Pilates for

Swimmers

  • Improved Strength
  • Fluidity Of Movement
  • Coordination And Flexibility
  • Optimal Breathing
  • Sensory Awareness
  • Whole-Body Balance

Improve Your Performance

Working with athletes, especially junior competition swimmers, has further reinforced my belief that Pilates should be a non-negotiable part in the physical preparation of any athlete.

Tailored preparation

Alexandre (triple Swiss champion) improving dive technique on a Pilates ladder barrel…

Since 2015, I have been helping junior swimmers from the Competition and Elite groups (aged 12-21) of Lancy Swimming Club in Geneva with their physical preparation, in order to cope with the challenges of their heavy training schedule and to improve their competitive performances.

From the age of 12, swimmers in the Competition group train at least 12 hours per week. Their still-developing bodies are subjected to many hundreds of repetitive movements using the same group of muscles and joints. Injuries in swimming are frequent, particularly to the shoulders, if the body is not sufficiently ‘prepared’.

The core principle of Pilates is to use and look after the WHOLE body. However, in most sports only a fraction of the body’s muscles really contribute. Furthermore, if a sport is practiced intensively, the athlete risks neglecting other sports and movements that would use the entire body and thereby maintain balance. The athlete subconsciously tends to develop compensating techniques for this, that over time will lead to tension and quite possibly injury.

It is also essential for the body to ‘warm up’ before intensive training – however junior athletes often neglect to warm up properly due to lack of ‘time’ or knowledge. This is particularly important for a swimmer whose training takes place in water at 26-27 degrees Centigrade, almost 10 degrees lower than his body temperature.

In my time with Lancy Swimming Club, I have developed a special warm-up routine for swimmers, targeting not only the shoulders but also the whole body’s joints and muscles. I follow this with deep muscle work, with a focus on the abdominal, scapular girdle and back extensor muscles. I also work on hip stability to aid the glide through the water, as well as on stretches and roller massage. I emphasise exercises in a state of ‘instability’ to help the athletes cope with the inherent instability of working in water.

I encourage athletes to observe, feel and know their own bodies, and to understand how their body works and where they may be overcompensating. Over the long-term, even the smallest changes can make a big difference.

Several of the Elite group swimmers exercise in my studio on Pilates equipment, which allows them to add resistance to their movement and to build power and endurance. In each exercise, I look for alignment and ideal posture.

Pilates helps a swimmer to build inner strength, to fluidify movement, and to improve coordination, flexibility, power and endurance. A balanced body will help the swimmer to glide through the water and to sufficiently relax in order to extend the movements of strokes while protecting joints. Pilates also aids the swimmer to better coordinate breathing and movement.

Preparing athletes is a particularly rewarding role that has helped me to better tailor my teaching to the needs of the person in front of me. The principles of Pilates and the philosophy of Joseph Pilates are an essential part of the work I do with these athletes.

  • A swimmer’s environment is water, which is inherently unstable and lacking in aids to the senses.
  • From a young age, training hours are intense.
  • The junior swimmer is competing and training at a time when their body are constantly changing.
  • Swimming consists of highly repetitive movements of the same group of muscles and joints.
  • Les mouvements répétitifs sur un même groupe de muscles et articulations
  • Roller massage.(Grid).
  • Warm-up of shoulders, spine, knees and ankles.
  • Reinforcement of the scapular belt.
  • Active stretches.
  • Active stretches.
  • Hip stability.
  • Alignment.
  • Reinforcement of back extensor muscles.
  • ‘Gainage’ / planking.

A balanced body will help the swimmer to glide through the water and to sufficiently relax in order to extend the movements of strokes while protecting joints. Pilates also aids the swimmer to better coordinate breathing and movement.

Pilates will help a young swimmer to:

  • Build inner/deep strength
  • Fluidify movements.
  • Improve coordination.
  • Improve flexibility.
  • Whole body balance.
  • Improve breathing.
  • Improve sensory awareness in the water.
  • Understanding of the body and where there may be overcompensation.

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