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by Lisa Hiller

October 31, 2011

Opening the hip flexors may help you float

If you’ve tried every trick in the book to help your body stay level and balanced while swimming and your legs STILL sink to the bottom of the pool, your coach may affectionately refer to you as a “sinker.” Stretching and lengthening your hip flexors and adductors can help you go from being a sinker to a balanced swimmer. A simple stretch may be all you need.

The hip flexors are the muscles in the front of the hip that shorten or contract to lift the leg up from a standing position. If your hip flexors are tight and in a state of constant contraction, this translates into drawing your legs forward and ultimately downward in the water. While there are many hip flexor stretches that strength and conditioning coaches employ, my go-to stretch is a bit unconventional and makes use of a stability ball. As an avid runner and triathlete who is always trying to stay one step ahead of injury, I consider this to be, hands down, one of the best hip flexor and adductor stretching exercises.

How to Do It

Find the largest stability ball you can (75 cm. is preferable). From a standing position, squat behind the ball on the balls of your feet with feet slightly turned out and all toes in contact with the floor. Straddle the ball with your knees and lower your abdomen and pubic bone onto the ball. Relax or drape your body over the ball. Rock forward, pushing off your toes and gently landing forward onto your hands. Then, push off your hands to gently rock backwards onto the balls of feet, cushioning the backward roll with legs.

Keep your chin on the ball at all times. Lengthen your spine so that the top of your head and your tailbone lengthen in the opposite direction. Each time you rock backwards and land on your toes you will feel a wonderful stretch of the hip flexors and adductors. This is also an excellent stretch for breaststrokers. Do eight to 10 repetitions of this move daily to prevent injury and to stay afloat.

Lisa Hiller is a private strength and conditioning coach with masters degrees in exercise physiology and education. She is an ASCA certified swim coach and holds certifications in CrossFit Training, Egoscue Postural Therapy and Heus Method ProBodX. Currently the Metropolitan LMSC Fitness/Sports Medicine Chair, Lisa also serves on the USMS Sports Medicine Committee, swims with AquaFit Masters, coaches their novice swim lane, and is in charge of their dryland training program.


  • Technique and Training


  • Drylands
  • Stretches
  • Cross Training
  • Drills
  • Fitness