Pectus Excavatum Swimming

Evidence Based This post has medical citations

olympic swimmer with sunken chest

How to Treat Pectus Excavatum with Swimming

Swimming is one of the healthiest and cheapest activities you can do to improve the deformity. It is a minimal-impact way of exercise, which means that it is gentle on the bones and joints.

Other types of exercises can be harsh on your joints, especially in the adult stages of your life. Swimming also delivers numerous benefits for your psychological well-being.

Most importantly, it will strengthen the muscles and joints required for proper posture, which will stop the deformity from progressing. Swimming requires you to move your entire body against the water resistance.

You’ll stimulate muscles that haven’t been activated in years. It works amazingly for both males and females. Pectus excavatum specialists rank swimming as one of the best bodyweight exercises for treating mild to severe deformity cases.

Benefits of Swimming for Adults with Funnel Chest

Swimming is perfect for adults willing to fix an inherited pectus excavatum. Millions of grownups globally suffer from osteoarthritis. It is the most common type of arthritis.

It happens when the shielding cartilage that pillows the end of the bones dissolves. Some of these adults suffer from the funnel chest deformity.

It would be challenging for them to correct it through weightlifting and other weight-bearing exercises. These types of workouts can be very painful to the joints if you have osteoarthritis.

Great for Adults

Swimming is a fantastic option for all adults suffering from pectus excavatum and osteoarthritis. Science has proven that swimming minimizes arterial stiffness, which is directly linked to heart problems.

Additionally, swimming can help in lowering blood pressure in sufferers with hypertension. Also, swimming in cold water yields fantastic health benefits. Some of it is an increased immune system, improved circulation, libido, reduced stress, and the list goes on and on.

Great Mood Booster

Adults suffering from depression and anxiety caused by pectus excavatum will find swimming appealing because the cold-water exposure will improve their mood. In my opinion, there is nothing more refreshing than going out of the water after an excellent swimming session.

The ability to float in the water can be a great mood booster. This is backed up by science.

Easy on the Joints

Overweight people with an indented chest can’t handle loaded aerobic exercises like jogging. That’ll cause excessive pain in the joints and shortness of breath. On top of that, the added hotness and physical discomfort will be a recipe to miss workouts due to procrastination.

It will feel like a grudge. Swimming, on the other hand, is perfect for obese adults with an indented chest. Don’t be misled into believing that the body doesn’t work hard while it is in the water. H2O is denser than air.

Researchers have discovered that in-water training puts more stress on the muscle tissue than an out-of-water workout. What’s more exceptional is that joint pressure is distributed evenly in water.

The pressure on your knees, hips, ankles, and other areas of your body won’t be a problem. That is why swimming for adults is one of the best ways to improve the deformity.


Swimming will help you in non-surgical pectus excavatum correction, without putting excessive stress on the joints. It will improve your mood, reduce anxiety, increase lung capacity, tone your muscles and improve heart functioning.

Most Notable Benefits of Swimming That Help With Pectus Excavatum

  • Swimming is a very relaxing form of a pectus excavatum exercise
  • It lessens stress and reduces the levels of cortisol in your body
  • It enhances coordination, balance and improves your posture
  • Swimming increases the flexibility of the muscles, bones, and cartilage in the chest. These are the parts of the body that are activated while performing various swimming strokes
  • It is an excellent low-impact treatment while dealing with injuries or other physical conditions
  • Swimming offers enjoyable ways to cool off on hot days
  • It is very convenient and cheap – you can swim in pools, lakes, rivers, and oceans. Just make sure that you swim in a safe environment

Muscles Used

Swimming is considered an aerobic physical exercise. It causes activation in major muscle groups. In swimming, you use both your upper and lower body extremities to move through the water.

You mostly depend on the muscle groups in your upper body, such as the pectorals (chest muscles) for propulsion in lap swimming. The leg muscles are enormous and require a lot of energy.

Dynamic kicking will tire you out quickly.

Simple Tip for More Effective Deformity Correction

For improving pectus excavatum with swimming, I recommend you minimize the involvement of legs. Save the intense leg kicking while doing sprints and races.

Upper Body Development

While swimming, you are developing all the muscles in your upper back and chest, particularly the latissimus dorsi and internal rotators of the shoulder. These muscles are vital in improving your bad posture.

For maximum benefits, I recommend you stretch the tight chest and shoulder muscles after each swimming session. Tense and contracted pectoralis muscles get weak over time and damage the surrounding shoulder muscles.

This can lead to injury that you want to avoid at all costs.


Swimming will help you strengthen all muscles in your body, especially the postural back muscles, chest muscles and leg muscles.

How to Start

Starting with swimming for pectus excavatum is extremely easy. It is a sport for all age groups, physical fitness and skill levels. Before starting, you will need to invest in a pair of swimming shorts and some goggles.

Goggles are required because your head will be underwater for the majority of the time. If you’re swimming in the pool, chlorine can be nasty on your eyes, leading to diseases.

2-3 sessions of swimming (swimming in which your upper body takes the lion’s share of the effort) every week would be enough if you’re weightlifting and doing yoga.

