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by Bo Hickey

March 26, 2020

Master these steps to optimize your body positioning in the water

If I said the phrase "wet noodle" while on a pool deck, you might start thinking about a newer swimmer zigzagging down the lane. Although the "wet noodle" approach to swimming plagues new swimmers, it also becomes a problem for experienced swimmers when they become fatigued and are not engaging their core muscles.

If you’re struggling with holding optimal body positioning, you should build your core strength during this time you’re out of the water to help you when you get back in.

The Basics

Although the plank appears to be a simple movement, I often see it executed less than optimally. One thing to think about is tucking your tailbone, similar to being in a streamlined position. You should be activating your muscles from your arms to your toes. Also, mimic the head position you aim to hold in the water. The small details of the plank make all the difference when it is time to transfer this movement to the water.

Start by completing three 30-second holds. Once you can do this, progress to three 45-second holds. From there, progress to three 60-second holds. Make your work to rest ratio 1:1. This means if you complete 30 seconds of the activity, rest 30 seconds before the next set.

Master Your Lower Back Position

The next step to improving your body positioning in the water is mastering your lower back position. If you always throw your lower back into a major arch while swimming and completing core exercises, you are setting yourself up for some pesky back pain. Think about being in an arched state as you swim and then curling as you complete a flip turn. All of a sudden, back spasms start singing their unhappy song.

Start with a supine wall press to learn what core engagement truly feels like when limb movement is added. The key to this movement is to maintain lower back contact with the ground throughout the movement. If you feel an arch starting to form, reset your breathing pattern before continuing. The supine wall press is a great tool if you’ve been sitting all day. It helps reset your hip positioning and takes stress off of your lower back.

Along with the supine wall press, add in the deadbug with a band. This combines arm movement, leg movement, and back positioning. With these variables included, you’re even closer to the demands of swimming.

Complete three sets of the following exercises. Rest 60 seconds between exercises and between sets. Remember, your lower back positioning is critical. Stop and rest if you feel an arch starting to form.

Controlling Rotation

Now that you’ve mastered the basics, you can get more advanced with your core training. In swimming, being able to control when and how far you rotate is critical to efficiency. Mobility is needed to rotate, but rotational control comes down to stability.

With each of these exercises, focus on keeping your hips even with each other. Your goal is to stabilize and rotate as one unit. Although you might feel your core engage on one side more than the other, you don’t want to collapse a hip or compromise your body position. This is similar to when you push off a wall and rotate into a streamlined position. Any compromised positions will equal more drag.

Complete three rounds of the following exercises. Rest 60 seconds between exercises and between rounds.

Advanced Progressions

You now have all the ingredients needed to hold high-quality body positioning in the water. To take things a step further, here is an advanced routine you can implement. As much as you might want to jump right to this routine, make sure you have the previous steps mastered.

Complete three rounds of the following exercises. Rest minimally between exercises and 60 seconds between rounds.


  • Technique and Training


  • Drylands