Did you know that as we age we are more prone to falls? The reason for that could be that our core strength is not as strong as it was when we were younger. Core strength can be built by doing yoga, pilates or other exercises at the gym. Ugh –that sounds exhausting, right? Wouldn’t you rather jump in the swimming pool and build your core strength by swimming or playing games with the children or playing basketball or volleyball in the pool or even jogging from side to side? We know we sure would!
Swimming is a great way to build leg strength BUT it also strengthens your core muscles. The more you swim, the stronger they get and the better you swim because of it.
Your core– your back, side and stomach muscles — help keep you stable and upright. Core stability helps posture in the pool and out. Good posture also alleviates back pain.
What can you do to get started on building core strength:
- Stretches — bending, turning, reaching
- Squeeze your buttocks
- Swimming in an elongated posture. The crawl, breaststroke and side crawl are all great swim strokes for elongating your body.
When you swim, keep your body fluid and relaxed. Techniques for swimming also involve moving your arms and legs and keeping them in motion. Concentrate on keeping your stomach muscles engaged during your swim strokes.
Having a strong and stable core helps you slice through the water like a knife and remain in a straight line as you do so.
Swimming Benefits Your Body’s Core
We put together a list of exercises to help strengthen your core. You can start slow and increase when your body and limbs and muscles are ready to get moving and engaged. Every time you jump in the pool you know you are engaging all your muscles and joints. Visualize your body as having a piece of string stretched from your pelvis to your rib cage; visualize it as being taut as you swim. It may sound odd, but many people swear that visualizing it helps them.
Engage lower core muscles. Stretch tall and long while you swim. Bring your rib cage away from your pelvis and elongate your entire body. When you stretch tall through your core you will strengthen your torso. Keep envisioning the string in your body as you swim.
Engage your buttocks. Visualize you’re holding a large coin between your butt cheeks! Feel free to laugh! This visualization keeps you focused and keeps the muscles engaged. Focus on keeping the imaginary coin trapped. Don’t clench overly tight or you might cramp up. When you squeeze your butt and engage your glute muscles you will find more power in your kick and may even see your kick getting stronger. The more you do this type of exercise, the more your mind will connect with it and it will feel like second nature.
Stand up tall. If you work in an office or find yourself sitting more hours of the day than you do standing, you need to focus on your posture throughout the day. Sitting up straight will require you to engage your core muscles to keep you sitting straight and tall. Don’t slouch. Focus on keeping your shoulders held back and down. Good posture is great for your health outside of the pool and will help you swim with more stability when you’re in the water. If necessary, place a book on top of your head while you’re working to keep you sitting up straight.
Consider sitting on a balance ball. These will keep your muscles engaged and keep you from slouching.
Shoulders matter. To swim smoothly and enhance core stability work on your upper posture and strengthen your shoulders. Focus on the muscles between your shoulder blades. Pull your shoulder blades together and back, bring them in toward your spine. This is an important swim exercise as it focuses on your upper core strength.
Why does posture in the pool matter?
If you don’t care about posture, you should. Here’s why.
- Swim straighter. You expend less energy when swimming laps if you swim straight. Focus on not “rolling” when you switch arms during strokes.
- A better body roll will develop when you have better core strength. Body roll gives you a more powerful swim stroke.
- Strong upper body and strong inner core strength help assure your arm strokes are more in tune with your body movement. This means you are using your whole body to propel yourself through the pool instead of just your arms and legs.
Keep yourself healthy and strong as you age. Enjoy life. Get up. Get moving. Get swimming. Stand up tall!