Keeping Shoulders Strong for Swimmers

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No swimmer wants to have shoulder pain from the sport they love or to have pain keep them from swimming again. That is why there are a few tips to remember, mistakes to avoid, and exercises to do to help your shoulder stay strong. Prevent swimmer’s shoulder with these ideas!

Before Entering the Water:

This is your time to make sure you’re ready for your workout. Swimming is a sport that challenges the entire body, so it’s important to make sure that your muscles and joints are properly stretched and warmed up before going for your swim.

Start your stretches and mobility exercises in the neck before moving on to your shoulders, back, hips, and then ankles- giving adequate time to hold these stretches, between 30-60 seconds.  This warm-up is important to helping prevent injuries.

Mistakes to Avoid in the Water:

After warming up, you should have a good idea of how your body is moving and feeling. If you’re battling an injury, it is a good idea to modify your stroke or avoid any swim styles that will aggravate your injury.  Once swimming, start out slow and easy, focusing on your technique before picking up the pace.

When you begin to tire near the end of your workout, that’s when it’s most important to hone in on  your technique again- your muscles are getting tired and poor technique can make you prone to injury. Bilateral breathing, symmetrical body rotation, high elbows, and a strong arm extension before exiting your arm from the water so you aren’t shortening your stroke.

Stretches/Exercises To Do Out of the Water:

Mobility is the key thing to work on outside of the water. Poor mobility causes compensations during swimming that will cause a larger energy expenditure, meaning you’ll tire quicker. Some swimmers will resort to focusing on strength, without realizing that better mobility will improve their efficiency and speed more so than trying to compensate with more strength.

An example of some mobility and strengthening strategies include:

  • Latissimus Stretch: Use one hand to grab onto something sturdy and waist height. Squat down as low as you can while actively pulling with your straight arm in front of yourself. You will be able to feel stretching in your back and lats.
  • Mobility with a lacrosse ball: While standing, lean against a wall while putting a lacrosse ball between your rotator cuff (the muscles on your shoulder blade) and the wall. When rolling out muscles with a lacrosse ball, keep in mind it is possible to overdo it, so try not to spend more than 30 seconds on each muscle group. Other muscles to focus on include the hips and the calves- which can be addressed while sitting on the floor with the ball under the respective muscle.
  • Planks: While basic planks may feel too easy, there are great progressions that can increase the challenge. Shoulder taps: While in the push up position, lift up one hand to tap your opposite shoulder and return to the start position. Alternate arms for sets of 10-15 repetitions

Use these tips to swim strong and stay injury free!