Keys to Fix Your Poor Posture As A Swimmer

Keys to Fix Your Poor Posture As A Swimmer

If you are a swimmer then one can spot you by looking at your posture from a distance. Swimmers often have broad, well-developed shoulders, and a strong physique.  However, some swimmers often struggle to balance out the overdevelopment of their lats & pecs as compared to the muscles of their middle back and rotator cuff, resulting in poor posture.  This imbalance results in rounded shoulders and upper back posture.  Adolescent swimmers face the unique challenge of quick growth.   They often struggle with poor motor control of their newly developing structure. Working-age swimmers face a different challenge.  In our working years, we are often restricted to the environment of our workstation much of the day.  This can result in even more tendency toward forward-shoulder and rounded-back posture.

Correcting Posture

Stretching is the first key to better posture as a swimmer. A great beginner stretch is to lie on your back with a foam roller perpendicular to your spine. Rest your hands on your stomach and squeeze your shoulder blades together and downward. Hold this “squeeze” while you roll your body up and down over the foam roller. They key areas to roll/stretch are from the top of your ribs to the bottom of your ribs.  Repeat 10-20 times. 

Stretch what is already tight; your lats and pecs.  These muscles tend to pull your shoulders forward and round your upper back if they become overdeveloped. To stretch your pecs, lay on your back with a foam roller running vertically along your spine, starting under your head. Begin by squeezing your shoulder blades together and slightly down, and then begin with your arms in the lowest position of a “snow angel.”  Slowly slide your hands along the floor, making a snow angel, until you feel a slight stretch in the front of your chest or shoulders. Hold this position for 30 seconds, and then bring your arms back down to the start. Repeat three times in a row.

Consider the last key stretch extra credit. Trunk rotation stretches can make you more efficient as a swimmer.  Start by kneeling on one knee.  Place one hand on your knee while you rotate your spine and look over your shoulder for 30 seconds.  Repeat three times on each side.  Check out our swipe videos for a quick visual of this stretch.  Remember, stretching for flexibility is most effective when your muscles are already warmed up. Take advantage of your cool-down time after a workout to get the most out of these stretches. 

Improve Posture By Strengthening

Correcting your posture as a swimmer is to strengthen key areas. Swimmers have the unique challenge of frequently and repetitively strengthening the same muscle groups. Whether swimming freestyle, breaststroke, or butterfly, you are emphasizing the pecs and lats over and over. This, of course, leads to the forward-shoulder and rounded-back posture commonly seen in swimmers. It makes sense then that the solution for this issue would lie in strengthening the opposing muscles.  First, posterior shoulder muscles become important to help counteract all the strength developed in the front of the shoulder and rotator cuff. The posterior deltoid (rear deltoid) is easily strengthened with any backward movement of the shoulder. Think rows and reverse flies. The posterior, or back of the rotator cuff is made up of the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, and teres minor. These muscles have a few important functions.  They help to externally rotate the shoulder, an important motion in most swimming strokes.  These muscles also play the critical role of stabilizing the ball in the socket as your arm moves through the water.  This important process helps to reduce your risk of many types of shoulder pain. 

Next, build a strong base of support to help keep your posture upright by strengthening the scapulothoracic muscles.  This big word essentially means the muscles that attach your shoulder blade to your trunk. When they are strong, your shoulder blades rest closer together and tight to your rib cage. The rhomboids, middle trapezius, and lower trapezius muscles are the keys to keeping your shoulder blades closer together which results in your upright posture.  Exercises that finish with your shoulder blades squeezed together and downward can help build strength in this region.  Finish these rows and flies like a soldier “standing at attention” for the best benefit.  

The last key muscle group to strengthen when trying to improve your posture is your thoracic extensors.  Extensors in the spine help you stand upright.  There endless ways to strengthen these muscles. 

Workstation Ergonomics For Better Posture

Swimmers who spend much of their day at a desk or screen face another challenge in correcting their poor posture: ergonomics. The ergonomic setup of your workstation can either help or hurt your efforts to correct your posture. For swimmers, the first key to a good workstation set-up is an upright posture.  For those whose workstation requires you to sit, start by sitting all the way back in your chair.  Then sit up tall with your feet comfortably on the floor.  Now, adjust your chair height so that your forearms can rest comfortably on your armrests or workstation surface.  Move your belly as close to your workstation as possible.  If you have the option to stand at your desk, adjust your desk so that your forearms are supported while standing in your “perfect posture.”  This should allow you to mouse and keyboard without slouching forward. 

Last, check your monitor position.  The center of your monitor should be at eye level.  This will help avoid excessive looking up or down.  Tipping your head up and down frequently to look through bifocals can create a whole different set of issues. 


While many swimmers will be able to correct their poor posture on their own, sometimes swimmers need the assistance of physical therapy. If you have pain on the front of your shoulder or have sharp pain that has not improved after two weeks of trying the stretching, strengthening, or ergonomic changes as mentioned above, then it’s time to reach out to one of our physical therapist.  SOS PHYSIO Rehab’s physical therapists will help assess your specific posture-related problem and will advice on the next steps for success.

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