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Warm-up and Stretching

Warm-ups should begin with an in-pool aerobic session, followed by 5 minute stretching on the pool deck, some in shallow water and some in deep water.

Flexibility and Timing

You may have been told that flexibility is important for increased performance ability and to decrease the occurrence of injury. But is it?

It may be more important to stretch at the right time, or it might be a waste of time. What is the difference between flexibility, stretching and warming up?

While you should never base all your decisions on one report, studies like those in "The Physician and Sportsmedicine" show that stretching before exercise does not decrease the risk of injury, and that increased warm-up is probably more valuable.

Others say you should warm-up, stretch, then get back in and swim some more laps. Still others say wait until after your workout because stretching decreases the muscle's ability to generate force for some period of time after the stretch has been performed; you will be slower after you stretch, until your muscle recovers.

Another line of reasoning is that stretching before a workout only returns a muscle to its normal level of exercise flexibility. To gain flexibility, stretches must be performed after the muscle has been fully warmed up and is already at its greatest current level of flexibility, most likely after a workout has been completed.

Swim Events

During a swim meet, limit stretching before your event to a few seconds to help you relax after you complete an in-pool, pre-event warm-up. Finish with additional stretching after completing your workout as part of your cool-down routine.

After warm-up and streching wear a anork or cycling cape while waiting around on poolside or in the warm-up pool. This keeps you warm and supple.

No warm-up pool? Then do some other gentle activity to increase blood circulation and raise the temperature of your muscles. Do a slight, gentle stretching, then get up and swim fast!

Stretching Routine

Do this before and after your workout session to relax your muscles. Change into your swim kit first so you don't lose time between warm-up and training. To achieve and maintain the benefits of an aquatic exercise program, follow the main principles of stretching.

After Swim Stretching

Follow-up with additional stretching after completing your swim as part of your cool-down routine. Sit in knee deep water. Bend your knees at a 90-degree angle and put your feet flat on the floor. Get a friend to hold them down, if possible. Place your hands on the side of your head.

Press your lower back against the floor to begin the movement with your face under water, curl up and touch your elbows to your knees (count one), then return to the starting position.

Exhale as you come up; inhale when upright. Perform as many sit-ups as you can in 60 seconds.

Stop when the movement becomes forcibly strained, you feel nausea in your stomach, or when you start to lift your buttocks off the floor at the beginning of each repetition.

Move to slightly deeper water so that your face gets fully submersed during each repetition. This will prepare you for lifesaving in the sea, where waves wash over you.

Push-ups in Shallow Water

Do at least 10 push ups to get started. If this is a challenge, then you'd better start practicing right now. If you cannot do push-ups correctly or not enough of them, then start doing kneeling push-ups right now, start today. Start building the muscles that you probably had no reason to use lying around your house.

In shallow water position yourself as shown. Facing downwards lower your body so your clothes just touch the water surface. Keep legs together and use your toes (or knees) as the pivot point. If this exercise is too difficult, pivot off your knees instead of toes by flexing knees.

Push Up

With your fingers pointing forward, place your hands below your shoulders. Push up by straightening your arms until your elbows are locked, then return to the starting position (with your chest just touching the water). Keep hips and waist straight and your body in a straight line throughout.

Go Down

Exhale as you push up; inhale on the way back down before you contact the water. Lower yourself so you just touch the water. Don't go all in yet.

Perform this motion in a continuous manner. Do as many repetitions as you can, without a time limit. Stop the exercise when the movement becomes forcibly strained.

Full Immersion

Finally move into knee deep water. Immerse yourself fully on the way down. Then push your body up and out of the water, which is quite a challenge when your wear lots of heavy wet clothes. This is great fun, but rather exhausting.

Poolside Push-up

This is a great arm and upper body workout. Slowly raise and lower yourself in and out of the water. Try different hand positions, closer together or further apart.

Next turn around, with your back towards the poolside, and push up that way. You'll exercise a different set of muscles.

As you get good with this, add more clothes to make it more challenging. Push-ups get tough in heavy kit.

Hindu Push-up

The Hindu Push-up is a staple exercise in the training routines of Asian lifeguards. Many believe it originated in India.

It consists of a dynamic full body movement that will build strength and flexibility in your chest, shoulders, back, hips, and triceps.

Another benefit when doing it in water is that it will prepare you for surf swimming. You get used to water washing over your head while you exercise.

