Article image

by Bo Hickey

June 25, 2020

Use these exercises to make a safe return to the pool

It’s an exciting time with pools starting to reopen across the country. You’re probably bursting with excitement to make your return. As you do, carve out adequate time to properly warm up before entering the water to keep aches and pains away. Even once you’re back up to full steam, a warm-up prepares your body and mind for the upcoming training and will help you minimize ineffective strokes that can be present at the start of a swim workout.


For freestyle, there are a few key areas of focus: Shoulder health, knee stability, and core engagement all need to be addressed before taking your first strokes of the day. By taking 10 minutes to complete this segment, you’ll be more in tune with what you’re trying to accomplish in the water. This makes learning new technique a lot easier as your body is activating properly.

Shoulders—The prone floor angels will help you awaken the small musculature of your shoulders and prepare that musculature to handle the repeat load they carry during swimming. This is a valuable exercise to make sure a single part of your shoulder isn’t overstressed during your swim workout.

Knee Stability—Often during a freestyle kick, reduced hamstring length and strength can negatively affect your knees. Then knee pain can creep into the picture and make kicking a challenge. The hinge matrix targets different ranges of hamstring use and will prepare your kick.

Core Engagement—If you’re coming straight from the desk at work or a longer commute to the pool, it’s a good idea to complete some extensions before pressing off of the wall for the first time of the day. Squat swings take you through a controlled extension and prepare you for your walls and overhead reach.

Complete three rounds of the following exercises. Take minimal rest between exercises and rounds.

Freestyle Strength

The next area to focus on is strength building so you can maintain body position in the water for longer. Take your time with these movements, and make it a goal to minimize any time spent out of position. By taking time to strengthen these movement patterns, you’re in a better position to excel throughout your training versus experiencing a heavy drop-off from the start to the end of your workout.

This combination of movements will target everything from pulling strength to body position in the water. Take a minute to watch a swimmer completing freestyle strokes and then compare that to someone walking on deck. You’ll start to see a lot of similarities between freestyle and walking. One similarity is the unilateral focus of the movement. This means you rely on one side of the body for specific phases of the movement. As you complete these unilateral motions, focus on minimizing any side-to-side movement of the joint you’re using. By doing so, you’ll help increase your stability in and out of the water.

Complete four rounds of the following exercises. Take minimal rest between exercises and two minutes of rest between rounds.

Freestyle Power

Spend a few weeks building your strength and then add in this segment. Strength is a foundation for power, so we want to build a strong foundation first. These exercises are a great tool for priming your body for racing and maximizing your top-end speed. Start slowly with these movements and gain an understanding for how they’ll feel. Then speed it up to a near maximal effort. Remember, speed without form is not the best use of your time. We want to hardwire good habits in training.

Complete three rounds of the following exercises. Take one minute of rest between exercises and rounds.


  • Technique and Training


  • Drylands
  • Freestyle