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Warm-up and Stretching

Before and after your training session do some easy exercise. This can be push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, squats, or flutter kicks, and water exercises such as pool sprints, treading water, swimming with fins, and a variety of other lifeguard and overall water comfort exercises. Our warm up exercises loosen the muscles, warm them up, and reduce the risk of injury.

Wrong Morning Routine

In the morning you decide to go out for a little lifesaving fitness swim. You put on all your lifeguard swimming kit, head for the pool, and do your usual two-minute stretching routine. You prop a foot up and bend forward to stretch your hamstring, then you straighten up for a calf stretch. You jump up and down a couple of times to get your blood moving, then into the pool you go.

Completely wrong, say scientists who have studied the effects of stretching for many years. Some stretching routines may hinder, not help, your athletic performance. Turns out a spate of new research reveals that much of what we've long believed to be beneficial about proper stretching techniques may have the opposite effect.

No Stretching before Warm-up

To improve your range of motion and avoid injury, you need to stretch, but you should never stretch a cold muscle in any way. Doing static stretches where you hold the stretch before a workout or competition, may decrease your strength, power, and performance.

Static stretching significantly reduces your power, recent research has found. The ballistic stretches (the kind we were warned not to do in gym class as kids, where you bounce during the stretch) also cause a decrease in power, but slightly less so than the static stretches.

Begin your Warm-up in the Pool

Change into your swim clothes first so you don't lose time between warm-up and training. Warming up increases blood flow, which increases the temperature in the muscle, which makes the collagen fibres more elastic like a rubber band.

Always start with some mild aerobic warm-ups to get blood to the tissue before doing any stretching. Warm-up should begin with an in-pool aerobic session, followed by 5 minute stretching on the pool deck, some in shallow water and some in deep water.

Dynamic Stretching

After warming up, do dynamic (not static) stretches. This means slow, controlled movements rather than remaining still and holding a stretch. Include simple movements like arm circles and hip rotations, flowing movements as in yoga, or walking or jogging exercises.

While studies have not clearly proven this, increasing numbers of experts agree that dynamic stretching is the best stretching routine before a workout or competition.

Proper technique is key. Poor technique that is not anatomically correct puts you at higher risk for injury.

Do several repetitions of 30 seconds each at your own pace. The point is to do the movements in a controlled way. Stop if you get tired so you still have energy for your workout.

Arm Exercises

This exercise builds upper body strength, mainly biceps and triceps muscles. Stand in shoulder deep water, one foot forward, one back. Stretch your arms out sideways. Using a good amount of strength push your arms together and apart again, around a 90° angle. Return to the start position by flexing your triceps. Repeat.

Make a good effort, squeeze it in and push out hard. Keep going for at least a minute, preferably much more, until you really feel your muscles. Then take a short break before you continue with a variation of this.

lifeguard exercise cagoule anorak arm exercise in pool   lifeguard exercise cagoule anorak arm exercise in pool
Full arm exercise works your shoulder and back muscles.


Next do the same again, buts simply bend your arms at the elbows and pull your hands to the chest. Then push out again. Push hard against the resistance for the water. Keep going for a minute or more.

lifeguard exercise cagoule anorak biceps exercise in pool   lifeguard exercise cagoule anorak triceps exercise in pool
Upper arm exercise works biceps and triceps.

Cool Down Static Stretching

The cool down portion of your workout is an important moment to stretch your muscles. The best time to stretch is post-workout when our muscles are completely relaxed, thoroughly warmed up and capable of giving us the most stretch, easiest.

When muscles are really well warmed up they exhibit a high degree of plasticity. That means that not only do they stretch but after stretching and cooling down they maintain an increased range of movement and display greater flexibility.

After your workout or competition do static stretches. This is where you'll lengthen muscles and improve your flexibility. Doing static stretching before a workout and then nothing after is the most common mistake many make.

Take the time to stretch each muscle group that you exercised. Hold static stretches for about 30 to 90 seconds. Breathe deeply through the cool down period to help your muscles melt into the stretch.

You will find when you stretch during the cool down that you will feel less soreness from your workout. Besides helping to prevent injuries, this decrease in soreness is important for maintaining your motivation to adhere to your workout routine day in and day out.

New research shows it's a good move to learn stretching routines customized for your swimming and lifesaving sport and to help prevent the injuries most common to it.

Never stretch to the point of pain. Forget the phrase "no pain, no gain." Stretch to tightness, not to pain. You don't want pain when you're doing your stretching. It should be gentle to start and then progress.

When you do your static stretching after your session, you should go to the point of slight discomfort and intensity, to improve your flexibility. But if you're making a face, your muscle is contracting to protect itself, which is counterproductive.

To achieve and maintain the benefits of an aquatic exercise program, follow the main principles of stretching.

Follow-up with additional stretching after completing your swim as part of your cool-down routine.

Range of Movement

This is the reason why you should stretch. Whether you are a lifeguard or survival swimmer, your sport will need your muscles to perform by working through a range of movements. When they are too tight and constricted, they tend to work against each other to perform the move. That means that energy which should be used in the move itself is actually soaked up by fighting against the muscles themselves and the supporting muscle groups. This drains away your power.

Aquatic Yoga

It is interesting to note that new research is figuring out what yoga teachers have known for thousands of years. If you're familiar with yoga basics, you can use those moves as dynamic stretches before you start your swim training.

Improving your flexibility allows you to put your body in good ergonomic alignment. Yoga can help you combine flexibility and strength, help you breathe properly, reduce head, neck, and back pain, and put the body back in balance.

Practice for two minutes different moves to stretch multiple parts of your body. Lift yourself up on your hands in an upright position and hold you legs forward. Go up and down. Pedal your feet or lift alternate legs. Observe what difference this makes.

Stretch to De-stress

In these stressed-out times stretching can help. As you know, your mind affects your body, and your body affects your mind.

During times of emotional stress, the muscles in your body contract. This is an adaptive response to acute stress, as it fortifies your "body armour" so that in times of danger, if you get hit, for example, your muscles help to protect you.

However, in times of chronic stress, these same mechanisms that have evolved to protect us can also create problems. Chronically tensed muscles, especially those in the back and neck, predispose to chronic pain or injury.

Stress management techniques can help prevent this. Also, gentle stretching of chronically tensed muscles provides relaxation of the mind as well as the body.

If you had a stressful day, put on your lifeguard kit and hop into the local pool for your de-stressing exercises, then float in the pool until your mind is relaxed too.