Pectus Excavatum and Swimming in [2023] Strokes, Tips + More

Written by Mihail Veleski

Last updated on: April 25, 2023

A study that summarizes the 32-year experience in the non-operative approach of pectus carinatum and pectus excavatum repair says swimming should be prescribed for pectus patients of all ages.

The study also says that weight training without a DTC orthosis can worsen a protruding chest and contribute to its stiffness.

The freestyle, backstroke, or crawl strokes help maintain chest flexibility and improve an individual’s physical condition with pectus excavatum. It creates better torso posture, fighting poor pectus posture, which can worsen the pectus deformity.

Swimming or other exercises alone do not fix the pectus excavatum deformity. They can only camouflage it through muscular hypertrophy.

olympic swimmer with sunken chest


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

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

Most importantly, it will strengthen the muscles and joints required for proper posture, stopping the deformity from progressing. Swimming requires you to move your entire body against 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 you can do.


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 funnel chest deformity.

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


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 lower blood pressure in sufferers of hypertension. Swimming in cold water yields fantastic health benefits. Some of it is an increased immune system, improved circulation, libido, reduced stress, and so on.


Adults suffering from depression and anxiety caused by pectus excavatum will find swimming appealing because cold-water exposure will improve their mood. Nothing is 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.


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 for missing workouts due to procrastination.

Exercising will feel like a grudge. Swimming, however, is perfect for obese adults with an indented chest.


Don’t be misled into believing that the body doesn’t work hard while 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 won’t be a problem.


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


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

You mainly depend on the muscle groups in your upper body, such as the 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.


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


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.

I recommend stretching the tight chest and shoulder muscles after each swimming session for maximum benefits. Tense and contracted pectoralis muscles weaken over time and damage the surrounding shoulder muscles. This can lead to injury that you want to avoid at all costs.


Starting with swimming for pectus excavatum is extremely easy. It is a sport for all ages, physical fitness, and skill levels.

Before starting, you must invest in a pair of swimming shorts and some goggles. Goggles are required because your head will be underwater most of the time.

If you’re swimming in the pool, chlorine can affect your eyes. 2-3 sessions of swimming (in which your upper body takes the lion’s share of the effort) every week would be enough if you’re already strength training and doing yoga.


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

  • Choose a safe swimming location.
  • Before entering the water, please don’t forget to warm up and stretch your tight upper body muscles and joints.
  • Have plenty of fluids on your hands and drink regularly.
  • Don’t overexert yourself if you’re starting.
  • Stop immediately if you experience shortness of breath due to your pectus excavatum.
  • The most significant benefit of swimming is that it will give you a massive boost of confidence because you will get used to doing activities without clothes!



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 one of the basic swimming strokes. You must use both arms concurrently and execute half-circular actions underwater to perform it.

The legs need to do a whip kick synchronously. The breaststroke is fantastic for swimmers who haven’t swum before and are unprofessional. It comes very naturally to most people.

It is excellent for treating the pectus excavatum deformity because it activates the whole body, especially the muscles required for a stable posture. 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, breaststroke is the best way to strengthen the postural musculature without putting stress on the joints and tendons.

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


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 correct. 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 depends on great upper body strength, especially on the shoulders. Also, the legs play a significant role in the speed and effectiveness of the freestyle stroke.

Like any stroke, the front crawl activates the entire body’s musculature. I highly recommend you combine the four strokes I discussed in every swimming session. For the best results, I highly recommend you hire a personal trainer for 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 doing the front crawl if you suffer from pectus excavatum breathing problems. It will improve your stamina and lung capacity.

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

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 backstroke uses numerous large muscle groups in the upper and lower body area. 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 to your swimming sessions. It will improve your posture, breathing, 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 butterfly technique consumes the most energy of all strokes. It is the hardest to learn and requires a lot of practice to master. 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 the shoulder and arm power. Every pro swimmer 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 weak muscle that makes 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 doing 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’s 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 more minor 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.


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


As a parent, you will inform the personal swimming trainer about your kid’s condition. Your kid should progress slowly.

Your kid will see fantastic posture, endurance, and musculature improvement in just a couple of weeks. That will lead to an improvement in the caved-in chest deformity.


Children who join swimming from a young age have a lower chance of diabetes and childhood obesity.

If your kid likes swimming, the trainer can introduce them to competitive swimming. There, he will make 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.


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 chests who participate in swimming are growing physically stronger daily.

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


When people with indented chests are younger, they have a lot less fear of taking 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, it would be much more uncomfortable to take off the shirt and show their concave chest at high school pool parties when they get older.

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.


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, from infants to grandparents.

It will work your entire body’s 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 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 tremendous overall stroke to practice.

It is best to use it while you’re 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!

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Article by:

Mihail Veleski

I am Mihail Veleski, the person behind this website. Established in 2015, Pectus Excavatum Fix (Now Mr. Pectus), has helped thousands of people improve their sunken chest deformity, both physically and mentally. I pride myself on ensuring the information and methods I share are tried by me and backed by research. I improved my concave chest and rib flare deformities non-surgically.

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