Protect your shoulders!

Fitness & Wellness
Written by: arena coaches at 16 April '15 0
You are reading: Protect your shoulders!

It is a well-known fact that swimming is a healthy sport. Very true. Having said that, you need to bear in mind an array of niggles affecting your tendons and joints caused by either excessive exertion or prolonged exertion. One of the main injuries a swimmer can suffer is so-called “swimmer’s shoulder”.

Before taking a closer look at this issue, let’s take a look at the facts and figures:

  • It takes a good swimmer about 10 strokes to swim 25 m (5 strokes with each arm).
  • A good swimmer swims an average of 200 lengths-a-day (approximately 5000 m).

This means a good swimmer makes approximately 1000 rotations of each arm (5 x 200) every day making a total of 6000 rotations-a-week (over 6 training sessions-a-week) and approximately 288,000 rotations-a-year (training 48 weeks-a-year)

An incredible number of arm movements!

This explains why about 50% of swimmers suffer from shoulder problems at least once during their sports careers.

This certainly should not be taken lightly for 3 reasons:

1. your shoulders provide power to your swim stroke
2. shoulder injuries prevent you from training
3. shoulder pain and injuries affect biomechanics

So what is “swimmer’s shoulder” exactly?

It is an inflammation due to rotator cuff tendonitis that affects both competitive and amateur swimmers alike caused by heavy, excessive and/or incorrect daily training loads. Injury and inflammation to the tendons of these muscles occur frequently in sports that involve repeatedly raising your arms above your head (such as the freestyle, backstroke and butterfly swim strokes).

This means it is vitally important to prevent this problem from arising, and there are three basic principles to be carefully observed to prevent this from happening:

1. muscle length, .i.e. stretching exercises
2. muscle strength, i.e. proper physical training
3. muscle timing, i.e. making sure you take enough time to recover properly

Here are some simple exercises you can perform before entering the water that will help prevent shoulder problems.

  • Exercise 1: standing with your arm bent at an angle of 90° alongside your body and your hand rotated outwards at the elbow, move your hand slowly towards your stomach. Repeat 12 times for each arm for a total of three sets. Variation: try the same exercise with a taut Thera-band.
  • Exercise2: standing with your arms bent at 90° along your sides, your palms facing each other and a taut Thera-band between your hands, make slow outward movements stretching the Thera-band. Repeat 12 times for a total of three sets.
  • Exercise 3: Standing with your arms along your sides, raise them slowly outwards until they reach shoulder height and then lower them again. Repeat 12 times for a total of three sets. Variation: starting from the same position, raise your arms frontwards without going above shoulder height.
  • Exercise 4: sitting with your chest perfectly upright, pull a Thera-band (attached to a stationary object) slowly towards you. Make sure your elbows are touching your sides and do not go too far above shoulder height while pulling. Repeat 12 times for a total of 3 sets.


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arena coaches

Swim coaches, trainers and experts will give you all kinds of tips for performing at your best in both training and races.