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20 Best Stretches For Swimmers To Optimize Performance 

Are you looking for the best stretches for swimmers? Prevent injury and improve recovery with these 20 stretches for swimmers brought to you by a Physical Therapist!

In this blog post, we are teaming up with Dr. Adrienne Kawabata, a Physical Therapist who has helped hundreds of swimmers prevent and recover from nagging pains and swimming injuries! 

Dr. Adrienne shares her favorite stretches for swimmers to reduce pain, improve mobility, and aim for first place.

Keep reading for stretches to try with and without equipment, including a foam roller.

Check out the example videos of each stretch as well as some of the benefits of each movement below. Plus, why stretching is important, how much to stretch, and when to stretch!

Grab our [20 Best Stretches For Swimmers Guide] to have these warm-up and injury prevention tips delivered directly to your inbox to share with your swim club. 

Disclaimer: This post was written and reviewed by Katie Schimmelpfenning, USA Swim Coach and Registered Dietitian, and Adrienne Kawabata, Doctor of Physical Therapy. This is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as training advice. Consult a doctor before beginning any new exercise program.

Why should swimmers stretch?

Competitive swimmers should stretch to remain mobile and flexible. Plus it can help avoid the all too common hunched over swimmer posture. 

Here are the top 5 reasons swimmers should stretch:

  1. Injury prevention
  2. Improved range of motion
  3. Reduced muscle soreness 
  4. Supports joint health
  5. Enhanced athletic performance and recovery 

Where are swimmers most tight?

Although swimming is a low-impact sport, the repetitive nature can lead to muscle imbalances (both in strength and mobility) and overuse injuries that could lead to shoulder pain.

According to Dr. Adrienne, most swimmers she works with have tight hip flexors and lats.

Tight lats can lead to impingement of the bicep tendon and rotator cuff due to the restricted overhead movement. 

Tight hip flexors can create more drag in the water if your hips aren’t able to extend fully during the kick. Loosen these two muscles up and get faster with minimal effort!

When should swimmers stretch?

Stretching helps to reduce the risk of injury and helps with mobility! Make sure you are staying loose enough to hold tight streamlines in the water. 

Even 5 minutes before and 5 minutes after practice can help improve your swimming performance! 

How much should swimmers stretch? 

According to Dr. Adrienne, most swimmers should stretch at least 10 minutes per day! 

Types of stretches

There are two different types of stretches statics and dynamic. 

Here are the differences between static and dynamic stretches: 

  • Static stretching: A type of stretch that is held anywhere between 10-60 seconds that helps to relax muscles and improve flexibility. Static stretches are great for after practice. 
  • Dynamic stretching: These stretches make for a great warm-up. Dynamic stretches involve moving through your range of motion and help to get blood flowing. These stretches are great for mobility. 

Best stretches for swimmers with no equipment 

The stretches below can be done on the pool deck or at home before bed. It’s a good idea to implement these swimming stretches into your daily routine for more mobility work!

  1. Child’s Pose

This stretch is ideal for swimmers because it can help improve poor posture while stretching the lower back, lats, and hips. Child’s pose can be a great calming stretch before bed. You can also try child’s pose stretch with a foam roller as shown in the video below.

  1. Thread The Needle

A full-body stretch that moves the thoracic spine and releases tension between the shoulder blades. Thread the needle stretch is a great mobility stretch for your spine and recovery phase of freestyle.

  1. World’s Greatest Stretch 

The name of this dynamic stretch gives a sneak peek into how great you will feel afterward! This is another great stretch for tight hips that warms up the entire body. 

  1. Hamstring Scoop Stretch 

Lots of kicking can lead to tight hamstrings which could cause lower back pain. Loosen those tight muscles by trying this hamstring stretch. 

  1. Standing Side Stretch

Try this stretch in a streamlined standing position for an extra challenge! This is a great stretch for the obliques and side body. Try to hold it for 2-5 seconds as you breathe into the sides of your ribs. 

  1. Pigeon Pose

This is a great stretch for hip mobility! Pigeon pose can be a relaxing way for swimmers to stretch their glutes, hamstrings, and lower back muscles. Try holding this stretch for 20-30 seconds on each side. 

