Tips From Physiotherapist Matt Taylor

Pr Head & Shoulder Portrait Expert Profile: Matt Taylor
Speedo expert profile ǀ Matt Taylor ǀ Physiotherapist
Physiotherapist Matt Taylor shares his tips for swimmers at www.speedo.co.uk. Visit now to read his expert profile and career background.
Thanks to a diverse mix of clients, Matt Taylor’s physiotherapy career has taken him from hospital to private practice via work with the World’s Strongest Man competition, English Volleyball and Loughborough Triathletes. An experienced swimming physio, in 2003 he worked with Rebecca Adlington’s Nova Centurion Swim Club alongside veteran swim coach, Bill Furniss
Quote: I enjoy getting clients in the pool for rehab and as part of their fitness.

Question and answer

Can you share one of your career highlights? I enjoyed working with Becky Adlington while she was swimming.

How do you relax? I run. I go to the gym. I think the hot tub’s good!

What do you like best about your job? I enjoy all of it, from sports physio to bad backs.

What inspires you? Knowing that people come to me to get better.

Clients past and present include:

  • Ad-hoc work  with NOVA swim squad athletes, 2003
  • World’s Strongest Man competition, 2004-2006
  • Nottingham Rugby, 2005-2014
  • England Volleyball, 2014
  • Currently running a private Physiotherapy Clinic, 2003 – present
IMPROVE YOUR SWIMMING TECHNIQUE
Swimming technique – physio tips
Speedo physio tips ǀ Improve your swimming technique
Learn why improving your swimming technique is important with advice from experienced physio, Matt Taylor. Visit www.speedo.co.uk for expert tips.
Read: Swim stronger with technique-improving advice and tips from physio Matt Taylor.
Intro
Your swimming technique can make or break your performance. Top physiotherapist Matt Taylor reveals why improving your technique can make all the difference to your speed, fitness and chance of staying injury-free.
[Read Matt’s expert profile to learn more about his background in physiotherapy.]

Why is technique so important to swimmers? From my point of view, if you’ve got good technique, you’re less likely to get injured. With good technique also comes good core stability, which can help you move through the water quicker and achieve your goals of becoming fitter, stronger and faster.
Plus, it’s fun when you have a good technique and you’re able to move through the water freely and easily.

Going nowhere? You may have poor technique to thank

In terms of swimming for fitness, you expect to work hard for the first few weeks. After that, you expect it to become easier. However, poor technique can make it continue to feel difficult, like you’re slogging through your swim. You think, “I’ve hardly been able to do 15 minutes!” This is down to poor technique. It’s a good idea get expert instruction on technique in the early stages of your fitness, so if you missed out on this it’s worth a swim fitness lesson to give you something to work on and help you transform your swim.

Keep your hips high

One of the most common swimming technique mistakes is dropping your hips during your swim. This is a negative because it reduces your efficiency and increases the effort required from you to swim, while putting pressure on the lower back.

Don’t forget your legs

Not controlling your legs adequately is another common technique mistake. When you’re swimming, you rotate to get your arm out of the water, and when you rotate your upper body, sometimes your legs go in different directions. So imagine a stake that runs through your scull right down your spine to your feet. You’re rotating around that line and what you don’t want is for your feet to drift away from the line. If your feet are flapping about behind you, it reduces your efficiency and makes it hard work, so maintain this awareness during your swim.

Keep your form – in and out of the pool

It’s not just in the pool where your technique and form is important – everything you do outside of the pool, such as your training on land, requires good technique too. For example, a common mistake swimmers make on land is to perform the plank incorrectly, by creating a straight line from their shoulders to their feet, instead of from their shoulders to their hips.

The most common swimming injuries

Back and shoulder injuries are the most common complaints for swimmers and largely come from being in the wrong position due to poor technique. Swimmers work very close to the limits of their shoulder movements, with elite swimmers covering 10,000 metres a week. Which means you can become injured because your muscles fatigue and you’re not able to control your shoulder or you become injured because you try and power through the water with bad technique, performing movements incorrectly that quickly risk your shoulder.

If you are suffering from an injury, please seek medical advice before trying any of the exercises suggested in this blog.

