Competitive swimmer essentials: fun and effective warm-ups and cool-downs

Warm-ups and cool-downs aren’t just bonus bookends for your workout or race: They’re crucial components of a swimmer’s routine and help maintain their health. The downside is these rituals can be dull. Luckily it’s possible to make them both enjoyable and accessible. Let’s explore a holistic approach to these routines (as well as some new exercises) with creative strategies to keep young swimmers engaged. Stay tuned for some tips and tools for improving any coach’s process and routines too. 

1. Make it a game

Your athletes may be competitive, but don’t forget that they’re still kids. To them, almost everything is better when it’s gamified. Kick things off by incorporating games like water polo or relay races into warm-ups and cool-downs. These exciting activities not only inject fun but also foster skill development, making these routines feel more like playtime in the water.

2. Add music to the mix

Sometimes the simplest approach is also the most effective. Create playlists filled with songs to infuse energy into the warm-up and cool-down sessions. Better yet, let swimmers build the playlist themselves as a reward for staying consistent with their warm-up and cool-down routines. This atmosphere also encourages social engagement. Nurture camaraderie by having swimmers work in pairs or groups for synchronized routines or buddy stretches.

3. Set achievable goals

Motivate young swimmers by setting reachable goals like improving stroke technique or measurably increasing flexibility. By celebrating their achievements (even these little ones), you can instill a sense of accomplishment in crucial phases of their training.

4. Create themed sessions and use props

For swimmers on the much younger side, design themed warm-ups and cool-downs, such as pirate adventures or underwater explorations. These imaginative themes ignite young swimmers’ creativity, turning the routine into an exciting adventure. You can enhance this even further with the use of vibrant props such as foam noodles and kickboards. These additions not only add visual appeal but also make exercises more engaging and interactive for beginner swimmers.

5. Educate about benefits

No matter what age your swimmers are, it’s never too early to phase out the “Because I said so” approach to exercise. Take the time to educate young swimmers about the significance of warm-ups and cool-downs in preventing injuries, enhancing flexibility, and improving endurance. When they understand the “why” behind these exercises, they are more likely to embrace them willingly.

Warm-up and cool-down tips

Additionally, incorporating both dryland and in-pool warm-up and cool-down routines can have a measurable effect on overall performance and recovery. Here’s how to approach them:

Dryland warm-up:

  1. Gradually increase body temperature with activities like jump rope, light jogging, and various skips.
  2. Focus on myofascial release, dynamic stretches, and controlled breathing, avoiding intense mobility work.
  3. Engage in general activation exercises, especially for the core and nervous system. Utilize bands for added resistance.

In-Pool warm-up:

The in-pool warm-up follows a similar structure, gradually increasing intensity while focusing on technique and steady breathing. It’s vital to simulate race conditions, including strokes, turns, and starts.

  1. Begin with gentle swimming to prepare your body, gradually increasing the intensity.
  2. Incorporate short, high-intensity swims, such as sprints or intervals, to elevate your heart rate.
  3. After speed or pace work, do some easy swimming or kicking to reduce fatigue.


The length of time for the cool-down routine depends on the age and fitness level of the athlete. It’s important not to accidentally push your swimmer too hard, especially after competition. 

  1. Opt for easy swimming with mixed strokes.
  2. Include some light kicking with a kickboard to loosen up the legs.
  3. Follow a structured cooldown routine with stretching at low or moderate intensity.

By combining these creative strategies with effective dryland warm-up and cool-down routines, young swimmers can not only enjoy their swimming sessions but also maximize their performance and recovery in and out of the pool. When it comes to improving your own routines as a coach, consider Captyn’s management platform. Alleviate administrative burdens with easy enrollment, streamlined roster management, payment reminders, and efficient multifaceted communication. As an official vendor of USA Swimming, Captyn is proud to be fully integrated with SWIMS 3.0 too. Maximize your capabilities today by reaching out to our experts.

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