Everyone has experienced tired muscles, whether it's after going for a run, lifting heavy boxes, or doing a few too many pushups. Certain swimming exercises can ease the soreness in those tired muscles. So, although you might be tempted to lie down on the couch to rest, it will do you more good to hit the swimming pool for the best exercises for tired muscles.
Active recovery, or low-intensity workouts after exercise, is essential to reducing muscle tiredness. Aquatic exercise has been shown to be an excellent method of active recovery, and helps relieve muscle tiredness better than resting. In a study published in "Aquatic Exercise for Rehabilitation and Training," research conducted in 1984 and 1986 by Coyle et al. found that abstaining from exercise for as little as three weeks due to muscle fatigue led to a decline in cardiovascular fitness. In order to maintain cardiovascular health and to loosen up your muscles, some form of low-intensity exercise, such as swimming, is beneficial. In a study published in the "International Journal of Sports Medicine" in 2010, researchers at the University of Australia, School of Sport Science found that athletes who swam several hours after running a race performed significantly better in a second race than athletes who rested between races. Because exercise in water places less of a strain on muscles than exercise on land, swimming can be used as a recovery method for anyone who suffers from muscle tiredness.
Repeating the Motion
When using water exercises for muscle tiredness, bear in mind that you are performing active, not passive, recovery techniques. The goal is to maintain blood flow in the muscles that you have already worked in order to help them recover. Therefore, the exercises you do in the water should work the same muscles that are tired. Perform movements in the water that mirror those that you generally perform on land: if you practice a sport such as tennis or baseball, moving your arms in a swinging motion underwater will help. If you are a runner or soccer player, underwater jogging or walking lunges are the best exercise for you. Utilize the portion of the pool that is deep enough for the exercise you are performing -- swinging your arms above the water won't help if you're trying to help muscle tiredness in your biceps and triceps.
Focus on the Tired Muscles
Focus on the muscles that are tired rather than wasting your energy by working all of your muscles. A modified freestyle stroke can be good for many different types of muscle soreness. If your upper body is tired, place a pull buoy between your legs when you are swimming so that your arms and chest will do most of the work. If the soreness is in your lower body, holding on to a kickboard and performing a flutter kick or dolphin kick will improve blood flow to your gluteus maximus and thighs. You can also hold on to the side of the pool and stretch your legs out behind you to perform kicks. Think about the muscles that are tired; keep them tight and focus your exercises on them.
Just like any other workout, water exercises should be done in moderation. After 10 to 15 minutes, take a break and grab a drink of water, as hydration is key to helping those tired muscles recover. Limit your water exercises to 20 to 30 minutes, as too much exercise will make you feel even more tired. Most importantly, stretch before and after water exercises -- you can do this on dry land, or in the pool, using the pool's edge for support.
- Breaking Muscle: Swimming May Be the Best Method of Recovery for All Athletes
- Human Kinetics: Aquatic Training Programs Benefit Injured Athletes
- The International Journal of Sports Medicine: Effects of a Recovery Swim on Subsequent Running Performance
- BodyBuilding.com: Enhance Recovery by Working Out
Natasha Hochlowski holds a dual B.S. in chemistry and writing from Loyola University Maryland. She has been writing professionally since 2007, frequently contributing to "The Journal of Young Investigators," and has worked as a technical writer/editor for several major pharmaceutical companies.