Pilates For Swimming - Featured Exercises
Swim with better control and faster times – without straining your body.
Single Leg Stretch
Sit on the mat with both legs pulled into the chest as if you have just finished Rolling Like a Ball. Place the inside hand on the knee and the outside hand on the ankle and roll down with control as the free leg straightens. Keep the leg at a height that allows the low back to remain stable. Keep the head up.
- Exhale – Release the leg held into the chest, straighten it out below you and pull the other leg in. Sink the abdominals as you bring the leg in, keep the elbows wide and the back steady.
- Inhale – Switch legs.
Lower Body Only:
Support the head, neck and upper body with a C-shaper, wedge pillow or towels and work the lower body only.
To challenge the abdominals, draw the leg in only until it forms a right angle with the hip and place the hands lightly on the leg rather then pulling it in toward the body.
Keep the torso as still as possible, the head supported with minimal strain and the legs level with the eyes.
Bring both legs into the chest with the hands on the ankles for Double Leg Stretch.
Cueing and Imagery
- Keep the shoulders down and the elbows wide.
- Keep your torso still.
Imagine you are holding a glass of your favorite beverage on your abdomen and don’t spill it.
- Pull the abdominals deeper in with every repetition.
Don’t let the abdominals rise!
- Develop pelvic stability and core control
- Strengthen the abdominals
For neck and shoulder injuries – Use the modifications listed above.
For low back injuries – Work with an imprinted spine or use a supported neutral position
Single Leg Kicks
Lie prone with the head and torso lifted up, the forearms on the mat and the hands together. The legs are straight and as close together as possible. Press the forearms into the mat, slide the shoulders down the back and lift the torso up. Keep the head in line with the spine.
- Inhale – Bend one knee and pulse the heel toward the buttocks two times with a sniffing breath. Keep the heel in line with the sit bones and the hips in place. Don’t point the toes out to the side as the leg comes in or let the front of the hips lift off the mat.
- Exhale – Extend the leg back to the floor reaching the leg out long.
- Repeat to the other side.
Prone Version: Lie prone with the head on the hands to decrease low back, neck and shoulder stress.
Add pointing and flexing to the foot work to challenge coordination and memory.
Shoulders are away from the ears, forearms are pressed into the mat with the shoulders wide. The abdominals are lifted up, low back curve is gentle and the heels kick straight into the buttocks without the toes turning out. The hips are perfectly still as the legs kick.
Lower the torso down to the mat with the head to one side and the hands behind the back to start the Double Leg Kicks.
Cueing and Imagery
- Keep the shoulders down and wide and the neck long throughout the exercise.
Press the forearms into the mat and the upper spine to the ceiling.
- Keep the head in line with the spine.
Focus the eyes a few inches in front of the hands.
- Keep the abdominals engaged throughout.
No sagging stomachs.
- Keep the spine as elongated as possible.
Imagine you are a baby pushing yourself up off the floor for the first time.
Imagine you are a turtle reaching its head out from inside its shell.
- Keep the lower leg in line with the thigh.
Imagine you have a spring attached from your buttock to your heel.
- Strengthen serratus anterior
- Strengthen the hamstrings
- Stretch the quadriceps
- Strengthen back extensors, hamstrings and gluteals
- Improve scapular stability
- Teach axial elongation in extension
- Teach abdominal support in extension
Low back injuries – Engage the abdominals and press the pubic bone into the mat to decrease the pressure on the lower back. If the client still gets a punching sensation in the lower back, lower the torso or avoid.
Knee problems – Limit the range of motion in knee flexion. Stretching the quadriceps before this exercise can be helpful at decreasing knee discomfort.
Lie prone on the mat with the arms reaching overhead and the legs straight.
- Reach one leg and the opposite arm out and up toward the ceiling. Switch the arm and leg quickly without losing the balance on the center of the torso.
- The breath can follow the tempo of the swimming for example inhale for two "strokes", exhale for two "strokes" or inhale for 4 "strokes" and exhale for 4 "strokes".
Legs Only – Move just the arms or just the legs.
Move as quickly as possible without losing the balance between the two sides.
Even rhythm through all four limbs and a still center while moving quickly.
Cueing and Imagery
- Keep the center still as the limbs move.
Imagine you have a water glass on the small of your back.
- Don’’t spill it.
- Don’t rock the hips from side to side.
- Reach the legs out first, then up.
Imagine your legs are reaching to the walls before lifting up.
- Keep the shoulders anchored into the back as the arms move.
Keep the neck long. Don’t wear your shoulders like earrings.
- Keep the rhythm even through all four limbs.
- Strengthen the back and hip extensors including the erector spinae, hamstrings and gluteus maximus
- Improve pelvic stability
Low back injuries – Client must tolerate back extension or avoid.
Shoulder injuries – Lift the legs only.