Start with 250 meters at first, unless you’re currently pretty good at it. Let me share with you a few essential tips for swimming with pectus excavatum.

  • Make sure you know how to swim (I think this goes without saying).
  • Choose a safe swimming location.
  • Before entering the water, please don’t forget to warm up and stretch your tight chest muscles and joints surrounding your funnel chest.
  • Have plenty of fluids on hand and drink regularly.
  • Don’t overexert yourself if you’re just starting.
  • Go to your pectus excavatum doctor if you haven’t worked out for a long period of time.
  • If you’re having excessive shortness of breath due to your pectus excavatum, stop immediately.
  • The most significant benefit of pectus excavatum swimming is that it will give you a huge confidence boost because you will get used to doing activities without clothes on!


You can start swimming without any special preparation. All you need is a pool an some cheap goggles.

Swimming Strokes

The Breaststroke

The breaststroke is probably the most common swimming stroke. Many recreational swimmers are very satisfied with using the breaststroke all the time.

It is straightforward to learn and is considered as one of the basic swimming strokes. To perform it, all you have to do is use both arms concurrently and execute half-circular actions underwater.

The legs need to do a whip kick synchronously. The breaststroke is fantastic for swimmers that haven’t swum before, and also, unprofessional swimmers.

It comes very naturally to most people. It is great for treating the pectus excavatum deformity because it activates the whole body, especially the muscles required for a stable posture.

If you do it correctly, you’ll activate the muscles that you probably didn’t even know existed. Targeted muscles in the breaststroke are:

  • Muscles of the hand
  • Forearm flexors and extensors
  • Rear deltoids, biceps and triceps
  • Neck and traps
  • Entire back musculature
  • Muscles that support the spinal cord
  • Rotator cuff muscles
  • Rhomboid minor and major
  • Glutes
  • Groin muscles
  • Quadriceps and hamstring muscles
  • Calves

I recommend you do the breaststroke, especially if you suffer from poor posture that worsens the pectus excavatum condition. Besides yoga, the breaststroke is the best way to strengthen the postural musculature, without putting any stress on the joints and tendons.

Also, you will see significant development in your back musculature after a month of swimming consistently.


The breaststroke is usually the most beginner-friendly stroke to learn. It comes natural to most people. It helps you strengthen the musculature required to keep a sturdy posture.

Front Crawl Swimming

The front crawl is known as the fastest and most energy-efficient stroke. You can also get exhausted performing it if your form isn’t right. Swimmers that do the front crawl (freestyle) are known to have a V-shaped upper body, broad shoulders, and thin hips.

This shows that the front crawl is dependent on great upper body strength, especially on the shoulders. Also, the legs play a significant role in speed and effectiveness of the freestyle stroke.

Just like any stroke, the front crawl activates the entire body musculature. I highly recommend you combine the four strokes that I discussed, in every swimming session.

For the best results, I highly recommend you hire a personal trainer in swimming. You’ll see a fantastic improvement in your anterior chest wall appearance after a couple of months of swimming.

The front crawl targets the muscles in a particular order:

  • Latissimus dorsi (lats) muscles
  • Forearm muscles
  • Biceps and triceps
  • Entire shoulder musculature
  • Pectoralis major muscles
  • Hand muscles
  • Hamstrings and quadriceps
  • Calves and feet muscles
  • Glutes and hip muscles
  • Abdominals and obliques
  • Spinal erector muscles in the back

I recommend you do the front crawl if you suffer from pectus excavatum breathing problems. It will improve your stamina and lung capacity.

You’ll feel very tired after each session of performing the front crawl because it is the fastest stroke and requires a lot of energy. You’ll learn how to deeply inhale when doing this swimming stroke.

To improve endurance, I recommend you front crawl until you feel out of breath. Then, take 90 seconds rest, and repeat. Do five sessions of this.


The front crawl helps you get a V-shaped body with broad shoulders. It works plenty of muscles. It is a very tiring stroke that challenges your endurance.

The Backstroke

The backstroke uses numerous large muscle groups in the upper and lower body area. I highly recommend you add the backstroke if you’re trying to repair the pectus excavatum deformity.

Combining the four strokes in one swimming session will provide impressive muscle balance. Strokes that require the face to point to the sky while swimming use the chest muscles more to propel the body forward.

To make the dent in the chest less noticeable, you need to strengthen the chest muscles. Scientists have figured out that the primary muscle used in the backstroke is the latissimus dorsi.

However, even though the lats are targeted the most, the chest muscles remain activated. Let me show you which muscles are activated during the backstroke.

  • Abdominals and obliques
  • Hip flexors
  • Glutes and groin muscles
  • Quadriceps, hamstrings, calves and shin muscle
  • Hand and forearm muscles
  • Biceps, triceps and deltoids in the shoulders
  • Neck and trapezius muscles
  • Pectoralis major
  • Entire back musculature
  • Spinal erectors
  • Muscles in the shoulders

As you can see, the backstroke also works the body as a whole. That makes it an excellent supplemental stroke you should add into your swimming sessions.

It will improve your posture, breathing quality, improve muscle strength and stamina, relieve stress, and strengthen your heart.

