Why Do Swimmers Hit / Slap Themselves? It’s Actually Helpful!

You just made a visit to a swimming competition and you witnessed one of the oddest things ever, people hitting and slapping themselves for no clear reason. 

As weird as it sounds for swimmers to always beat and slap themselves up before a race, it is still helpful in helping them activate their muscles, prepare their minds and blur out their competition. By slapping certain areas of their body where their large muscles are, they can help improve blood flow to those areas, flush out the lactic acid build, and optimize their performance. 

Why Do Swimmers Beat/hit/slap Themselves Before a Race?  (Reasons Explained)

Swimmers Slap themselves before a race to increase blood flow and warm up muscles, intimidate other competitors and promote their mental preparation.

Now let’s explain these reasons in detail,

To intimidate other competitors

Swimming is a competitive sport that usually involves a large number of people from different walks of life with different levels of expertise. The competitive nature of this sport automatically puts pressure on all competitors to the point it makes them want to act out in a way that helps them hold on to their personal power. 

Slapping themselves on their chest, triceps, or biceps gives them that edge, and whoever is standing beside such person has an impression that they are better than anyone around. As weird as this sounds, most athletes have testified that with this simple act, they can feel much better about themselves and are able to blur out their competition. 

For mental preparation 

According to thelist.com , they state that slapping their bodies have more psychological benefit, and most swimmers employ this to help them keep calm and shoot up their confidence before diving into the pool. In the same way, swimmers do this to blur out their competition and intimidate others.  (source)

This act also helps to release them from any fear, doubts, and pressure before the start of the competition. 

To increase blood flow and warm up muscles

Hitting the body helps increase blood flow which can be seen as a warmup process to help swimmers prepare their bodies before stepping into the pool. This simple yet bizarre act helps improve the performance of swimmers. 

Whenever they hit their bodies, they focus on certain muscle parts which include, the pectorals, shoulders, biceps, and triceps. Hitting these muscles helps activate them. This act helps to loosen these muscles and encourages blood supply, preventing any injury or muscle pain while swimming that will hinder a good performance. 

Note that swimming with a stiff muscle can lead to a muscle injury and in a worst-case scenario, lead to a muscle tear. 

But medically/scientifically looking at this, does it make sense that this bizarre activity will help increase blood flow? Yes, it does make sense. Slapping one’s muscles are similar to working out, which puts stress on different muscle groups and eventually stimulates them to improve blood flow. 

There are some swimmers that do slap themselves as part of their preswim routine for no reason, and most of them can be dramatic with it. 

How Do Swimmers Hit Themselves?

Most swimmers slap themselves using either a closed fist or an open hand, and they focus on the parts of the body with large muscles which include those on the chest, shoulders, arms, thighs, and legs. 

Some do it in a more dramatic way than others but all the same, when it’s done, they get a similar effect of activating the muscle groups and encouraging blood flow (a more practical reason why this is done)

Here is how it may look like,

Can Swimmers Achieve These Similar Results Differently?

Now you might be wondering, is it possible swimmers can get these effects by doing something different instead of slapping themselves?

If they need an improved blood supply to their muscles, they can engage in multiple jumping jacks to activate those muscles. (Check out this blog post to find out more about whether it is okay to engage in workouts such as jumping jacks before or after a swimming race. )

If they want to boost their confidence and mentally prepare, they can play some music and have a quick dance session and if they want to intimidate others to blurring out their competition, they can spark up a conversation with their competitors to know their weaknesses. 

Do Swimmers Beat/hit/slap Themselves After a Race?

After the race, you might be wondering if swimmers still do this bizarre act to themselves after the race. No, they do not because there is no practical need for that. Instead, they engage in activities to help them wind themselves down and bring their bodies to rest after swimming. 

Some wind-down activities could include, taking a shower, eating a nutritious meal, taking a long nap, or having a more relaxed swim practice.

Why Do Swimmers Slap Their Legs?

Asides from other body parts swimmers slap before a race, you might be curious to know why swimmers hit their legs in particular. The leg muscles are the common muscles where we have lactic acid build-up. And when this build-up happens it causes fatigue, pain, and soreness in the muscles.

These muscles are then not able to contract easily, so performance is not optimized, and the swimmer is likely to lose the competition.

Hitting or slapping these muscles is one practice that can help activate these muscles, increase blood flow, and put them in a more aerobic state preventing lactic acid buildup.

Can Swimmers Slap Themselves with Towels Instead?

It is not common to see swimmers slap themselves with towels, as most use their hands. With their hands, they can get a better effect than using towels. 

What Are Other Bizarre Behaviors Swimmers Engage In?

Asides from slapping or beating their bodies, swimmers are known to engage in other bizarre activities such as;

  • Splashing water on their bodies
  • Having dark circles on their bodies (From cupping)
  • Wearing big coats behind the block
  • Wearing googles under a swim cap


A medical student with passion in health and sports-related topics that discuss the optimization of one’s overall health through healthy nutrition, fitness, and adequate rest

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