Swimming is a fabulous activity, something that I grew up doing through my school years, from the age of 9 until I was 17. Alongside my fellow swimming buddies, over the many hours spent lapping up and down pools, racing at weekend swim meets and being generally sleep deprived, we developed a set of physical abilities that all of us are likely still benefitting from into our adult lives. We built body awareness and core strength. Indeed a lot of time was spent out of the pool practicing planks, sit ups, and other “core” exercises so that we could perform better and be stronger in the water.
The core is absolutely critical to good swimming technique, regardless of wether you are Michael Phelps or a weekend lap warrior. The very nature of swimming requires you to maintain a stable torso, so that your arms and legs can work from a good base. What makes an olympic swimmer look so graceful is their core strength – their ability to produce maximal power from the legs and arms, without loss of energy through their strokes. It connects the pull of the arms and the drive of the legs so that the body can constantly glide forwards through the water. If you want to see great core muscles in action – watch the amazing underwater footage from any FIS or Olympic level swimming event!
It is never to late to learn how to train your core, and pilates offers an excellent repertoire of exercises to achieve better muscle control and awareness, as well as power.
This week I had the enjoyment of leading pilates matwork exercise sessions with the state and junior squads from the Tritons Swimming Club , during their summer training programme. We spent time learning about which muscles make up the core, and then practiced a range of floor based exercises that compliment a swimmer’s performance needs. The swimmers were fast to learn, and it was evident that their swimming had already helped many of them develop good strength. It was interesting to observe how some exercises came easily, and others were very challenging. Each swimmer had an opportunity to explore their own abilities and observe where they needed to improve. Hopefully each swimmer took away a key learning outcome or insight that will help them train smarter into 2018!