We all know swimmers have to be strong. By nature, swimming is resistance training. Every time a swimmer moves through the water, that swimmer is moving against water resistance. So, it stands to reason that muscles like the lats, pecs, and quads need to be strong. The muscles we’re discussing here are not the pecs, lats, or quads, though; they’re the serratus anterior and the subscapularis. These two muscles are the common culprit of shoulder pain in swimmers. Learn how we address these two muscles to keep our swimmers pain-free and fast in the pool.
By far, the most common musculoskeletal complaint in the swimming population is shoulder pain. This should make a lot of sense as the repetitive overhead nature of swimming doesn’t allow much room for error. For example, an elite freestyle swimmer can take anywhere between 20 and 25 strokes every 50 meters. Let’s say you train 7,000 meters per day; that’s between 2,800 and 3,500 strokes every single day. If that same swimmer trains six days per week, that’s as many as 21,000 strokes per week and nearly 1,000,000 in a year. One stroke is not typically going to cause an injury, but this many reps, over time, certainly can.
Dryland training is crucial for swimmers that want to compete at a high level. There’s a reason why virtually all elite swimmers do some form of it and USA Swimming advocates it. It can prevent injuries, correct imbalances, and improve performance in the water. Overhead athletes, including swimmers, present with some unique considerations that need to be taken into account when completing a dryland training program. We’ll cover three common dryland exercises that are not good to do because of their injury risk, and we’ll provide alternatives so you can train safely.
As it turns out, the difference between first and eighth place can highly depend on how well a swimmer starts and executes his or her turns. Swimmers can achieve their fastest speeds off the start, so being strong in this area can be a game-changer in boosting performance and gaining an advantage over competitors. Turns are crucial to performance as well with the underwater phase making up as much as 30% of the distance covered in a race (1).
The swimming population has been our fastest-growing demographic, so we've had a decent amount of assessments within the last year. At Achieve, we're big on assessing, and not on guessing. When we get a swimmer in the door, there are a whole host of things we're looking for. A thorough assessment should include both general and specific components.