Having a strong core makes you move like a torpedo through the water in a straight line, connecting your arm strokes to your core. This makes for a great technique, using your whole body to drive your arm propulsion, and not just your small shoulder muscles.
So, what makes your core stable? In addition to your pelvic floor, transversus abdominus and diaphragm, your butt muscles are incredibly important in pelvic stability, hip stability, upright posture and locomotion.
As swimmers, you need bi-lateral strength of both of your hips in order to perform symmetrical body rolling, kicking and ultimately, propulsive stroke cycles. This pelvic stability will reduce excessive forces through your lower back.
Swimming naturally develops very strong quads. Kicking, turns and dives all reinforce this muscle group. Sometimes this means that the opposing muscles, i.e. the hamstrings and glutes become less active and you require more focus to work them. If you over concentrate on your quads, you can put excessive strain on your knee and hip joints. To avoid this, as a swimmer you should focus on developing good hamstring and glute activation.
So, nearly every swimming stroke works the triceps, upper back muscles, shoulder muscles and the quadriceps. Some strokes, however, target the outer bum muscle: gluteus maximus (the main rounded muscle), and some target the bum muscle underneath, called gluteus medius (sits right on top of the hip bone). This is responsible for keeping the hip bone level or even, so that one hip isn’t higher than the other.
So why should you target the gluteus medius? Well, as it sits underneath the gluteus maximus, if you tone this, it will naturally plump up the whole butt area.
Who doesn’t want a toned and more shapely butt??? And at the same time, stabilise your core to improve your swim stroke.
So, if any of the following strikes a chord with you, you may find that your glutes aren’t firing efficiently:
• Knee pain
• Low back pain
• Decreased performance
• Lateral hip dropping which may present as zig-zagging in the lane
In the underwater world of horizontal motion, your posture becomes the new “upright/vertical” posture studied in normal gait. Why not try this easy visualisation technique when you’re next swimming:
Imagine you have a large coin between your butt cheeks and you’ve got to keep it there! Don’t overdo it, just clench lightly and engage your glutes and this will straighten your lower body and connect your legs better to your torso. This will also help you develop a better kicking technique.
If you want some land-based exercise to try, the following ones will strengthen your gluts:
Using an elastic band around your ankles, stand with feet shoulder-width apart and step side to side or forward and back, keeping tension on the band the entire time. Glut bridges are also great: lying on your back with feet flat and knees bent, squeeze your gluteus maximus first, then lift your pelvis a foot off the ground and lower back down steadily. Another great starter exercise for glute activation is a simple plank where you alternate lifting your feet off the ground a few inches. Squeeze your glutes before you lift each leg to emphasise the correct movement pattern.
Lie on your back with your feet slightly apart and raise your bottom off the floor one vertebrae by one, as if you are rolling on bubble wrap. Gently lower down one vertebrae by one too. If you can keep your pelvis stable, try to raise one leg off the floor in a diagonal direction. You must keep the pelvis straight though otherwise you may affect your lower back.
If therefore, you are struggling with a lack of pelvic stability or experiencing fatigue, it may be worth having your glute activation assessed by a professional therapist.
Call Holcombe Health clinic on 07956 403046 to book a professional assessment or just simply ask for some advice.
Remember Fix it, Move it, don’t Lose it!