If you’re feeling as stiff as the diving board, it’s time to work on your flexibility. University of Georgia assistant swim coach Brian Smith is on deck with STACK to offer up some thoughts about flexibility.
STACK: What’s the role of flexibility for swimmers?
BS: Those [swimmers] who hold the best lines in the water and learn how to carry speed that way have good flexibility in their hip flexors and ankles, [and that] enables them to be better kickers.
STACK: Can you share an exercise that your swimmers perform to improve flexibility?
BS: We do partner stretching where there’s active resistance, then we’ll work on extending the range of motion for the legs, hams, hip flexors or IT band.
In terms of partner stretching, they lie down on the ground and put their leg up while a partner holds on to the leg [to] stretch the hamstring. The person on the ground is putting pressure on the leg as the partner provides resistance. Hold the position, then take it a few degrees further and repeat three to four times.
We also do a groin stretch where you lie face down on the ground and really kick your heel up to your butt. Your partner lifts up under the knee and forces you to stretch the hip flexors.
STACK: What precautionary measures do you take when working on flexibility with your swimmers?
BS: I’m kind of hesitant with the shoulders. When there are identified weaknesses with the shoulders, they work with a trainer. It’s just safer that way. Shoulders are a fragile commodity in the swimming business.