This shoulder prehabilitation Youtube video demonstrates three exercises that, when added to a regular core and stability program, can help to maintain shoulder health. In addition, creating a strong rotator cuff can lead to better biomechanics when you are swimming.
This leads to faster swim splits.
What is shoulder prehabilitation?
Recently I was invited to a presentation by Matt Rose, a former Canadian swimming Olympian who is now a practicing physiotherapist in Victoria. As a former high performance athlete, Matt had a unique perspective on “prehabilitation” since he had experience both as an athlete training at high volume and is now as a therapist focused on sports injuries. Prehabilitation focuses on strengthening supporting muscles to facilitate proper biomechanics in movement to avoid the necessity of rehabilitation.
In swimming we are constantly rotating the shoulder joint, which puts stress on the muscles of the rotator cuff. The rotator cuff is mad e of four small muscles: the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor and subscapularis. Focused work on these muscles is more effective for maintaining shoulder health than weights for the larger prime mover muscles in the shoulders. The limitation for most triathletes is not brute strength but rather correct motor patterns.
The shoulder prehabilitation series advocated by Matt does not take an overwhelming amount of time. Along with a daily core routine, these exercises prevent future injury and improve posture. This may allow you to hold water more effectively and improve your swim stroke. I have included four of the main exercises he suggested. Hopefully they can improve your swimming or at minimum ensure all of your mileage is pain free!
All the exercises below can be done with either rubber tubing or resistance bands. Attach one end of the tubing to a door or fixed object with the band will be at approximately waist height. Try to ensure it is secure as rubber tubing can sting if it comes free and you are in the way!
1. External Rotations
Pay attention to the scapula, keeping it tight into your spine and your shoulder lowered away from your ear. This keeps the focus of these exercises on the rotator cuff and not muscles in your arms. Stand perpendicular to your anchor point. Grasp the band in the hand opposite the anchor point with your elbow tight to your side and your arm across your body. Pull the tubing directly across your body keeping your elbow anchored to your waist. The motion is like a gate opening and closing. It should take one second to pull across and one second to return. Continue the motion for one minute and work towards two minutes per side.
2. Internal Rotations
These are the opposite of the external rotation. Standing perpendicular the anchor point, grasp the tubing in the hand closest to the anchor point. Take one lateral step away from the anchor point to put resistance on the band. Keeping the elbow held close to the body, rotate the arm away from the anchor point across the body. Then return to the starting point. Take one second for each direction and starting at one minute, work towards two minutes per side.
3. L Shoulder Extension
Stand with your back to the anchor point of the tubing with the tubing in one hand, your elbow tight to your waist and your hand at a right angle in front of you. Push your arm straight out from your body, keeping your shoulder blades low and tight to the back of your spine. When extended, trace an “L” shape slowly up about 6 inches and to the side 6 inches, then return to the starting position with your elbow at your side. Repeat 12-20 times/side.