Exercises to Help You Recover from Swim Workouts
A quick range-of-motion routine to make your recovery more purposeful
When it comes to your swim journey, you’re probably pretty good about the work part of becoming a better swimmer. You consistently work hard in practice, take feedback from your coach, and work on your technique.
But how good are you about the recovery side of the equation? If you had to really think about the last time you focused on recovery, chances are this area of your swim journey could use a little work.
Recovery is an important and often forgotten area of swimming. It isn’t as exciting as a challenging set in practice but it plays an important role in helping you enjoy the sport longer. A focused recovery session can help you improve your range of motion and allow you to rebound a bit faster from that last hard session in the water.
Start the recovery process with these active range-of-motion exercises. They are low-intensity movements geared toward taking your joints through a full range of motion at slower speeds. Completing these exercises will help you find where your body is holding tension and self-correct some movement inefficiencies. Take your time and whenever you encounter a tense point in the movement, focus on breathing with a steady rhythm. Avoid forceful breathing while fighting tension.
Top-Down Foam Rolling
At one point, foam rollers were a hot commodity. Since their peak, people have taken a hard stance on whether they roll out or not. I like foam rolling to increase joint range of motion. After establishing an increase, I like to focus on a few range of motion exercises to help hard-wire this increased range of motion in the joints.
Start by focusing on your upper back. If you feel any tender points, slow your rolling pace and focus on these areas. Then gradually work to your lower back, using the same process. From there, target your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and IT bands. These areas can carry a lot of extra tension that restricts your quality of movement. Take note of where you feel tender points and what differences exist between the left and right sides of your body. Finish out the rolling process by targeting your calves. In all, spend about 10 to 15 minutes working your way from your upper body to your lower body.
- Top-down foam rolling for 10–15 minutes
Shoulders and Back
Now that you have spent some time rolling out your body, focus on your shoulders and back. This region of your body experiences a high volume of work throughout a swim practice. Add a long day at the office or in the car, and this region can tense up quickly.
Complete three rounds of the following exercises, taking your time. Aim to breathe with a steady rhythm and avoid forcing any of the movements. Just work through an achievable range of motion that you can gradually increase over time.
- Prone floor angel x 10 of each type
- Brettzel x 10 of the first variation and a 30-second hold of the second variation on each side
- Quadruped shoulder circles x 5 on each side
Hips and Hamstrings
The next area to focus on is your hips and hamstrings. This region of your body plays a major role in kick efficiency and is affected by the amount of sitting you do in a day. During the hamstring pump, focus on engaging your quad muscles to help release your hamstrings. This will help you produce a wider range of motion during this exercise.
Complete three rounds of these exercises as well.
- Hamstring pump x 6 on each side
- 90/90 hip hold doing 45 seconds on each side
- Spiderman + leg drive x 6 on each side
To finish, focus on your ankles. Ankle mobility plays a major role in kick propulsion. When you struggle to maintain an efficient position with your feet and ankles in the water, the amount of drag increases, and you start working against yourself. Spending a little time maintaining proper ankle mobility can keep your feet from becoming anchors as you swim.
Finish out with three rounds of these exercises.
- Ankle press x 5 with a 5-second hold during each repetition
- Standing ankle circles x 5 each direction
- Ankle driver x 5 on each side with a 5-second hold during each repetition
- Technique and Training