Get in position by standing with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart.

Take a deep breath and bend down and place your hands on the floor while keeping your arms and legs straight, with your head pointing down into the water.

Now make sort of a downward swooping motion with your body. Bring your body deeper under water by bending your elbows.

When your head gets close to the ground, continue moving your torso forward by arching your back. Lower your hips so they will now be near your hands. Make sure to get a good stretch in your back.

Return to the starting position and repeat.

The Dive Bomber Push-up is performed exactly like the Hindu Push-up, except when you return to the starting position, you follow the same swooping motion you make on the descent in reverse. It gives those muscles a bit more of a workout than Hindu Push-ups.

Jump and Climb

This may sound easier than it is, because this aerobic exercise gets harder the longer you do it.

For a minute jump into deep water and immediately climb out, do not use the steps. Repeat as often as you can.

Pushing yourself up is the hard bit, jumping in is the fun reward. Submerge completely under water before you come up again.

Next put on some light clothes and do it again. Feel the difference. Add more clothing layers until you reach the limit of your strength. When you can do it in cargo pants and hoodie, you're good.

Pool Sprint

The pool sprint helps lifeguards and athletes test their fitness level and provides a cross training element. This exercise builds lower body core strength and leg muscles.

Water provides a strong resistanse to the runner, making pool sprint an extremely efficient and interesting alternative to other exercise and top sports. Plus, it looks cool.

Pool sprint is perfect for those who wish to explore their physical limits. Some teams use weighted sneakers and a special underwater mat for better grip.

Run the Width of the Pool

Get into waist deep water and run the width of the pool as fast as you can. See how many widths you can do. Ten or more would be good.

Jump and Run

Next add an extra challenge. On each side get out, touch the wall, and jump back in for the next width.

Train like the Marines

Not hard enough? Instead of touching the wall, do 10 push-ups or 10 sit-ups.

Ladder Pull-up

This fun exercise will train you like a benchpress for your legs with extra benefit for your arms. You use your calves and your upper leg muscles, and stregthen your back.

Hold on to the ladder with both hands and step down knee deep. Your feet should be about two steps below the surface and spread apart as far as the step allows. That will give you extra stability.

Slide Down

Whilst your hands slide down the handles, lower yourself into the water into a squatting position, about neck deep. If you like, go right under the water.

Push Up

Then push yourself up again with your legs and pull with your arms towards the ladder. Stand right up. Go down again and repeat as often as you can.


Later on vary the exercise a bit. Go up or down a step and compare how that goes. You should feel the relevant muscles after about one minute.

This exercise should be done quickly using a fair amount of force. Add more clothes as you get stronger. Anoraks, hoodies, and jogging suits hold a lot of water and get really heavy.

Boat Climb

This is a variation of the above, using an inflatable boat. Put the boat in the middle of the pool, far away from the edge to avoid injury.

Climb into to boat, stand up, and fall back in over the side. This may sound easy until you do it for a full minute or more. Unlike the pool side, the boat moves about, more so when several people do this exercise at once. Great fun.

Arm Swings

This exercise builds upper body strength, mainly biceps and triceps muscles. Additional clothes increase your training effort.

Stand in shoulder deep water, one foot forward, one back. Stretch your arms out sideways.

Using a good amount of strength push your arms together and apart again, around a 90° angle. Make a good effort, squeeze it in and push out hard.

Return to the starting position by flexing your triceps as you breathe out. Keep going for at least a minute, preferably much more, until you really feel your muscles. Then take a short break.

Next do the same again, but simply bend your arms at the elbows and pull your hands to the chest. Then push out again. Work hard against the resistance of the water. Keep going for a minute or more.

lifeguard exercise stretching  lifeguard exercise stretching 

Reader Comment: Powerful Training

from Andrew in Brisbane, Australia

Thank you for a programme I can use and get fit. I have to swim in clothes because of my light sensitive skin and high sunburn risk, so your programme is just right for me. Your aquatic gym idea gives me a powerful exercise set and is much more fun than a dry gym.

Up to three times a week I do cross training, dressed in sportswear or casual clothes. First I do resistance swimming in the pool. Then go running in the wet clothes which makes it a bit harder but keeps me cool.

On return to the pool my clothes are almost dry, so I swim a few more lengths and take a shower. Finally I get on my bike in my wet clothes and cycle along the coast. By the time I get home my clothes are usually dry again. This training keeps me very fit.