Stretching Exercises in the Pool

Research has shown us that it’s not wise to stretch a muscle when it is cold.  So whether you are a coach working with athletes, an instructor teaching a class, or a rehab specialist working with patients, you will want to do the stretching segment after your people have warmed up. Perhaps you warm up your athletes by having them run or jump in chest-deep water.  Or maybe you begin your class by having students perform their favorite choreography to music.  Or your patients may walk slowly across the shallow end of the pool as they work to improve their gait.

Once their muscles have warmed up, it’s a good time to stretch.  One of the great things we all experience when stretching in water is that we can float into positions that would be difficult to reach on land – or even impossible if we were injured.

You can see in the photo above that we have double bars on the sides of our pool, which makes stretching easy.  Some of you with older pools will have gutters on the inside of the pool.  Those gutters are excellent hand holds for stretching!  But those of you with newer pool without gutters or bars, will need to hold onto the coping – the border around the entire edge of the pool.

Holding the coping during stretching exercises

If the coping is narrow or doesn’t offer participants a good grip, look around your pool and see if you can find something else that might work.  One person could hold onto the ladder; another could use the excellent grip created by the hollow space at the skimmer box.  If you still don’t have a solid hand-hold solution, you’ll need to modify your stretches so that they don’t require putting both feet on the wall.  For instance, in the lateral split shown above, you could have participants open their feet wide along the bottom of the pool as they place their hands on top of the deck.  Be inventive to get the job done stretching each muscle group.

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