As we age it gets harder to get up from a chair or from the floor if you’re sitting there playing with your grandbabies! The reason we have a harder time getting up and down is that our core muscles are not as strong as they once were.
Your core is just what it sounds like — your “middle” — it’s the part of your body that helps you remain upright and have good posture. Your core is also what helps you move around and get up from a seated position without having to grab the armrests. Sure, you can work on your core at the gym or do sit ups or lift weights at home, but wouldn’t you rather swim and strengthen your core? We know we would!
When you’re swimming it’s not all about just getting from one side to the other, it’s about kicking your legs, engaging your stomach and back aka core muscles and using your arms to help propel you through the water. You may tire quickly when first starting a swim workout; the reason for that is that your core muscles aren’t strong enough to accommodate the activity.
The more you swim, the stronger your core, the healthier you will be.
Swimmers and trainers at the gym talk a lot about core stability. When you strengthen your stomach and back muscles, your core, you will have better posture which could lead to fewer back aches and maybe even fewer joint and muscle issues and pain.
How Swimming Helps Strengthen Your Core
Here are three ways in which swimming benefits your core muscles:
- Many swim strokes help you stretch and lengthen your core
- Squeeze your buttock muscles to help further engage your core
- Swimming in an elongated posture — the crawl or the breast stroke are ideal swim strokes that will help you engage and elongate your core and benefit your posture
When you swim you don’t necessarily have to swim for speed. Concentrate on swimming in a way that makes it feel as though you are fluid and relaxed as you slice through the water. Great swim technique will have your arms and legs moving in smooth movements.
Strengthening and lengthening your spine as you swim — think of it as reaching for an item on a high shelf — engages numerous muscle groups. The act of swimming with strong arm strokes and coordinated kicks engages your core and you don’t even need to concentrate on it — it happens as part of swimming.
In Pool Exercises To Strengthen Your Core
If you’re not sure where to get started on strengthening your core and don’t want to hire a personal trainer here are a few tips:
- Stretch. To engage your lower core when you swim, stretch tall and long through all of the strokes. Pull your rib cage up, take long, slow deep breaths and concentrate on holding your stomach muscles tight when you swim.
- Engage. This will sound odd, but if you visualize you are holding a quarter between your butt cheeks you will concentrate on engaging the muscles in your buttocks. Don’t clench, just squeeze and release with every other swim stroke.
- Stand tall. We are a sedentary society. Office workers sit all day, sit in the car on the way to and from work, sit at dinner then sit around watching television. Not good. When you sit, you need to focus on your posture. Sit tall. Engage your stomach and back muscles and sit up straight. Remember to drop your shoulders — many people carry stress in their shoulders and lift them up toward their ears — stop, check in and lower your shoulders.
Swimming pool posture matters
Here are reasons to pay attention to your swimming pool posture:
- Energy saving. When you swim with great posture you expend less energy and will get a better, longer workout. Good posture helps you swim straight as an arrow and this will help keep your body from rolling when you switch arms during strokes.
- Entire body workout. Having a strong core leads to a stronger upper body and a stronger, healthier back.
Focus on the core
You don’t have to worry overly much about “is my core engaging!?” when you’re swimming. Concentrate on elongating your body, kicking fully and stretching out as long as you can and your core will naturally engage.
Swim laps, burn calories, get in shape and strengthen that core!