by Keith Paine

Now that the summer’s in full swing and the ocean has warmed up, most of us will jump in the water at any opportunity. Swimming is great exercise and an even better way to cool off, but unless you’re someone who swims on a regular basis, key muscles might be a little dormant and lacking in tone and endurance. The water can be unforgiving if you get injured, especially in the ocean, so taking a few minutes to prep before getting in can pay dividends, not only by preventing injuries and cramps, but making your swim more enjoyable.

Most swimming injuries occur in the shoulders or the torso—so our 3 prep exercises here target the stabilizing muscles around the shoulder and the core muscles around the rib cage. Our intent is to get these supporting muscles active so they can function smoothly with the big “mover” muscles in the biceps, chest and back. At Nimble Fitness, we’re big on proper warm-ups for any type of workout; swimming is no different. And the only equipment you’ll need is space on your beach blanket (or pool deck) and a towel!

The first exercise is a modified “superman” warm-up for back and shoulders. You’re basically getting into swimming position, on land, and using gravity as resistance instead of the water. Starting face down, once you’ve lifted your head, shoulders and feet off the ground (you’ll feel your glutes work here too), make like Michael Phelps and do the “land crawl”. Keep it slow and reach for full range of motion, 20 reaches on each arm.

The second exercise is also on the ground—this time on your back. Take your arms wide and press your elbows into the ground. Lift your knees so they’re right over your hips, and gently rotate your legs side to side. As you continue to rotate, allow your range of motion to increase gradually. Swimming crawl requires a lot of trunk rotation, so let those muscles around your torso get warm and ready for action. Rotate 10x to each side.

Our last drill comes in two parts: Towel 1 and Towel 2. For Towel 1, hold your towel with both hands out in front of you at arms length. One hand will be at shoulder height, one at your hip. Gradually try to pull the towel apart, feeling the muscle tension and coordination that results in your shoulders. You don’t have to pull hard, just keep the tension for 10-20 sec each time. Do it 5x, then switch your hand position. For the Towel 2 drill, you’ll proceed the same way; it’s just that the towel will be behind your back.


Enjoy the water! And please get in touch with any questions or feedback—we’d love to hear from you! Email at or call 212.633.9030.