doesn’t employ the same muscles and movements required to maintain good balance on land.
But improved balance will help your swimming and your land-based activities, especially if you tend to trip or fall frequently. Improved balance will also impact your starts and turns—critical to swimming fast—positively, because the muscles that work in those movements are the same as the ones needed for good balance.