Improving Your Swimming- what’s the catch?

Preventing injuries and improving performance go hand in hand. Increasing your swim velocity by 10% requires either a 30% increase in propulsive force or a 3-5% decrease in your drag. If you don’t start your swim stroke with a good catch you’ll fail to do either and most likely end up injured if you try to produce more force. Good relationships and communication between the athlete, physio and coach could not only mean you stay uninjured this summer but also improve your speed and efficiency in the water. When I speak to athletes about their pain and swim technique I look at each phase of the stroke individually. Breaking down the movement into phases allows us to better isolate the problem, deconstruct the movement and reconstruct the technique more effectively. The catch is the moment that the arm is stretched out in front the body just after the hand has entered the water. This forward flexed position puts increased load on the long head of biceps and also the supraspinatus tendon (one of the rotator cuff muscles). 

 
Preventing injuries and improving performance go hand in hand. Increasing your swim velocity by 10% requires  either a 30% increase in propulsive force or a 3-5% decrease in your drag. If you don’t start your swim stroke with a good catch you’ll fail to do either and most likely end up injured if you try to produce more force. Good relationships and communication between the athlete, physio and coach could not only mean you stay uninjured this summer but also improve your speed and efficiency in the water.
 
When I speak to athletes about their pain and swim technique I look at each phase of the stroke individually. Breaking down the movement into phases allows us to better isolate the problem, deconstruct the movement and reconstruct the technique more effectively. The catch is the moment that the arm is stretched out in front the body just after the hand has entered the water. This forward flexed position puts increased load on the long head of biceps and also the supraspinatus tendon (one of the rotator cuff muscles).
 
Errors to watch for in this position which frequently cause shoulder pain include:
1.       Reaching too far forward and across the midline of the body in an effort to achieve a long stroke.
2.       Hitching or shrugging the shoulder blade up towards the ear in an effort to achieve the desired stroke length.
3.       Side flexing the trunk in an effort to reach further at hand entry.
 
Recent increases in training volume, progressively worsening pain during this phase of swimming or changes in technique such as focusing on lengthening the stroke or entering the water with the thumb may result in some of the above issues with technique. Have your coach film you from above the water so that you can watch for these errors in conjunction with the coach.
 
If you are experiencing pain during this phase of your swim or you feel you’re unable to achieve the desired technique then your physio will be able to perform a physical examination to assess whether you have any areas of restriction or limitation preventing you from doing so.
 
Things to be aware of include
1.       reduced flexibility through the neck, back and shoulders
2.       decreased strength in the rotator cuff
3.       abnormal movement patterns of the shoulder blade
 
For my favourite exercises to improve these essentials click here.
 
If you are currently in pain you may want to speak to the pharmacist or doctor about short term ways to reduce inflammation in the area. It is also important that we make some modifications to the training program while the structures are healing and any deficits found in the examination are corrected.
 
Modifications to discuss with the coach and physio include:
1.       short term reduction of stroke length
2.       reduction in distance training drills
3.       avoiding kickboard drills with the kickboard out in front, consider instead putting the kickboard under the chest or performing kicking drills on the side
4.       avoiding use of drag suits
5.       introducing pull-bouy drills to address technique by emphasising slow strokes with correct pain free positioning of the arm.
 

If you feel you are suffering from shoulder pain while swimming or are about to begin a swim training program in preperation for an event please feel free to contact Lauren on 9968 3424 to discuss further.

Happy pain free swimming.