Swimming is great! As we mentioned last week, a brilliant form of calorie busting cardio for when it is too cold and wet to want to do much outdoors. This excellent, whole body workout is good for shoulder mobility, core strength and lung function whilst being completely non weight bearing. It is the non-impact aspect in particular that makes the injury risk of swimming so low and therefore ideal for those new to exercise as well as seasoned exercise buffs alike.
There are a few aspects to watch out for though that could leave you not only sore but also not swimming as smoothly as you could.
Shoulder pain is probably the most common swimming related injury we see in clinic. With around 1,200 shoulder revolutions taken on each arm to swim 1 mile, it is not surprising that poor technique and muscle imbalances can lead to shoulder injuries such as impingement and rotator cuff tendinitis. In the picture below, the swimmer’s arm is too straight, instead she should be flexing to match the yellow guide lines.
Outside of the pool… Work on strengthening exercises that increase shoulder stability such as external rotation or shoulder extension against an exercise band.
In the pool… Focus on the position of hand entry into the water. Your hand does not want to cross over your midline but instead stay out wide, above your shoulder. Bringing your arm across your body (as you can see in the photo below) puts pressure on the shoulder joint, leading to inflammation.
Neck and back pain
Lifting your head to breath can put additional stress on your neck, as well as causing your hips to drop. This can make you both slow in the water as well as leading to potential back and neck pain.
Outside of the pool… Plank is a great core strength exercise for swimming. Pulling your stomach muscles in, keeping hips high and spine long. A brilliant base exercise for swimming.
In the pool… Think about where you are looking. When your face is in the water, look toward the bottom of the pool, not ahead of you. When turning to breath, think about looking along the water to the pool edge – you should not be looking at the ceiling (like the swimmer in the picture!).
For those of you who have taken to swimming to reduce impact on your knees, watch out if you prefer breaststroke to front crawl. The acceleration of speed and rotation to propel yourself through the water increases pressure on the inside (medial) part of your knee. This can lead to irritation of the medial collateral ligament (MCL)
Outside of the pool… Exercises that increase gluteal strength can help with knee alignment. Squats and lunges are a great place to start. Stretching your hip flexors (muscles at the front of your hip) and adductors (muscles on the inside of your thigh) can also help to reduce the pressure on your knee.
Here at Comfort Health
For further advice on swimming and injury prevention book an appointment with Jenny… Physiotherapist, Pilates instructor and GB Age Group Triathlete.