By Migie Felizardo, CSCS, NSCA-CPT
General Corrective Exercises for Swimmers
Swimmers are among the common athletes who experience shoulder problems. The sport of swimming requires repetitive overhead movements and circumduction at the shoulder joint. Though this is normal, major causes of increased risk for shoulder injuries are poor posture and muscular imbalances. Poor posture due to our daily activities (eg. long hours of sitting) usually develops muscular imbalances. The muscles of the front (pushing muscles) are usually too strong and tight compared to the mid and upper back (pulling) muscles. That puts your shoulders into a bad position (rounded shoulders) and makes the muscles at the back, including your rotator cuff, weak and unable to support your shoulders during high-intensity movements. Mind you this is very common to both athletes and non-athletes.
Photo from: www.crankhf.com.au
Photo from: radicefamilychiro.com
A good way to solve this problem is through corrective exercise training. Corrective exercise is a term used to describe the systematic process of identifying a neuromusculoskeletal dysfunction, developing a plan of action and implementing an integrated corrective strategy. In simpler terms, it’s an exercise or group of exercises used to help restore proper posture, biomechanics, mobility, and stability, which will prevent further injuries.
Photo from: www.kestrelstudio.com
Here is a sample general corrective exercise program for the swimmer’s shoulder. You will need some tools like foam rollers, tennis balls, bands, free weights, or suspension trainers.
1. Inhibit (Self-Myofascial Release/ Foam Rolling of 30 seconds-1 minute per side/area)
a. Foam Roll Lats – Lie on your side with a foam roller under your armpit. Roll from the side of just above your ribcage up past your armpit.
b. Thoracic Back – Lie face up on the ground with a foam roller under your mid back and your head supported with your hands. Keep your elbows together. Roll the middle of your back up to your shoulders.
c. Pecs – Grab a tennis ball with your right hand. Outreach your right arm then bring the palm toward the chest. Stand next to a wall and place the tennis ball on the wall at chest height. With the tennis ball pinned between your pecs and the wall, roll it back and forth and side to side.
2. Lengthen (Static Stretch 30 seconds per side/area)
b. Band Lat Stretch – Loop a resistance band around an object above head height. Grab it with one hand, step away from the band, with a straight arm and neutral spine pull your hips away and lower your chest to the floor. Stretch should be felt from your triceps, armpits and lats. You can use a swiss ball as an alternative.
b. Wall Pec Stretch – Stand at end of a wall or door facing perpendicular to wall. Place inside of bent arm on surface of wall. Position bent elbow at shoulder height. Turn body away from positioned arm. Hold stretch and repeat with the other arm. Use a swiss ball as an alternative.
a. Band Pull Apart – Hold a band in front with your arms extended. Pull the bands sideways with both arms until the band reaches your chest. Squeeze your shoulders and shoulder blades backwards and avoid shrugging during the exercise. Do 10-15 reps for 2-3 sets.
b. Floor Y, T and W Raise – Lie face down on a mat. Squeeze your glutes then raise your arms into a Y position with thumbs pointed up and keeping your arms extended. Hold for 30 seconds then repeat for T and W positions. Do 2-3 sets.
a. Suspension Trainer Row/ Inverted Row – Position yourself at arm’s length under the suspension trainer with your body rigid. How far you set yourself under the suspension trainer is determined by your strength (step forward to make it harder, backward to make it easier). Pull yourself up while bringing the handles to the sides. Return to starting position and repeat. Do 2 sets of 15 reps. Do bar inverted rows as an alternative.
b. Band Chinups – Sit down on a box or on the floor. Keep your back straight and pull the bands/cables down your chest. Do 15 reps for 2 sets.
c. Single Leg Single Arm Dumbbell Shoulder Press – Stand with your right foot elevated and grab a dumbbell with your right hand above the shoulders. Keep your core engaged and squeeze your left glute then press the dumbbell overhead. Do 15 reps per side. Finish with 2 sets.
This is just a sample of a general corrective exercise program that will help you correct posture and prevent shoulder injuries like shoulder impingement, rotator cuff strains, shoulder instability etc. It can also lessen pain from minor injuries due to tightness. Try this during your recovery days or use it as a supplement during your strength and conditioning sessions. However if you have an existing injury it is always best to get a consultation from your doctor or physical therapist.
Advances in Functional Training by Michael Boyle
Becoming a Supple Leopard by Dr. Kelly Starrett
NASM Essentials of Corrective Exercise Training
Migie Felizardo is a strength and conditioning specialist and an NSCA certified personal trainer. He does personal training for general fitness and for improving sports performance at 360 Fitness Club Fort BGC. His other training and certifications are from Triggerpoint Performance Therapy, Muscletape Rocktape Philippines and Evidence Based Fitness Academy.