Written references to human swimming date back to 2000 B.C. While lively drawings from the Stone Age were found in "the cave of swimmers" in the southwestern part of Egypt, near Sura. The first book on swimming was written in 1538 by Nicolas Wynman, a German professor of languages. The sport of competitive swimming began in Europe around 1800, with the breaststroke appearing as the most popular competitive event. The crawl, (at the time, known as the trudgen) was introduced by John Arthur Trudgen in 1873, who copied the stroke from Native American swimmers.
If you're looking to improve your swimming or just seeking to prevent swimming injuries it is important to follow the information in this article. In addition, adding a few simple stretches to your fitness program will also help. To get started on a safe and effective stretching routine that's just right for you, check out the Ultimate Guide to Stretching & Flexibility.
Swimming was an included event in the first modern Summer Olympics games, held in Athens in 1896. Around the turn of the century, the backstroke was incorporated as an Olympic Event. A variant of the breaststroke known as the butterfly was introduced as an independent event in 1952.
The objective of competitive swimming is to be the fastest swimmer over a given distance. Currently, there are 34 competitive swimming events, (17 male events and 17 female events). At the Summer Olympic Games, male and female swimmers compete in 13 of the recognized events each. All Olympic competitions are held in a 50 meter pool.
The four competitive strokes are the butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and freestyle or frontcrawl. The strokes are sometimes swum as individual events, though two or more may be combined into an individual medley (IM), in the order 1) butterfly, 2) backstroke, 3) breaststroke, and 4) freestyle. Swimming relays are also included in competition, generally with four swimmers in the relay team swimming a predetermined distance which depends on the overall length of the relay - 200 meters or yards, 400 meters or yards, and 800 meters or yards (which is a freestyle event).
Swimming is a popular competitive sport and recreational pastime nearly everywhere in the world, in both natural and man-made bodies of water. In addition to indoor swimming pools, swimming is done in lakes, rivers and the open sea, sometimes over long distances and even in the frigid waters of the arctic.
Competitive swimming is primarily an aerobic exercise, involving long exercise time. Muscles must be constantly supplied with oxygen, with the exception of sprints where the muscles are worked anaerobically. Swimming, particularly in events where the stroke styles are varied between backstroke, front crawl (freestyle) and breast stroke, make use of all major muscle groups:
The basic muscles used for each stroke are:
Freestyle; deltoids and legs muscles
Breastroke; thighs, biceps, and gluteal muscles
Butterfly; abdominals, deltoids and leg muscles
Backstroke; Triceps and leg muscles
A single stroke, for example, the butterfly, requires the coordination of various muscles and muscle groups, including:
Hand force applied to the water is actually generated by the rotation of the hips, rather than the muscles of the arm. Torque generated by the larger, stronger hip muscles, allows the swimmer's powerful arm strokes to strike the water with a rapid turn of the hips. For this reason, elite swimmers focusing on increasing the acceleration of their hips are able to double their peak hand force output.
Most Common Swimming Injuries
Swimming is a healthy activity for all ages and has a comparatively low risk for injury compared with many other sports. Some health risks nevertheless should be taken note of, particularly those with serious or life-threatening consequences:
Overuse injuries may result, including back pain, vertebral fractures or shoulder pain, (particularly from excessive butterfly strokes over time). Breaststroke swimmers may develop knee or hip pain, while freestyle and backstroke swimmers risk shoulder pain, (known as swimmer's shoulder - a form of tendonitis).
Finally, dangers in natural waters place swimmers at risk for a range of accidents and injuries, which include:
The Top 3 Swimming Stretches
Stretching is one of the most under-utilized techniques for improving athletic performance, preventing sports injury and properly rehabilitating sprain and strain injury. Don't make the mistake of thinking that something as simple as stretching won't be effective. Below are 3 very beneficial stretches for swimming; obviously there are a lot more, but these are a great place to start. Please make special note of the instructions beside each stretch.
|Reaching-up Shoulder Stretch: Place one hand behind your back and then reach up between your shoulder blades.|
|Arm-up Rotator Stretch: Stand with your arm out and your forearm pointing upwards at 90 degrees. Place a broom stick in your hand and behind your elbow. With your other hand pull the bottom of the broom stick forward.|
|Single Heel-drop Calf Stretch: Stand on a raised object or step. Put the ball of one foot on the edge of the step and keep your leg straight. Let your heel drop towards the ground.|
While the recommendations on this page are a good starting point, you'll get a lot more benefit when you include a wider variety of exercises. So to improve your athletic ability, reduce injuries and really take advantage of all the stretching exercises on offer, grab a copy of the Ultimate Guide to Stretching & Flexibility (Handbook, DVD & CD-ROM).
In total, they include 135 clear photographs and 44 video demonstrations of unique stretching exercises for every major muscle group in your body. Plus, over 80 printable stretching routines for 22 sports and 19 different muscle groups.
The DVD also includes 3 customized stretching routines (8 minutes each) for the Upper Body; the Lower Body; and the Neck, Back & Core, plus a bonus CD-ROM that allows you to print out over 80 stretching routines that you can take with you where ever you go.
The Handbook and DVD will show you, step-by-step, how to perform each stretch correctly. Plus, you'll also learn the 7 critical rules for safe stretching; the benefits of flexibility; and how to stretch properly. Check out the Ultimate Guide to Stretching & Flexibility for yourself.