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How to Do the Swimmer Exercise for Back Pain Relief

Learn how to do The Swimmer exercise from physical therapist Eric Sampson in this Howcast video.


Hi. I'd like to spend a moment now talking about an exercise called the swimmer.

The swimmer is a great exercise used in the clinic, using physical therapy when we're trying to rehab a back patient. It's a little less strenuous on the back than some other ones, so I often introduce the exercise in the middle of their care as they're beginning their rehab strengthening component of their care. Hopefully the pain has been under control now and they're ready to start challenging their spine with more difficult exercises.

So the key to this exercise is going to be you go face down now, and what you're looking to do is to try to lift up your leg and your opposite arm at the same time. Why don't you go ahead and do that? Good. You're going to hold that for a few seconds and the muscles that are being strengthened with this exercise are going to be the back and a little bit of your core as well as your hips and as well as your scapular and arm. Now switch.

This is a little less strenuous on the back in that you are already flat, you're already supported. You're not trying to hold your balance like you would in an exercise like the bird dog. You're already flat and supported so your core can actually turn off a little bit and it's mostly just a back strengthener. Other side, just one more time. With this exercise you can actually do it with doing repetitions in each or you can actually hold it for an extended period of time with a goal being about 30 seconds to a minute. Switch one more time.

The key to this exercise is going to be to really make sure that you're focusing at the knee to some degree. Make sure the knees are being straight. If the knee is bending a little during the exercise, it's going to cause the hamstring muscle to kick in and a little bit less of your gluten back where you really want to focus your attention. And that's the swimmer.

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