Friday, February 11, 2011

Do You Ever Get Shoulder Pain When Swimming?

Research says that as many as eight out of ten swimmers suffer from some level of shoulder pain or injury during their swimming careers. If you ever get shoulder pain before or after swimming, the very first thing to check is how your hand enters into the water.

A thumb first entry, with the palm facing outwards causes internal rotation of the shoulder and impingement of the joint. This action, repeated thousands of times in training, is the leading cause of shoulder injury in swimmers:

When we're swimming we are often unaware of how our hands enter into the water so ask a friend of coach to take a look at your hand entry on both sides, particularly as you get tired when bad habits creep in. You should be entering with a near horizontal hand, with the fingertips angled slightly down to spear smoothly into the water:

This is much safer way to enter the water for your shoulders and is also better swimming technique as it immediately sets you up in the right position for a great catch phase.

If you have a thumb first entry it can be a hard habit to break and will take some persistence on your part. Here's two visualisations you can use to help you get this right in your stroke:

Visualisation 1: Imagine a small fish is swimming just in front of you and you are chasing it. As your hand enters into the water try and spear the fish with a nice horizontal hand, angling you hand and fingers down into the water.

Visualisation 2: As your arm recovers over the top of the water, imagine you are holding a briefcase in your hand. It would be very awkward to turn that hand outwards whilst holding the briefcase so lightly carry it past your head with the palm facing inwards. (Thanks to Montreal based coach Charles Couturier for this tip!)

In the 1970s a thumb first entry was taught in tandem with an S-pull shape as it gives a longer pull pathway which was believed to be more powerful. This has since been disproved and all elite swimmers are now taught to enter with a flat hand and pull straight backwards - it's a faster and more efficient technique:

What are your experiences of shoulder injury? Is it still causing you a problem or if you are cured, how did you go about about fixing it? Let us know in the comments section here.

Swim Smooth!

Relevant link: Our website page on shoulder injury.

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