 

CORE STRENGTHENING EXERCISE
Core strength exercises
Speedo swimming tips ǀ Core strength building exercises
Visit www.speedo.co.uk for fitness exercises designed to improve your core strength for swimming. Featuring tips from experienced physio, Matt Taylor.

Read: Improve your core strength with physiotherapist Matt Taylor’s exercise tips.

Intro
Step away from the pool and discover which land-based exercises and techniques can help you improve your core strength and stability, with recommendations from experienced physiotherapist, Matt Taylor.

[Read Matt’s expert profile to learn more about his background in physiotherapy.]

Try the ‘dead bug’

The dead bug is designed to strengthen your abdominal muscles by using your legs and arms to engage your core and keep it stable. You don’t need any equipment, just a floor. 
How to do it:
Lie on your back with your spine in a neutral position. Bend your knees and lift your legs off the floor, raising your arms at the same time (as if you’re a dead bug). To work your core, extend your left arm backwards while you straighten your right leg. Switch arms/legs and repeat.

Rethink your posture

Many young people today walk around with their bellies sticking out, hips forward. This is a demonstration of poor core stability and it creates pressure on the lower back. Walking with good core stability, with your stomach in line with your ribcage, will feel like an effort, like you’re leaning forward, but you should try and do this every day – aim to achieve this 40 percent of the time. Lean slightly forwards with your ribcage, which creates a gentle tightness in your stomach and takes the pressure off your lower back.

Consider pilates to complement your swimming

Pilates is brilliant for swimmers because it encourages the correct alignment of your spine and strengthens the core.  My advice would be to start with a one-to-one lesson first, in order to understand what position your spine should be in. Once you’ve had your personal session, you can move into classes or group sessions.

I’m also a big fan of yoga. It’s been misunderstood as being about stretching, but in fact yoga enhances your feel for your muscles and how you align yourself.

Use the cable machines at the gym

Cable machines, which include pulley-based weights rather than free weights, allow you to work on your core while building arm strength and endurance. Concentrate on engaging your core while exercising and gradually increase the weight.

Try the Swiss ball plank

This exercise involves performing a standard plank on a Swiss ball. Get into a position with your forearms on the ball, your shoulders over the top of the ball and your feet on the floor. Hold this position to work your core muscles.

Get the classic plank position right

When performing a classic plank on the floor (i.e forearms and toes on the floor), it’s important to have the correct form. Many people try and put a straight line from their shoulders to their feet, which is wrong. Aim for a straight line from your shoulders to your hips, and then a straight line from your hips to your feet, so your body is parallel to the floor. It’s all about being straight in your abdominal area.

Listen to your body

At no point during any of these core exercises should there be any pressure in your back. If there is, it’s a message that you’re in the wrong position. Or, it’s your body’s way of saying, ‘I can cope with this for a short period of time only’. Listen to your body at all times and stop if you experience any of the above.

If you are suffering from an injury, please seek medical advice before trying any of the exercises suggested in this blog.

 

CORE STRENGTH AND SWIMMING
Core strength and swimming – physio tips
Speedo physio tips ǀ Core strength for swimming
Visit www.speedo.co.uk to learn how a strong core can help improve your swim, with tips from experienced physio, Matt Taylor.
Read: Improve your swim with advice on core stability from physio Matt Taylor.
Intro
Learn just how important a role your core strength plays in your swimming performance and discover how to improve it, with advice from top physiotherapist, Matt Taylor.
[Read Matt’s expert profile to learn more about his background in physiotherapy.]

What is core stability?

If the body had no muscle it would collapse inwards, rather like when you blow up a chimney tower. This is where core stability comes in – it is the core stability muscles that hold the skeleton up, nice and strong, against gravity.

What core stability means for swimmers

When it comes to swimmers, our understanding of core stability differs somewhat compared to other athletes. Because swimmers are not acting against gravity in the water, their core stability muscles can weaken. On top of this, thanks to the small range of movement through the hips during swimming, swimmers don’t get to use their power muscles – they have to use their core muscles to help create movement. So instead of using their core muscles to work against gravity, as they would on land, swimmers use them to hold their body in an efficient position and to help them move through the water.

