Upper-body-pulling exercises (think horizontal rowing and vertical pulling-up variations and modifications) are hot commodities, and can be harder to come by with little to no equipment. As in, it’s handy to have weights in order to row them — though rowing found objects like rocks, bottles, boxes and bins is fun and free. Or, you need something super sturdy to pull against, like a bar, a railing, or the like. There are plenty of ways to get the job done, but you may need splashdash of creativity, or more.

These types of movements are so very valuable for pulling back posture, for building the beef of the mid- and upper back, for balancing out what we are so often dealing with in front of us. And, we don’t always need a weight, or to be the weight: Sometimes it’s just about making something slippery.

I first learned this exercise (and many more that involve this idea of sliding something) from educator Valerie Waters. If the cost of a pair of Valslides is prohibitive, other perfectly stellar options include using furniture sliders, paper plates, or hand towels. What works best will depend on the surface you’re on — experiment and see which degree of slip feels right for you.

Approach the Valslide Swimmer as you would a pull-up, only face down. Aim to use the muscles around your shoulder blades and in the rears of your shoulders, and squeeeeze your butt and your guts to protect your low back throughout the duration of the movement. Keep your head in a neutral position and focus on the slip up, slide down, through the water of the earth beneath you.

Valslide Swimmer

  • Lie on your front, arms tucked at your sides  and Valslides under each hand at chest level.
  • Pressing your hands into the floor, reach both arms overhead while keeping the Valslides pinned between your hands and the floor.
  • Once you’ve extended completely overhead (or angled outward to some degree, depending on what’s comfortable for you), slide your hands back down to your chest while while maintaining pressure on the Valslides.
  • Take care not to overreach or crank your neck upward.
Unapologetically Strong’s founder, Jen Sinkler, is an award-winning writer, editor, publisher, and personal trainer who has been working in the fitness realm since 2003. Her goal is to foster a fitness space that allows people to explore a variety of fitness pursuits, connect in ways that honor all aspects of their identities, and generally flourish as their strongest selves.