Not being a natural swimmer means that I need to spend most of my pre-swim time working on my back and thoracic. I generally spend 15-30 minutes before each swim on these exercises. They are really simple and mean that im ready to roll as soon as I jump in the pool. It has taken a while for me to realise the importance of a pre-swim routine for my swimming. Other people may not need it, or will almost certainly need different exercises but for me this list is super important, so much so that I even do them pre-race.
1. Thoracic foam roller and peanut roller
I generally start with the foam roller. I work through rolling my neck, mid back, lumbar, glutes and lats. The key to using a foam roller is to go super slow. I start with the foam roller, mostly to see where the tighter patches are. Then I go again along the spine with my firmer green peanut shaped roller. The peanut shapped gets in a lot deeper and is most important through he thoracic region to free up my neck rotation.
2. Thoracic archery twist
I do a few twisting exercises to make sure my arm motion and my breathing is smooth once I jump in the pool. If this motion is jammed, ill go back to the foam roller. Here is a link to a Body Leadership Australia Physio video where me and my physio, Kieran, explain the twist.
3. Glute bridges
After hurting my spine last year, it became important for me to make sure I have active glute muscles. When they fail, they are unable to support the pounding from running and the vibration is directed into my spine. So I always do some basic bridges.
I begin lying flat on my back with my arms along my sides, with my palms facing down. I bend my knees and place my feet flat on the floor. I then walk my heels as close as I can to my bum, keeping them hip-width apart. I make sure both feet are parallel. With my palms and feet pressing firmly into the ground, I lift my hips off the floor and hold my glutes for between 20-30 seconds. I do this 5-10 times. Interestingly the bridge also stretches my neck a little.
4. Lat stretching
I use a lat stretch help lengthen my stroke and relax my spine. I generally just pull on a pole and hold for between 15-20s for a few rounds.
5. Isometric neck strengthening
I sit in a chair with my head in a neutral position. I then place my hand across my forehead. I push my head and neck forward as hard as I are able while firmly resisting any movement of my head with your hand. Similarly, I do the same by bending my neck to either side, again pushing as hard as I can against the resistance of my hand that is placed against the side of my head. For each, I push for 10 seconds, then relax, and repeat three times.