So many of us spend hours at a desk, in front of a TV or texting on a phone, which can cause bad posture.
Rounded shoulders and a forward neck position are two of the bad posture positions I am most concerned about and I wonder, is swimming good for posture?
As a general rule, swimming will help to improve your posture as it can strengthen your core, back and shoulder muscles, which will help you stand up tall. If you currently have bad posture, you will need to work on this and improving your core strength in the pool can help.
Typically, a competitive swimmer’s body is highly desirable with their toned muscles. However, competitive swimmers are famous for their poor posture. It is commonly known as “swimmer’s slouch”.
I wonder, how can swimming help my posture when some competitive swimmers are known to have “swimmer’s slouch”?
In this article I want to cover:
- What is swimmer’s slouch?
- Is swimming good for posture?
- What swim stroke is best to improve posture?
- Swimming Exercises To Help Your Posture
What Is Swimmer’s Slouch?
“Swimmer’s slouch” is a common term used for swimmers with poor posture, which is caused because of muscle imbalance. If you watch the Olympic Freestyle Races or any competitive front crawl race, you spot that some of the professional swimmers have a slightly hunched posture.
Swim strokes that require you to be on your belly, such as the front crawl, typically cause swimmers to slouch and results from chest muscles tightening and back muscles extending, which pulls the swimmer’s posture forward into the hunched position.
I always naively assumed that as competitive swimmers are typically tall and slouching is common amongst taller individuals [source], that this was the reason for common poor posture amongst swimmers, however, it is the imbalance in the muscles between the chest and back that can pull the shoulders forward.
Of course, for the rest of us non-super humans, our “swimmer’s slouch” is probably because of the time we spend hunched over a desk and not the imbalance in muscles on our super-toned bodies, unfortunately.
But if you are a well-toned swimmer and suffer from swimmer’s slouch, there are recommendations by the U.S. Masters Swimming organisation that can help you get rid of that swimmer’s slouch, which you can find <here>
Is Swimming Good For Posture?
Assuming that you do not swim long and hard enough to create a muscle imbalance to induce “swimmer’s slouch”, is swimming good for posture?
On the whole, most experts agree that swimming is good for posture as it will help build the strength in your core, back and shoulder muscles that can help you improve your posture.
In order to “stand tall” you need the muscles and stamina to support yourself, and this is when core muscle strength becomes important.
By strengthening muscles that support your spine, you will have the strength to walk with better posture and place less strain on your spinal column. [source]
What Swim Stroke Is Best To Improve Posture?
Although all swim strokes will help you improve your posture by working the back, shoulder and neck muscles, it is widely accepted that the backstroke is good for posture. [source]
When you swim the backstroke, you will need to keep your head and shoulders pressed back into the water. In addition, you will need to keep yourself straight, which is best for your spine.
Like all the swim strokes, the backstroke will still tone the stomach, legs and arm muscles.
The “straight position” of the backstroke and the hip rotation can be great for those who sit hunched over a desk all day.
I should point out, however, that the backstroke, just like the other strokes, can place a lot of stress on your lower back if you have poor technique.
An arched spine can cause a lot of stress and potential injury, so it is important to consult a professional trainer to ensure your technique is good.
Swimming Exercises To Help Your Posture
A good swim technique is essential to having good posture both in and out of the pool. Without a good technique, you could cause injury, particularly in your lower back.
Before doing any exercises, it can be worth checking in on your swim technique and picking up some advice to improve.
Personally, I really like the “Total Immersion Swim Method” as a way to swim that is effortless with great technique.
Although there are many water therapy exercises out there for those who have back pain and need recovery, I have found very little expert advice on specific swimming exercises that help with posture, for those of us who are in full health and just want to stretch out.
The following are two swimming drills I have found that helps me stretch out in the pool after a long day at the desk:
1. Elongate While Swimming
From the “Total Immersion Swim Method“, I have found the basic advice of making yourself as tall and long as possible in the pool helps me stretch out my body.
The idea is to stretch your arms out in front of you as if you are reaching for the wall as you swim the front crawl or the backstroke.
By stretching out and rotating the hips to make yourself as tall as possible in the water, not only will you swim faster, but you will feel nimble and stretched after your swim.
2. Imagine Holding A Tennis Ball Under Your Chin
I wish I could remember where I heard this advice, but in a nutshell, swim with your chin tucked in as if you are holding a tennis ball under your chin.
If you hold this head position when you swim (if it feels sore, stop immediately!), you will feel your neck and spine stretching out.
In addition, this can be a great head position to help you go faster. Not only will you be looking down into the water, but it will also help you maintain a steady and repeatable head position, which can help you swim faster.
I am not a Doctor, or a medical expert at all, so please do not take this as medical advice. I am sharing my experience because, after a long day with a forward neck position staring at a computer screen, this head position in the water feels really nice.
3. Dry Land Swimmer’s Exercise
If, like me, you suffer from rounded shoulders, the “swimmer” dry land exercise can be a nice one to help you to pull back your shoulders.
Here is a really nice example of how this is done:
Despite the famous “swimmer’s slouch”, which might give swimming a bad name when it comes to posture, swimming, in general, is a good way to help you improve your posture.
As swimming is excellent in toning neck, back, shoulder and core muscles, this strength will help you support your spine and stand tall.
Personally, I wish there was more information from posture experts on how to use swimming to improve posture since, on the whole, experts agree that the muscle conditioning offered by swimming helps.
The backstroke seems to be the best swim stroke to promote a good posture as it requires a flat spinal position in the water, with shoulders and head back.
As someone who spends a lot of time at a desk, and not a lot of time swimming backstroke, I think for the New Year; the backstroke is going to be my new favourite swim style.