An interesting workout is the swimming exercise in pilates. This particular movement can be done anywhere, primarily using bodyweight, and helps to strengthen the back muscles along with the thigh muscles and core muscles. It will be helpful to do the exercise on the mat since you will be on your stomach throughout the movement.

Ideally, swimming exercises in pilates work on the whole body because of the overall movement involved. Let’s take a deeper look into how the exercise is performed along with a few tips and benefits.

How to do the swimming exercise in pilates?

Step 1: To perform this exercise, lie on your belly, and stretch your arms in front and your legs behind. Ensure you feel the stretch on your limbs before moving to the next step.

Step 2: Raise your upper body and head off the mat, and at the same time raise your right arm and left leg. It is crucial to control your breathing to allow the oxygen and blood to flow steadily.

Step 3: Squeeze your posterior while pressing down on the mat from your lower body.

Step 4: Begin a swimming pattern with an even rhythm while switching arms and legs.


The correct form will help you obtain the maximum benefits from this movement. However, you need to be slow and steady with the exercise as a beginner. Doing too much too fast can result in injury.

Here are a few tips that will help with the exercise

As mentioned, you must ensure to keep the correct form when attempting the swimming exercise in Pilates.

You should start the exercise with 10 to 15 reps of 2 to 3 sets. As you advance, you can add more reps and sets to the workout.


1) Use a pillow

As a beginner, you may not be comfortable with putting a significant amount of body weight on the pelvis bones. To protect yourself from the same, put a pillow underneath. This way, you can release some pressure from the lower back and enable your upper back to work more efficiently.

2) Maintain the shoulder position

If you lift your head and arms from the mat, there is a chance the shoulder blades will move up as well. While it should move up slightly, it should not be at your ear level. Keep the shoulder blades down.

3) Focus on your breathing

The swimming exercise in Pilates will improve your breathing and form, which will help when swimming. Hence, controlling your breathing is of utmost importance in this exercise.

Ideally, you should be able to complete the movement (arms up and down) five times with an inhale and an exhale. This may not be immediately possible, but with time, you will observe improvements.

4) Engage your core

The movement becomes much smoother when you engage your core. Additionally, engaging your core during the exercise will strengthen the abdominal muscles. A strong set of abdominal muscles will help you move swiftly when in an actual swimming pool.

Benefits of the swimming exercise in Pilates

Every exercise has its own set of benefits. You must know the benefits of each exercise to make sure the correct muscles and body parts are improving.

  • Strengthens the back muscles
  • Works on the hamstrings
  • Works intensely on the posterior muscles
  • Provides definition to the glutes muscles
  • Helps strengthen the abdominal muscles and obliques


Advanced movements of the exercise

There are advanced versions of every exercise. However, it’s unwise to skip the beginners version and jump to an advanced version. All advanced exercises are drafted with the presumption that the do-er knows the correct form.

Swimmers 100

This exercise requires you to lie on your back, with your arms and legs stretched. You will require a strong set of core muscles for this movement. It enables to strengthen and tighten the back muscles

Arms wider swimming exercise

Another variation of the swimming exercise in Pilates is the breast stroke replica. Here, you maintain the swimming position, but stretch your arms in a ‘V’ position. You can add stronger leg movements to this variation to increase the intensity of the workout.

Bottom line

The swimming exercise in Pilates requires you to remain focused at all times. When you start the movement, keep in mind that your arms, legs, back, and core muscles will get extremely tired.

Benefits of doing pilates (Image via Pexels/Photo by Andrea Piacquadio)
Benefits of doing pilates (Image via Pexels/Photo by Andrea Piacquadio)

To avoid extreme soreness after the workout, you must stretch before and after the workout.

Next, ease into the exercise with steady movements. Start off slow with 2 or 3 repetitions with each inhale and exhale before increasing the reps.

Finally, you do not need to do this everyday. The exercise is quite stressful for the back and core muscles. You must give at least 24 hours of rest to the muscles before doing any workout that requires the same set of muscles.

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