Swimming smarter: prehab and prevent injury
Every athlete fears injuries so it’s awesome that swimming is generally a low-risk, low impact sport. While broken bones, sliced skin or snapped ligaments aren’t typical hazards of the sport, up to 90% of swimmers will experience serious pain. For those chalking up kms every day in the pool, it make sense to try to head off injury issues at the starting block. FINIS has a few handy tips to help simplify that
Entry – imagine your head is 12 o’clock, your right hand should enter the water at approximately one o’clock and the left hand at 11 o’clock. Any deviation either way will increase stress on the rotator cuff.
Early pull – if your elbow is lower than your hand while your arm pulls under the body the latissimus dorsi muscles won’t be fully engaged. This prevents a smooth, symmetrical body roll which is needed to keep stress on the rotator cuff muscles down and to keep the scapula anchored on the thorax.
Recovery – a fully extended elbow while the arm is out of the water in the recovery phase is another common issue. A bent elbow is the better bet because it reduces stress on the rotator cuff.
Swimming is a big investment of time and the more you swim the better - well, not always. Russell Mark, high-performance consultant to USA Swimming hits this nail painfully on the head:
“Repetition alone isn’t enough to injure your shoulder. Repetition of bad technique is.”
Using swim paddles can help. There are generally two main benefits to incorporating paddles into training: building power and strength which helps protect against injury, and also helping solidify good technique to reduce unnecessary stress on the body.
FINIS Agility Paddles are strapless and stay on your hand so long as your technique is in the sweet spot. The moment you start to slip, the paddles slip too, alerting you to refocus and tidy up your technique. Always start with paddles that are just a little bit larger than your hands and progress from there. It can be tempting to go big but larger paddles can make your stroke very slow and that can strain the tendons in your elbow - all of which is counter productive.
Body roll is a biggie for Swimmer’s Shoulder as too much roll can cause issues and too little body roll can as well. Too much body roll means the hand is going across the mid-line during the hand entry, placing the shoulder at a mechanical disadvantage. Too little body roll forces the recovering arm to jam up the shoulder joint.
Optimal body roll means swimming stronger and faster while not needlessly smashing your shoulder. FINIS has the Hydro Hip Core Strenghtener. This device teaches swimmers the muscle memory to rotate completely and quickly. It is so clever it also gives instant stroke feedback - if stroke timing is incorrect the swimmer's arm will hit the blade. It can improve both backstroke and freestyle hip rotation, and can be placed toward the chest for breaststroke to prevent dropped elbows and develop a more efficient arm stroke.
The Posture Trainer can help swimmers find and rock training with the right amount of roll. It promotes correct head and spine alignment, which is key to an efficient swim stroke. When secured to the back center of the head, the device should be undetectable until the swimmer exceeds the recommended posture range. Keeping the head in the proper position throughout the entire swimming motion corrects spinal alignment. The Posture Trainer's versatility allows for use in all four swim strokes as well.
Not every injury can be prevented by clever devices and solid technique. So how do you know when to pack up and go home? It is handy to have boundaries when if comes to good pain and bad pain.
This is a guide and always seek medical advice for persistent niggles and any severe pain.
- If an injury hurts during warm-up but the soreness goes within the first 500-800m of training, repeat a similar workout from the previous day. If the injury flares up during this workout, stop and take two days off.
- If your injury is sore for more than one hour after swimming, or the next day, take 1 day off and then repeat your most recent swimming workout;
- If an injury hurts during warm-up and the soreness hasn’t gone within the first 500-800m of training, stop and take two days off.
- If soreness occurs repeatedly despite this graduated return to training it’s time for an expert medical opinion.