  1. Half-Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch

Looking for a great way to warm up the hip flexors before swimming? Try the half-kneeling hip flexor stretch to improve pelvis mobility.

  1. Wall Overhead Stretch

The wall overhead stretch is an excellent way to improve posture and overhead range of motion. You may have heard this called a “wall press.”

  1. Open Book

Loosen up your chest, shoulders, and back with one of our favorite dynamic stretches for swimmers! This is one of the best shoulder stretches for improved mobility. 

  1. Scorpion

This is one of the most effective stretches for improving posture. Scorpion is a great stretch for swimmers to loosen tight hip muscles and relieve lower back pain. 

  1. Downward Dog 

One of the best stretches you can do for your whole body is the downward dog stretch! It helps with blood flow and stretching key areas of the body. For a deeper stretch aim to get your ankles towards the floor as you press your hands into the ground.

  1. Scap Push-Up in Downward Dog 

A dynamic stretch that will improve your overhead mobility and work multiple muscle groups including your chest, back, arms, and shoulders!

Stretches for swimmers with Equipment

*Note, this section includes affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Dr. Adreinne recommends having mini exercise bands and a lacrosse ball on hand to try these stretches with equipment. 

  1. Kneeling Lat Stretch 

This stretch can be done against a chair or the bleachers on a pool deck before or after a swim workout. Stretching the lats can offload stress to the shoulder joint.

  1. Posterior Shoulder Capsule Massage 

If you don’t have a lacrosse ball a tennis ball will work too. This can also be done by leaning up against a wall. Make sure to line up the ball at shoulder height.

  1. Door Frame Pec Stretch 

Find a pillar or door frame to try this stretch. This will help open the front of your chest. Door frame pec stretch is a great stretch to relieve tight shoulders. 

  1. Banded Lat Stretch 

A great stretch for lat muscles that helps increase your shoulder’s ranges of motion, especially getting that overhead reach for the catch position! 

Best stretches for swimmers with a foam roller

We recommend the trigger point massage roller or this longer foam roller which is more versatile. Foam rollers are great for massaging through those tighter and overused muscles when swimming. It’s like WD40 for your muscles. 

Don’t need to spend a lot of time doing it but a little goes a long way!

  1. Thoracic Extension

Swimmers, if you try any foam roller stretches, let it be this one! Thoracic extension over a foam roller stretch feels incredible on the upper back. 

  1. Pec Stretch 

Swimmers’ pectoral muscles can get very tight and fatigued, especially with higher training volumes. Try this stretch to release tight internal rotators. 

  1. Hip Adductor

You don’t need much pressure to feel this stretch! Rolling your hip abductors can help prevent pain in the hips and knees and can be a particularly helpful stretch for breaststrokers.

  1. Figure 4 Stretch With Foam Roll 

For this stretch, start with bent knees then take the right foot to cross over the left knee as you roll out that right glute! 

The Bottom Line: Stretch Everyday

Now that you have this guide to the best 20 stretches for swimmers, Physical Therapist, Dr. Adrienne Kawababta recommends taking the extra time to stretch just 10 minutes per day!

Start your stretching routine today! Aim for 3-5 stretches each day that target your tighter areas, which for swimmers, tend to be lats, hamstrings, upper back, and hips. 

Dedicate even just 5 minutes before practice to do dynamic stretches and 5 minutes after practice to perform static stretches to become a better swimmer.

As a swim coach, Katie witnesses many strong swimmers who could be even faster with increased mobility and flexibility. Get the most out of your hard efforts by stretching before and after your next swim

We hope you enjoy the benefits of increased mobility, quicker recovery, and faster swimming by using these top stretches for swimmers!

Bonus: Where to Start

Get started with the [5 Best Stretches To Improve Streamline]! Click to have these tips delivered right to your inbox! Plus try Dr. Adrienne’s shoulder mobility assessment for swimmers to see what you may need to work on.

Then, follow Physical Therapist Dr. Adrienne on Instagram @adrienne_themovementdoc for more helpful tips to improve your strength and mobility.

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