A few weeks back I managed to pull a muscle while swimming. I'm fairly certain it's because I didn't warm up before I got in the pool and did some higher intensity swimming than I normally do. What warm ups are there for swimming so that I can prevent this from happening again?

  • While not a full answer, this article gives some warm up ideas, some dynamic stretches and some after workout passive stretches. Commented Sep 1, 2012 at 10:21

3 Answers 3


Your best warmup is going to be swimming. What I usually do for a warmup is a 500m swim of SKIPS. Swim 100m, Kick 100m, 100m IM, 100m Pull, 100m Swim. If you can't do all the strokes, do 400m SKPS.

I might also not make my most intense set the first one after the warmup, I might put in a threshold set of 10x100 on 1:45 (or whatever suits your swimming speed), before I did any kind of high intensity interval type work.

I'm not a fan of leaping around a pool deck waving your arms and legs for a swimming warmup. One, the deck is often wet/slippery, two you get funny looks. Swimming is non impact enough that you can just get in and swim at a low level, so as long as you don't jump in and start banging out 50m on a :25 sendoff you should be fine just swimming as a warmup.

  • For a longer warm up I've done 1000 yd SKIPS before. Swim 200 yds, Kick 200 yds, 200 yds IM, 200 yds Pull, and Swim 200 yds.
    – Amanda R.
    Commented Jul 12, 2016 at 21:17

Warm ups are important for all sports, both physical and also a mental warm up. Here are some warm ups for swimming:

  • Physical, structure your work out so that you go from low intensity -> techniques -> high intensity -> cool down. E.g. swim 2x50m slow freestyle and 2x50m slow breaststroke, then work on various techniques for 200m-300m, and then (as an example) swim various sets of 200m, 400m for a total of 1000m - 1200m, last, cool down through swimming 2x100m backstroke. The pattern of "low intensity -> techniques -> high intensity -> cooldown" is not unique for swimming, you will find it in all sports where you involve the whole body in a complex way.
  • Mental, before the workout, think through the goals for the workout and picture yourself doing the work out (in this context, going through the swim drills, how intense the 200m and 400m sets should feel). On a personal level, when I do this, I can feel my pulse quickening, hands getting warmer, and that I want to start moving.

Various warm up drills for swimming that are integrated in a swim workout can be found at - for example - Swim work out generator


I feel your pain!

Thinking that I should be ready to swim under any circumstances I hopped in the water last summer completely cold, sprinted a 50m freestyle and tore an intercostal muscle in my rib cage.

Not fun.

Warming up properly before you go swimming has a heap of benefits, not the least of which is injury-prevention. Increased oxygen delivery to muscles, increases respiratory system ability, and more.

Here is what I usually do:

1. 5-8 minutes of arm and leg swings. Forward and backward, make figure 8's, lateral arm swings, leg swings to open up your hips and hamstrings.

2. 400-600m of easy swimming. Nothing crazy here (unlike my example above). Alternate strokes to open up your shoulders. I like to alternate freestyle and backstroke by 25 or 50 depending on whether it is a short course or long course pool.

3. Add in some moderate/high intensity stuff at the end. Build up to about 70-80% effort over the last 100m to get your heart rate up and "prime" your body for the work to come.

Source: National level swimmer, Olympic trials qualifier.

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