Most triathletes will hop in the pool and swim a short warm-up of freestyle before starting into a main set. However there’s a much better way to get started and also cool down with your swim session. With my swim squad in Boulder I like to start my athletes doing a double arm backstroke combined with a back flutter kick with fins during the warm up. A follow up double arm backstroke with or without fins can be added in the cool down.


1.This is a wonderful way to start your workout because it increases your shoulder mobility and also stretches your thoracic spine, hips, shoulders and pectoralis muscles. Recognize that doing double arm backstroke lengthens the entire torso and heightens the elongation of all the muscles noted. The natural mobility on the three key areas: back, shoulders and hips are all combined with this stroke.

2. When implementing this drill, keep your arms straight and pull them overhead with a long extended stroke. Make sure you enter the water with your arms in a “Y” shape. The reason for doing this is a completely outstretched entry requires a magnificent range of motion in your shoulders and back. Most triathletes do not have this mobility or flexibility. Consequently they arch their low back and simultaneously allow a flexion in the elbow as the arm enters the water.  The arms entering wider will actually increase the stretch and range of motion as noted in #1.  Plus:  It feels amazing!

3. Kicking with fins will allow you to keep your nose dry when swinging the arms overhead. A sinking feeling is quite common so you’ll need to rev up your flutter kick when the arms are directly over your eyes. A dry nose enhances the stretch and the fins elevate the hip flexor stretching action.

4. One final tip is to draw in your belt line muscle called the transverse abdominus (TVA). This will take away the lower back arching and help work your core! As your warm up evolves you will feel the TVA lightly stabilize your core and minimize any wiggling or sinking.

Try inserting a 4 to 6 lengths during warm up and cool down. Overcoming and heightening your range of motion will limit undo fatigue caused by your tight body. Do this drill regularly and you’ll notice an overall improvement in your shoulder mobility which helps with better overall swim form and faster freestyle!