Ask a Trainer: My Body Wiggles When I Swim. What Should I Do?
A P.T. helps correct three issues that could be causing you not to feel smooth in the water.
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Form is king for correcting a snaking swim motion. Underwater video analysis combined with correction drills is the typical approach to fixing form; however, the inability to keep aligned may be due to poor flexibility and weakness of key areas. Straighten out your swim trajectory by adding these exercises to your routine.
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Issue: Shoulder weakness causing midline crossing
One major mistake swimmers make is allowing the reaching arm to cross the midline (the invisible line down the middle of your body). Not only does this cause a form cascade down the body to create the “snaking” motion, it also greatly increases the likelihood of experiencing swimmer’s shoulder. The best fix for this is to strengthen the shoulders to correct poor movement patterns.
Upward slice: Using an elastic band or cable, start with your arm across your body and hand at the opposite hip. Pull upward and away from your body.
Downward chop: Using an elastic band or cable, start with your arm across your body above your opposite shoulder. Pull down and away across your body. Do three sets of 15 repetitions for both exercises.
For more strength-training exercises to build shoulder strength, check out this Video: 9 Stretch Cord Exercises to Improve Swim Strength and Technique.
Issue: Neck and torso tightness causing uneven breathing
The way you breathe may be putting strain on your neck muscles, and the more you’re strained, the tighter you’ll become, which will make it even more likely you’ll wiggle when you swim. Training with a snorkel can help you alleviate some of this tightness while you employ the stretches below. Learning how to properly breathe while swimming, however, will help straighten out your trajectory significantly.
Torso stretch: Seated on the floor with your legs in front of you, bend your left knee. Rotate your torso toward your left knee. Place your right arm on the outside of your left knee. Hold for 30 seconds; repeat three repetitions on both sides.
Neck stretch: Turn your head to look over your shoulder. Hold for 10 seconds for five repetitions alternating on each side.
For more, try these 6 Exercises to Help You Have a Stronger, More Flexible Neck.
Issue: Core weakness causing shoulder fatigue
An uneven pull likely doesn’t stem from the shoulder, but the core. When you’ve got core weakness, other areas of the body are forced to compensate (or over-compensate) and studies show the more fatigued your muscles become, the more likely you’re going to experience shoulder fatigue and an uneven pull.
Hollow body: Lie on your back, arms overhead, and legs straight. Pull your belly button toward the floor. Raise your arms, head, shoulders, and legs off the ground. Find the lowest position that you can hold without allowing your lower back to come off of the floor. Hold for 30 seconds; repeat three times.
Core strengthening should be a regular part of the triathlete’s routine. Start with these 5 Exercises For a Strong Swim Core.
Dr. Abigail Smith is a board-certified sports physical therapist. Her practice, Forward Motion Physical Therapy, located in Westport, Connecticut, focuses primarily on treating endurance athletes.