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Physio Article 3


Avoiding 'Jetty Swimmers Shoulder' : PART 3

By Jeff Greenfield of Physio South West

Part 3 is the final in this series on avoiding shoulder problems when training for the Jetty Swim.  In this article we highlight the most common biomechanical faults affecting swimmers that contribute to the development of shoulder problems.

Swimming is predominantly an exercise that requires internal rotation of the shoulder against resistance (water).  This can cause muscle imbalances around the spine and shoulder that increase the likelihood of impingement in the shoulder.  The pectoral (chest) and latissimus muscles are frequently tight and powerful in swimmer’s, and the muscles that externally rotate the arm and pull back the shoulder blades are commonly weak.

This imbalance causes the typical round shouldered posture seen in many swimmers.  Not only does this contribute to impingement, but it often leads to a loss of flexibility in the thoracic spine.  The movements that are most commonly restricted are extension (straightening) and rotation.  Both of these thoracic movements are crucial to an efficient swimming technique.

The good news is that these problems are relatively easily avoided by an appropriate stretching and strengthening program.  Stretches should focus on improving the flexibility of the internal rotator muscles of the shoulder and of the joints in the thoracic spine. Strengthening exercises for the external rotators of the shoulder, the thoracic extensor muscles, and the shoulder blade retractors will compliment the gains in flexibility you see through regular stretching.

Distance swimming is an endurance based, rather than a power based, exercise.  Therefore, this needs to be reflected in the type of strengthening exercises you do.  Being able to lift a significant weight for a handful of repetitions with your external rotators may well increase your muscle bulk and strength, but the chances are that these muscles will be exhausted by the time you get to the gazebo on the way out!  High repetition, low load weights are far more sport specific to distance swimming, and will improve your fatigue resistance significantly.

The tips that we have covered in these 3 articles are by no means a cure-all for all types of shoulder problems.  They will however have a beneficial effect on the majority of swimmers the majority of the time.  An appropriate training program, a sound swimming technique, and a regular home exercise program as outlined may well make your jetty swimming experience a lot more enjoyable (ie faster and less painful!) than it might otherwise be.

No warranty is given as to the accuracy of the information on any of the pages in this article. No responsibility is accepted for any loss or damage suffered as a result of the use of that information or reliance on it. It is a matter for users to satisfy themselves as to their medical and physical condition to adopt the information or recommendations made. Notwithstanding a users medical or physical condition, no responsibility or liability is accepted for any loss or damage suffered by any person as a result of adopting the information or recommendations.