Pilates Swimming Exercise vs. Sloppy Desk Posture

Swimming is a classic Pilates mat exercise. In my opinion, the traditional version of Swimming is really challenging, especially for those who feel the effect of having a desk job.

Throughout the day, you might notice your upper back round and your shoulders hunch. The good news is that Swimming works to correct this bad posture. The bad news is that with tight shoulders and a curve to the upper back, this exercise feels practically impossible.

These days, though, there are many modifications. Although I only mention three modifications of Swimming, there are several. These modifications should help your body open up and prepare for the full version of Swimming. The goal is always to help you successfully accomplish the full exercise.

Swimming:  Just Arms

  1. We will use the same breathing that we use when doing The Hundred. Inhale through your nose for five counts, and exhale through pursed lips for five counts.
  2. Take a comfortable seat or, to make the exercise more challenging, come up onto your knees. If you are on your knees, make sure that you are not sitting on your legs. Your bottom should be lifted away from your calves.
  3. Engage your abdominals to help stabilize your spine, especially your low back. Make sure that your abdominals hold your spine stable throughout the entire exercise.
  4. Broaden your collarbones, and reach your arms straight up toward the ceiling with your palms facing away from you.
  5. From your shoulders, flutter your arms back and forth. Make sure that your elbows and wrists do not bend!
  6. Keep your collarbones broad to help prevent your shoulders from creeping up to your ears.
  7. If you have tight shoulders, your arm fluttering may be slightly forward of your head. This is normal.
  8. Do 5-10 reps. One rep is 5 inhales and 5 exhales.
  9. To finish, stop in a center point, and lower your arms.

Swimming:  Hands and Knees

  1. We will use traditional Pilates breathing.
  2. Start with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Spread your fingers. This is the same position you come in to for Cat pose.
  3. Make sure you have a neutral curve to your spine and that your shoulder blades are gliding down your back away from your ears.
  4. Draw your belly button to your spine, providing support for your lumbar spine (low back).
  5. Keeping your abdominal engagement, inhale into the sides of your ribs and extend your right leg. Flex your foot and keep your toes on the floor.
  6. As you exhale, lift your right leg by using your glutes. Only let your leg lift as high as you can maintain complete stability with the rest of your body. (Be mindful to keep the abs lifted through and press the floor away from you to stay lifted out of your shoulders.) The leg should never lift higher than your glutes.
  7. Engage your adductors (inner thighs) to make sure your leg is not drifting or rotated to the side.
  8. Inhale and slide your left arm straight in front of your left shoulder with the palm facing the midline of the body.
  9. Exhale and lift the arm. Allow the shoulder blade to slide down and out to the side so the arm can lift without the shoulder coming by the ear.
  10. Hold here.
  11. Inhale, then exhale and lower the arm and leg at the same time. Tap down with the toes and fingers, then slide back to starting position.
  12. Do the other side.
  13. You should do each side 3-5 times, depending on how long you hold each time.

Swimming:  Just Legs

  1. We will use the same breathing that we use when doing The Hundred. Inhale through your nose for five counts, and exhale through pursed lips for five counts.
  2. Begin on your stomach with your legs hip-width apart. The preference is for your heels to be in line with your SITs bones. However, if your sacrum (tailbone) is junky and uncomfortable, try taking your feel a little wider.
  3. This exercise can be done with your legs in parallel (kneecaps face down) or laterally rotated (kneecaps face out to the side). It’s your call. I recommend doing a mix of both.
  4. Your collarbones are broad to help keep your shoulders out of your ears, and your hands are stacked one on top of the other with your forehead resting on top.
  5. Inhale your belly button to your spine.
  6. Exhale to lift your legs.
  7. Use your breathing as you flutter your legs. Make sure that the movement happens from the hip, not the knee.
  8. Do 5-10 reps. One rep is a 5 count inhale and a 5 count exhale.
  9. To finish, come to center. Inhale here, and exhale to lower.

Swimming:  Full Version

  1. We will use the same breathing that we use when doing The Hundred. Inhale through your nose for five counts, and exhale through pursed lips for five counts.
  2. Begin on your stomach with your legs hip-width apart. Remember, if your sacrum feels junky with your legs like this, give yourself some more space. It’s okay if your legs temporarily are a little wider.
  3. Choose whether you want to do this exercise with your legs in parallel (kneecaps down) or laterally rotated (kneecaps turned out).
  4. Reach your arms straight in front of you. They should be shoulder-width or wider. People with tight shoulders will definitely want to give themselves some extra room.
  5. Turn your palms down.
  6. Inhale to lengthen through your spine and lift your abdominals toward your spine.
  7. Exhale and lift your arms and legs.
  8. From your shoulders and hips, flutter your arms and legs. Make sure that they are opposites. For example, as your right leg lifts, so should your left arm.
  9. Do 5-10 reps. One rep is a 5 count inhale and a 5 count exhale.
  10. To finish, stop at a centered, lifted position. Inhale here, and exhale to lower.

Swimming Video

Here is a video for visual learners.

However, before we get to the video, I want to take a moment to thank you for reading this article. Personally, I enjoy sharing this information with you, and I hope you find it valuable. If you do, please consider supporting this website! With your support, I plan to take more Continuing Education classes, so I can share more exercises with you.

What is your favorite version of Swimming? Let us know in the comments.

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Sarah Stockett is STOTT certified in Matwork, Reformer, Cadillac, Chair, & Barrels, Injuries & Special Populations, and CORE; a Yoga Alliance RYT-200; and has studied Active Isolated Stretching. When she is not trying to discover the best exercises to get rid of pain, she likes watching movies and travelling with her family.

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