How to Do the Swimming Exercise Move

By: Chris Freytag, CPT

Chris Freytag demonstrating Swimmers


Swimming is an exercise often found in Pilates that strengthens your low back and core muscles and teaches your body to stabilize. The idea behind this exercise is to learn how to pull the muscles of the core in so tightly that you are stable in the middle despite the fact that your arms and legs are moving around quickly. If you learn how to do Swimming you will likely feel sore in your lower back the next day. Don’t be concerned. The lower back muscles are underused in our workout life. It is important that strengthening your core includes not just your abdominals, but also your lower back.

Place yourself face down on the mat for this exercise. You will end up lifting your hands and feet and fluttering them quickly back and forth. At the same time you will want to imagine there is a full bowl of water sitting on your lower back and you are trying your best not to spill any water as your feet and hands flutter. Notice that the more you pull your abdominal muscles in, the more stable you become. That is the purpose of the exercise.

Another tip: make sure to tighten your glute muscles as you move. These will protect the lower back as well as enhance your overall stability.

Use this exercise in conjunction with our workout Pilates Workout For Beginners.

Here are the steps for performing Swimming:

1) Lie on your stomach with the legs and arms extended. Engage your abdominals so you feel your transverse abdominis contract.

2) Lift your arms and legs off the floor and keep your nose in a hover above the mat.  Flutter your arms and legs, moving from the hips and shoulders (not the knees and elbows). Like your swimming.

Targets: back, core, shoulders, hamstrings

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