As a result, core strength is hugely important to swimmers.

Raise your core awareness

Being mindful of your body position in the water is really important.  In order to work your core properly, you have think about working your core properly while you swim. This will help you to improve your technique, which will enable you to improve your swimming.

[Speedo tip: We’ve designed our Body Positioning Swimwear to help you remain aware of your core muscles. Find out more here.]

Use a side swimming drill to strengthen your core

To improve your core strength, use your time in the pool to perform this one-arm side swimming drill.

Position yourself on your side in the water and engage your core muscles to hold your body in position. Remain on your side while your opposite arm performs the swimming stroke. This is a drill elite swimmers use to help them work on their technique.

Try this exercise: Alternate your body positioning

There are times when swimming in an ‘imperfect’, non-streamlined position is good for your core muscles because it allows you to work them more aggressively. When you swim in a streamlined position, your core muscles work for longer at about 40-50 percent of their capacity. To help improve your core and work it more intensively, try coming out of the correct position and swimming for two minutes with your core heavily engaged, before slipping back into the streamlined position. At this point, your core will engage again, but at a lower level.

Use paddles to work on your core and your technique

I’m a big fan of hand paddles, which work by making it more difficult for the water to move around your hand. The act of swimming with paddles engages your shoulders first, then (if you have a strong core) your core, followed by your abdominals, your bum and your legs. As you put your hand in the water, at the pull stage, your body can go two ways. It can either engage your shoulder and then engage your core, or it can engage your shoulder and sink your hips, so you don’t have to work as hard. Awareness of your body position is very important at this point to engage your core and employ the correct technique.

If you are suffering from an injury, please seek medical advice before trying any of the exercises suggested in this blog.

 

REST AND RECOVERY
Rest and recovery – physio tips
Speedo physio tips ǀ Improve your swim with rest days
Fitness swimmer? Experienced physio, Matt Taylor, reveals the importance of including rest and recovery days in your training. Visit www.speedo.co.uk for more.
Read: Physio Matt Taylor explains how to maximise your performance with recovery days.
Intro
When you’re feeling strong in the pool it can be tempting to skip rest days. Don’t! Here, physiotherapist Matt Taylor explains how recovery days can be your ally in improving your performance.
[Read Matt’s expert profile to learn more about his background in physiotherapy.]

Why the body needs recovery days

When you exercise, your body has to recover, to a point, before you do it again. When your muscles are under strain, their nerve transmitters, neural transmitters and energy levels decrease. Recovery days help to restore these levels, so you can train effectively again.

Why skipping a rest day can be counterproductive

Sometimes you might work a muscle too hard during training, and when that happens, the muscle will almost lock. To protect itself, it will go very tight so it can’t rip. You might feel it spasm straight away, but often you won’t notice it. You might just feel sore the next day and sorer still the day after that. It’s at about this point that the muscle starts to calm down and recover.

If you keep exercising, without resting, the muscle won’t release and will become more painful. Your joint won’t be able to move as well as usual. Although your muscle may not tear, it will have a knock-on effect, meaning a prolonged period of discomfort. So more than likely you’ll get fed up, exhausted and won’t carry on.

Rest and recovery – how long?

When you first start exercising, the point at which your body is ready to do it all again is further away than when you’re fit and exercise regularly. For the first month, leave a two-day gap between your training, then switch to a one-day rest. Swimming Monday, Wednesday and Friday works for a lot of people.

What to do on recovery days

On non-swim days, you can assist your muscle recovery by performing light weights, which gives the muscles something to do. Aim to lift the weight slowly through the entire range of movement, as this asks the muscle to work every single fibre. Focus on your technique and go slow and steady.

Also aim for one session every week that includes more strength-based activity, like working on the cable machines. So, ideally your schedule should include one slow gym session with light weights to aid muscle recovery, and one fast gym session which is just about building strength on, say, your arms and shoulders.

If you’re quite fit, you might want to fit in four swims, along with one slow gym session and one fast gym session, each week.

If you are suffering from an injury, please seek medical advice before trying any of the exercises suggested in this blog.

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