Many coaches and athletes keep asking me about the best warm up exercises for synchronized swimmers. I have decided to answer their questions with this post where I will stress the importance of a correct warm up and explain how to warm up properly for the artistic swimming training.
A warm up is extremely important for a few reasons. First of all, it increases the blood flow and muscle temperatures in the athlete's body. This enables a greater oxygen flow in the athletes muscles. Moreover, it mobilizes the joints, taking them through their desired range of motion. A good warm up will help in reducing the risk of injuries and prepare the athlete mentally for the upcoming work.
Firstly, I should clarify that the warm up for artistic swimmers does not start in the water! It may sound strange but it is very important to warm up before a warm up. That means that the synchro training should start with active, light intensity exercises on land first. This includes all kinds of leg and arm swings with light jumping to prepare the athlete for bigger ranges of motion later in the practice. As artistic swimmers use eggbeater to showcase their arms high out of the water, it is usually a good idea to warm up their knees and perform hip opening exercises during their warm up on land. Since artistic swimmers get shoulder injuries quite often, warm up is a great time to target this area. This will lower the chances of shoulder injury in the future. Knee, feet, ankle extension and some active flexibility exercises should also be thrown in the mix. To finish off the warm up on land, some light cardio like jogging on the spot, jumping jacks or squat jumps should also be performed. After around 5-10 minutes of warming up the body and preparing it for the required work, it is time to jump in the water. Here is where the real fun starts and some confusion on what to do next.
Side lunges for hips opening.
Usually the warm up in the water is a combination of swimming, breath work and synchro basics. It is the best time for athletes to feel the water and get ready for specific synchro work. Depending on my plans for the session and the season phase I usually do warm ups that contain from 200 to 500 meters. If the focus of the day is on routines or if I have planned a long swimming workout, I usually do a shorter warm up, that means around 200-300m. If the focus of the day is on figures or technique, where the swimmers need to stay stationary for longer periods of time, then I tend to do a longer warm up, meaning 400 to 500 meters.
Before my swimmers dive in the water, I always tell them all the sets they are supposed to do for their warm up and make sure that they all understood the assignment. This usually saves time when the swimmers are in the water, as the athletes do not need to stop after each set. I find the lack of interruptions very beneficial for getting into that warm up mental zone. The athletes focus on their task and get mentally ready for upcoming work.
My warm ups start from a head first dive (you can even make it more fun and create unique dives everyday, for a team building experience) and the athletes continue with the assignment planned for them.
Tip when working with novice swimmers:
Before each warm up in the water, line up the swimmers on the side of the pool in an order they should be swimming. After explaining what they should be doing during their warm up, let them dive into the water head first. Make it a rule: when entering the water, they are only allowed to head dive. This way you will be practicing the head dives without loosing too much time each practice on this task. Make sure that you dedicate one or two practices for the head dive technique explanation before you introduce the new rule. Don't forget to give feedback on the swimmer's dives after each time!
My warm ups are usually strictly swimming based as I tend to do more swimming after the warm up, but this also depends on the season phase and the length of the session. I never start the warm ups with butterfly or breast stroke, as those strokes put too much strain on shoulders (butterfly) and hips (breast stroke). I usually tell the athletes to start with crawl or butterfly with alternating arms. This way I am protecting my athletes from unnecessary injuries, resulting from being underprepared or not warm enough for such range of motions.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I like to add exercises that require breath control for my warm ups. This way the athletes warm up their lungs and get ready to hold their breath for longer periods of time during their artistic swimming training. Examples of breath control exercises include; holding the breath for half a lap and then continue with regular breathing, breathing every certain amount of strokes (can be every 7 or 9 strokes), underwater laps. The goal here is to alternate no breathing periods with breathing periods, which will also increase the athlete's stamina over time.
If I do not have a lot of time that I can dedicate for swimming after my warm up, I move to synchro laps. In this instance I include 100m of synchro in my warm up. This is when the swimmers warm up different skills for every 25 meters (1 lap), starting with eggbeater on their back, front or side. Followed by arm swings on their side or back, legs kicks in a front pike or tuck position and hips opening exercises for the splits. It should be noted that those exercises are a warm up only and although the swimmers should be paying attention to their form and execution, the intensity is not the most important factor at this time.
I have included a mini E-Book that consist of 5 different warm up sets for artistic swimmers that you can download. Feel Free to use them during your own training!
When it comes to warm ups during synchronized swimming competitions, I like the athletes to follow a pre-planed warm up. Usually, I plan it from max two weeks, to one week before the competition and the athletes will follow it during every practice leading up to that meet. This way all the athletes will know what they should be doing during their warm up and can focus on stress management and getting used to the new environment and water at the competition. From my experience this works especially well for young athletes that may feel overwhelmed with the structure of the competition warm up - yes, it can get loud and messy!
My competition warm up does not include any butterfly or back stroke. Simply because of often limited space during the warm up in the competition pool. This approach lowers the chances of injuries due to hitting someone, or swimming into someone. It should also be noted that usually the athletes have a very limited amount of time for their warm up and this includes working on their figures or routines as well! I usually do 10-15 minutes of lap swimming warm up where I like to add a lot of kicking drills combined with breath control and synchro basic sets. Then I move on to stationary work when I want to practice figures or pick a free spot to practice the routines. As the warm ups tend to be usually very hectic and loud I like to come prepared with what my athletes need to focus on during this short amount of time.
“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success." Alexander Graham Bell
I hope that after this short post, you are more confident when planning and creating your warm up sets. Don't forget to download your free warm up examples that I have written. Feel free to mix the included sets and create your own!
If you are still unsure on what to include and how to build your own warm up reach out on my social media or email me your questions. I am always happy to help!
If you are in need of some coaching guidance check my website out and book a "Coaches Consultation" where we can discuss all synchro related topics and problems you may struggle with.
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About the author
My name is Agata and I have been an artistic swimming coach for over eight years. I have coached athletes from various countries from all age categories and levels of proficiency in the sport. Before sharing my knowledge online I have gained experience as a coach and a judge in various countries in Europe. I was a head coach for master swimmers in one of the clubs in London, leading the team to 6th place at the World Championships. I also worked as an assistant coach for the Youth and Junior National Teams in Switzerland and participated in the first Youth World Championship as an Icelandic soloist's coach. In 2021 I have been a head coach for the U10 category and dominated at all competitions throughout the season in all categories. I have obtained my masters degree in psychology at the University of Derby in the UK.
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