With summer on the way and the explosion of the number of open water swimming events to choose from we thought it was a good chance to focus on those factors that can improve your swimming performance and reduce your injury risk. Swimming is a skill and like learning to hit a golf ball or swing a tennis racquet it takes practice. Your speed through the water is determined by the amount of propulsion you can create and the amount of drag your body creates. The more propulsion and the less drag the faster you go. To increase your speed through the water it is a lot easier to "improve your boat shape" and reduce your drag rather than create more propulsive force. Efficiency is key and is evident in the numbers…to create a 10% increase in velocity through the water you either need to have a 30% increase in propulsive force generated or a 3% reduction in drag force. As a swimmer I know which one will be easier to achieve. And additionally if you are trying to generate more water speed by only increasing propulsive force then your injury risk will increase as the load is transferred through the kinetic chain. The shoulder and rotator cuff tendons are often the link that fails.
- Improve your thoracic spine extension – our modern lifestyle leads us towards a flexed thoracic spine (kyphosis). Laying over a foam roller or rolled up towel can help improve this.
- Improve your thoracic spine rotation– we need at least 70 degrees of thoracic rotation in each direction to swim efficiently. There are lots of exercises and stretches your Physio can show you to improve this.
- Improve your shoulder internal rotation– less than 40 degrees of internal rotation and your shoulder joint is exposed to injury. Stretching the back of your shoulder will improve this.
- Stretch your tight hip flexors– to lay flat in the water and not have our legs dropping down behind us creating drag we need enough length in our hip flexors. A lunge style stretch will help improve this.
- Stretch your tight ankles– commonly seen in runners and triathletes, tight ankles will mean your feet point down while swimming creating more drag. Loosen them up to swim fast. Kick drills with fins on are great for this.