You will also increase body awareness in the pool. You must keep a straight swimming line while doing the backstroke. Add the breaststroke while you’re finishing the swimming session.

Aim to swim at least 100 meters using this stroke.


The backstroke is a great supplemental stroke to add in pectus excavatum correction. It works the whole body, especially the lats.

Butterfly Stroke

The butterfly technique consumes the most energy of all strokes. It is the hardest one to learn and requires a lot of practice to master it. If your sunken chest deformity is worsened by weak upper body strength, this is the stroke you need to learn.

It also activates the core like no other stroke, which will help you treat the flared rib condition. It requires a synchronized propelling of the arms and legs to look like a motion done by a dolphin.

Doing that necessitates a lot of power and technique. This stroke depends heavily on shoulder and arm power. Every single pro swimmer who is a master of the butterfly stroke has a V-shaped body and broad shoulders.

Look at the body shape of Michael Phelps. He made the butterfly stroke his bread and butter. Body structure largely depends on genetics. However, you can always increase the size of a specific muscle that is weak and is making the body unproportionable.

With the butterfly stroke, you will strengthen the muscles I’ll mention below:

  • Pectoralis major and latissimus dorsi are the primary muscles
  • Wrist and hand muscles
  • Biceps and triceps
  • Rotator cuffs
  • Entire core musculature
  • Paraspinal muscles
  • Whole shoulder musculature
  • Hips
  • Glutes and hamstrings
  • Calves and plantar flexors

If you’re having endurance difficulties with the butterfly technique, I recommend you do this stroke when you start your swimming session. It will consume the most significant amount of energy. It also requires laser focus concentration to feel the body movement in the water.

Do this stroke as long as you feel comfortable in every swimming session. As soon as you feel fatigued, switch to less energy-consuming swimming strokes, like the backstroke or breaststroke.

The butterfly stroke is an excellent way to increase muscle mass and strengthen the weak muscles surrounding your caved in chest.


The butterfly stroke consumes the most energy, as it is very exhausting to the upper body muscles. It also activates the core, which is amazing if you suffer from protruding ribs.

Swimming for Children Suffering from Sunken Chest

Swimming is an excellent form of physical exercise for people of all ages, including kids. It helps children suffering from pectus excavatum in musculature development at a young age.

Kids and infants that participate in swimming also have excellent cardiovascular health. It helps them develop healthy lungs, heart, blood vessels, and brain.

Usually, children and toddlers with pectus excavatum experience stamina and endurance problems when they start swimming.

Role as a Parent

As a parent, your role will be to inform the personal swimming trainer about your kid’s condition. Your kid should progress slowly. In just a couple of weeks, your kid will see fantastic improvement in its posture, endurance, and musculature.

That will lead to an improvement to the caved-in chest deformity.

Decreased Chances of Obesity and Diabetes

Children who join swimming from a young age have a lower chance of diabetes and childhood obesity. If your kid likes swimming a lot, the trainer can introduce him/her to competitive swimming.

There, he will meet a lot of new friends. The kid will learn to function as a part of a team, which is a significant characteristic to have in adulthood.

Great for Making New Friends

I met some of my closest friends while I was taking swimming classes when I was in 8th grade. We share a lot of priceless memories. Children with sunken chest who participate in swimming, are growing physically stronger, day by day.

They will gain a positive attitude and self-esteem. I am a huge advocate for your kids with pectus excavatum or carinatum to start swimming. It will help with both mental and physical development.

It Will Make Your Kid Comofrtable In it’s Own Skin

When people with indented chests are younger, they have a lot less fear to take their shirts off in front of other people. Swimming will make your kid take his shirt off. It wouldn’t be such a big deal.

Comparatively, when it gets older, it would be much more uncomfortable to take off the shirt and show his concave chest at the high school pool parties.

Having excessive shyness in front of members of the opposite sex isn’t healthy. If your kids start swimming at a young age, it will help your kid cope with the shyness associated with pectus excavatum.


Swimming will improve the kid’s overall well-being. Your kids should start slowly, and progress gradually. It is great to make them confident in their own skin. It is amazing if they have poor posture.


Whether you’re suffering from pectus excavatum or not, swimming is a marvelous way to improve your mental state and physique. It is perfect for people of all ages, ranging from infants, up to grandparents.

It will work your entire body musculature. On top of that, it will improve your lung capacity. The breathing troubles associated with pectus excavatum won’t be as frequent as before.

At the same time, it is a very affordable sport to join. If you have a sunken chest, I recommend you mostly do the breaststroke and front crawl.

Those strokes will target your pectoralis major muscles the most. Also, they will strengthen the back musculature that is needed for optimal posture.

The butterfly stroke will build massive shoulders. Do this stroke if you want to develop a V-shaped body. The backstroke is a great overall stroke to practice.

It is best to use while you’re getting tired, usually at the end of your swimming session. Combine all four strokes in every swimming session, and you’ll notice a fantastic improvement in your sunken chest condition.

You’ll tackle the days standing straight, full of unshakable confidence!

Article by:

Mihail Veleski

My name is Mihail Veleski. I used to suffer from the pectus excavatum deformity during my teenage years.

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