Why Do Swimmers Slap Themselves Before Racing? Is It Helpful!

Imagine attending a swimming competition and being perplexed by an unusual sight—participants vigorously hitting and slapping themselves seemingly without cause.

While the idea of swimmers engaging in self-inflicted slaps before a race may sound peculiar, it serves a purpose. This ritual aids in activating their muscles, priming their minds, and tuning out the competition. Targeting specific areas with robust muscle presence, these slaps work to enhance blood circulation, eliminate lactic acid buildup, and optimize overall performance.

Why Do Swimmers Beat/hit/slap Themselves Before a Race? 

To Intimidate Other Competitors

Swimming, a highly competitive sport, attracts individuals with varying backgrounds and skill levels, intensifying the pressure among competitors. In a bid to assert dominance, swimmers often resort to unconventional actions, such as vigorous chest, triceps, or biceps slapping.

This seemingly peculiar behavior serves as a psychological edge, creating an impression of superiority to those nearby. Despite its unconventional nature, athletes attest that this simple act significantly boosts self-confidence and aids in mentally distancing themselves from the competition.

For Mental Preparation

According to thelist.com, swimmers embrace body slapping for its psychological benefits, utilizing the practice to stay composed, enhance confidence, and intimidate competitors.

This ritual serves as a release from pre-race fears, doubts, and overwhelming pressure, setting the stage for a focused and competitive mindset.

To Increase Blood Flow and Warm Up Muscles

Beyond its psychological aspects, body slapping plays a practical role in enhancing blood flow and warming up muscles. Targeting specific muscle groups—pectoral, shoulder, bicep, and tricep—the act stimulates blood circulation, effectively preparing the body for optimal performance.

This preventative measure guards against potential injuries or muscle pain during swimming, ensuring a smoother and more successful experience.

Examining this peculiar activity from a medical and scientific perspective reveals its logical foundation. Slapping muscles mimics a workout, subjecting different muscle groups to stress and triggering improved blood flow.

While some swimmers may engage in this practice theatrically, its effectiveness in enhancing blood circulation and mental readiness cannot be dismissed.

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)

Can Swimmers Achieve These Similar Results Differently?

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. 


An extreme triathlete who have competed in dozens of triathlons including IronMans and Extreme triathlons.

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