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Pilates-inspired Workout For Stronger Swimming Using The Vasa Trainer Pro

Pilates Workout For Stronger Swimming, Triathlon, and Surfing

Description & Specific Instructions:

Important note to athletes and coaches: Before starting this workout, we recommend starting with this mat warm-up designed to prepare you for the main workout.

Main Workout:

1. Hip rolls with shoulder extension

pilates workout for swimmersSupine on bench holding handles with arms reaching overhead. Inhale prepare. Exhale, articulate spine off mat bottom to top as you extend your arms to your side. Inhale to stay. Exhale, sequentially return the spine to mat top to bottom as you return arms to start position. 5-8 reps. If you are too tall to lay on the bench comfortably, this exercise can be performed on the mat with pulley cords secured overhead.

2. Shoulder bridge with arm/leg movement

Same start position as hips rolls.
Keep spine long and neutral. Exhale and extend hips as you draw arms to the side. Lifting to bridge position. Inhale to stay. Exhale, hinge at hips to return to start position.  3-5 reps.

a. Add Tabletop leg in bridge:  

pilates workout for swimmers

Arms at the side with hips lifted: exhale to lift one leg to tabletop, keeping spine and pelvis as still as possible. Inhale. Alternate sides for 3-5 sets.

b. Full movement: 3 sets

Exhale to lift to the bridge position, arms drawn to sides. Inhale to lift one leg up to the ceiling, then exhale: flex the foot and lower leg as you reach arms overhead. Inhale: return leg to ceiling and arms to the side. Repeat 3 times. Exhale: Bend the knee and place the foot on the bench. Repeat with the other leg.
Keep your spine long and neutral as you move your leg up and down.  Don’t lower your leg so much as to arch low back.  Only lower leg as much as you can keep the spine long and neutral.

3. Mid-back series legs in a tabletop position

a. Tricep press—add flexion: Supine, legs in tabletop upper arms by side, arms bent. Exhale to straighten arms, inhale to bend.
b. 45 degrees: Arms long, reaching them to a “10 and 2” position on a clock. Exhale: draw arms to side working evenly chest and back.
c. Out to side—add flexion: Arms reach to a “9 and 3” position on a clock. Exhale to draw arms to sides.

Variation: add upper body flexion as you press arms into the resistance with all exercises 5-10 reps

4. Teaser (3-5 reps.)
Supine position on the bench, head toward the front, arms overhead, and feet toward the rear. Exhale: pull into the resistance bringing arms towards the floor then up to shoulder height while you roll your spine off the bench, lifting your legs after you roll through your low back.  Inhale to stay. Exhale: keep reaching arms into resistance as you roll your spine back to the mat. Roll through the low back, place feet down, and continue to roll back to the start position.

5. Plow (5-8 reps.)
Prone holding handles. Legs long, core engaged. Inhale to start pulling into resistance. Exhale to continue to extend your upper body off the bench as you bring your arms to your sides. Inhale stay. Exhale, release back to start.

a. Add swimming legs in thoracic extension
Keep the upper body in extension with arms reaching to sides. Extend hips.  Flutter kick legs inhaling for a count of 5, then exhaling for a count of 5.  Do 5 sets.

6. Quadruped one leg pull (5-8 times)
pilates workout for swimmersAnkle cuffs on. Attach one cuff to the pulley cord. Hands and knees position on the bench seat. Extend leg attached to the cord down to the floor. Exhale to extend leg keeping spine neutral, inhale return to start without allowing the spine to flex.

a. Add shoulder flexion: Same leg movement but reach the opposite arm long to increase the core challenge 5-8 times

7. Prone hamstring curl (8-10 reps.)
Both ankle cuffs on. Attach them so they are crossed the roll on your stomach on the bench seat turning towards the rope that was on top. Exhale to bend knees while keeping the spine stable and hips open in front.

pilates workout for swimmers

a. Arms in flexion overhead, in ‘T’ or at the side, breaststroke arms, or any variation to challenge the upper body extension.

8. Swimming (5-8 sets)

Reach both arms and legs long with legs and upper back slightly extended.  Inhale for a count of 5 and exhale for a count of 5 as you alternate arm and leg movement.   

NOTE: The following exercises are done on your back with both ankle cuffs on.  Keeping core engaged and trying to maintain an imprint of the low back to avoid low back tension with the exercises. Exercise 1: Streamline arms, Exercise 2 and 3: hands behind head. 5-10 reps

9. Bend and stretch: keep legs long throughout. Arms overhead, upper body flexed, core engaged.  Exhale to bend knees in, inhale to return to start.  If you are having trouble keeping the core engaged when lengthening the legs, use the exhale as you lengthen the legs to help with core engagement.

10. Single leg stretch: Hands behind head, upper body flexed, legs reaching long, core engaged. Exhale to flex one leg in, inhale return to start. Alternate legs.

11. Obliques: Same as above but add upper body rotation to the bent knee

12. Quadruped arm work:
Get on the bench in the hands and knees position, one hand holding handle, arm long to side midway between shoulder flexion and extension. 5-8 reps

a. Shoulder at 45 degrees; reach arm back at a 45-degree angle as you exhale. Inhale return. 5-8 reps
Add opposite let extension: 5-8 reps

pilates swim workout13. Half kneel: Holding both handles. One knee down, the other foot resting on the bench. 5-10 reps of each of the following variations.  Exhale on the exertion.

a. Plow
b. 45 degrees
c. Alternating bicep/tricep

14. Internal/external rotator cuff exercises, (seated sideways on the bench):  5 – 10 Reps
Keep the spine long and neutral relative to the inclined bench angle.  Keep a small space between your body and elbow/arm and focus on pivoting at the shoulder. 

15. Twist, seated sideways on the bench:  focus on rotating at rib cage area allowing your head and neck to follow the movement.  Keep hands in front of the sternum.  6 Reps

pilates swim workout16. Twist in teaser prep position: sitting rolled off your sit bones so your low back is rounded and upper back lengthened.  Rotate torso.  6 Reps

17. Standing Swimming with ankle cuffs: standing with ankle cuff around one ankle.
Stand on side of the Vasa Trainer that is closest to the leg that has a cuff on. Come into a mini-squat, reach one arm then the other overhead, and extend the leg with the cuff.  Exhale: Then extend the leg in the cuff and the opposite arm, inhale and switch arms, and tap your toes to the floor.  Keep the spine, arms, & legs long. Energize the arms and legs.   Do 5-10 reps and repeat on the other side. 

18. Pike/pushup combo: Face away from the back end of the Vasa Trainer and put both hands on the floor, and both feet on the bench. Start with bench pushed up the monorail.  Inhale & bend your elbows, exhale as you push up, keeping the Trainer bench still.  Inhale to a pike position, bringing your feet closer to your hands and the bench seat in. Exhale return. Do 5-10 reps

Cheryl Alden, PT, an accomplished open water swimmer & triathlete,  holds a bachelor’s degree in physical therapy (cum laude) from the University of Vermont.  For many years, her focus as a physical therapist was outpatient orthopedics. Cheryl continues to expand her knowledge in the field of physical therapy and applies it to her current position as owner of Symmetry Pilates Center. Cheryl has been a fitness instructor for over 20 years teaching various types of group exercise classes and now focuses primarily on STOTT PILATES® and TRX.