To help prevent injury it is important to do some exercises to help strengthen the rotator ruff, muscle controlling the shoulder blades and core muscles. Below are 7 good exercises that target these key muscle groups. Swimmers should try and do these exercises 2-3 times per week, they should only take around 15mins to complete and can all be done with a little bit of floor space and a theraband. It is best to perform these exercises after swimming as some of them target the small rotator cuff muscles which, if fatigued when swimming, could lead to shoulder pain and swimmers shoulder type symptoms.
External Shoulder Rotations with Band
- Tuck your elbows into your sides, holding the band with palms facing upwards and elbows bent at 90 degrees
- Keeping your elbows tucked in, slowly pull your hands away from each other as far as you can
- Hold for 3 seconds
- Return to start position slowly
- Repeat 10-20 times
Internal Shoulder Rotations with Band
- Have someone hold one end of the band behind you, level with your elbow or attach the band in this position
- Tuck your elbow into your side holding the band palms facing upwards and elbows bent at 90 degrees
- Pull your hand slowly forward until it is level with your naval
- Hold for 3 seconds and slowly return to start position
- Repeat 10-20 times
Shoulder Flexion with Band
- Place band under your foot, holding onto the other end with your arm by your side
- Make sure there is tension in the band at the start of the movement and lift your arm to the front
- Stop and hold at just under 90 degrees of flexion
- Return to start slowly and repeat 10-20 times
Band Pull Downs
- Start with the band overhead, then pull down slowly behind you to the level of the top of your shoulder blades
- Hold for 3 seconds and return slowly to the start position
- As you pull down, think about pulling your shoulder blades down and in
Band Pull Across
- Start with your hands out to the front, holding the band with your palms facing upwards
- Pull the band out to the side, keeping your arms straight and hold for 3 seconds
- Return to the start point slowly in a controlled manor
- Focus on squeezing your shoulder blades together
- Start with your hands shoulder width apart, on your toes
- Keeping your core tense, lower your body until your chest is a couple of centimetres off of the floor
- Push back up with your arms, trying to keep your elbows tucked into your side’s
- Make sure thoughtout the movement you keep your head up in a neutral position and don’t let your chin tuck into your chest
- To make the exercise easier, drop your knees to the floor
- Do as many as you can until you can no longer maintain your form
- Start with your knees on the floor, hips bent at 90 degrees and your hands on the floor underneath your shoulders
- Slowly extend your right arm forward and your left leg backwards until they are both straight and level with your body
- Slowly return to the start position and repeat this time with your left arm and right leg
- When preforming the movements, try and keep as steady as you can, tense your core and try not to drop your hips to one side
- Take your time, taking at least 3 seconds going up, 3 seconds pausing in the extended position and 3 seconds returning to the start position
- Repeat 10 times on each side
Thanks to Molly for agreeing to demonstrate these exercises and as always please feel free to comment below.
Now that I’ve completed the Swimmers Shoulder section of the blog, let me know if there are any other topics you would like covered.
Swimming with correct technique is vital to prevent swimmers shoulder. In freestyle and butterfly, the two stokes most linked to the development of swimmer’s shoulder, the swimmer should aim to adopt a technique is not only efficient and fast but also unloads the rotator cuff muscles as much as possible. See below for a quick recap of the rotator cuff muscles.
Freestyle (front crawl) and butterfly strokes are thought to be the main culprits in the devolvement of swimmer’s shoulder as they involve the classic overhead movement in the recovery phase of the stroke which can potentially lead to subacromial impingement type symptoms and the extended arm in the catch phase leading to mircotrauma of the cuff.
To help reduce the potential of this swimming technique can be adopted during front crawl:
- Swimming with body roll. As your arm enters roll almost on to your side to about 80-85 degrees. The reduces the amount of external rotation and extension needed when the opposite arm is recovering which can help reduce the likely hood of impingement.
- High elbow recovery. A high elbow recovery with the recovering hand coming close to the body can by reducing the length of the lever, reduce the load through the rotator cuff. However, it is important that a high elbow recovery is only used in combination with a good body roll as if the swimmer attempt to recover with a high elbow when swimming flat this leads to lots of extension as well as abduction of the humerus which could lead to increased risk of impingement.
- Catch with high elbow. As the swimmers hand enters and they begin to pull their hand through the water (the catch) they should bend their elbow slightly and they should try and keep the elbow higher than the hand during the catch phase.
The picture bellow shows a swimmer swimming with a high elbow and good body roll.
Swimmers should also make sure they swim backstroke in training even if they are front crawl specialists or triathlete as it helps balance out all the free crawl by using different muscle groups.
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