Swimming relies on the power and endurance of the upper body, shoulders, core and lower extremity muscles. Hundreds of repetitions in strokes and kicks can strengthen and tone the body; however, incorrect technique and posture while swimming can result in acute injury, pain and long term musculoskeletal issues. Swimming with a better technique to help avoid injuries can start by following these tips:
Practice a bilateral breathing pattern, alternating breathing from the left and the right, in order to develop a favorable rotational symmetry and reduce superfluous stress on the shoulders. Swimming with a flat body relocates the rotational movement into the shoulder. Large amounts of internal rotation at the shoulder joint are detrimental for the health of the rotator cuff muscles, as the joint alone cannot support the massive strain from this exercise. By establishing a symmetrical body rotation method, the movement previously directed into the shoulder will be allocated to other muscle groups, making it both easier and more effective of an exercise to swim.
Hand Position While Swimming
Although many are first taught to swim with the thumb-in method, where the thumb enters the water first in a stroke, repetitions of this motion can cause overuse injuries to the shoulder. Making a thumb-in stroke creates repetitive internal rotation in the shoulder which is hindered by the anatomical limitations of the joint. Beginning a stroke with a flat hand will alleviate a lot of the stress on the shoulder.
Swimming Body Posture
Correct body posture is as important in swimming as it is in daily life. Poor posture leads to cross-overs in strokes, causing shoulder injuries such as impingement. Posture can be improved by increasing flexibility between the shoulders and chest. With shoulders pulled back and chest out, the back muscles will prove more stable, augmenting the scope and power of the stroke.
Pulling Through the Water
Proper technique for pulling through the water can save you from a shoulder injury and improve your swimming ability. Pulling through with dropped elbows or straight arms is inefficient and harmful, as the shoulder must work to push down into the water, instead of pulling backwards, and results in rapid fatigue after many repetitions. Fatigue then turns into overuse injuries. Methods like the high elbow catch will employ stronger muscles in the chest and upper back, reducing the chance for injury and enhancing your swimming technique and the resultant exercise benefit.
Dr. John Munyak, tel: 718-283-6629