Swimming – Melina Mirzaei, Kinesiologist

Summer is finally here! If  you are a competitive swimmer, training for a tri, or are just doing laps at Kits pool, there are some things to look out for to stay injury-free.

Swimming places a lot of stress on the shoulder joint, as it requires the shoulders to have strength, as well as a great degree of flexibility. The shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint whose structure affords a very large range of motion. This is beneficial for the sweeping strokes we see in swimming, but it comes at the expense of stability. Shoulder injuries in swimmers are commonly referred to as “swimmer’s shoulder”; however, this is a catch-all term which includes shoulder impingement and tendinopathy of the rotator cuff or biceps tendons.

Muscle imbalances

As mentioned above, the shoulder is a ball and socket joint. The head of the humerus (upper arm bone) is suspended in the shoulder socket (glenoid fossa) by a fibrous capsule, and is further stabilized by the rotator cuff muscles. Swimming encourages a lot of internal rotation at the shoulder, which can lead to dominance of the anterior musculature (such as the pecs and subscapularis). Slumped shoulders and hunched posture can be indicators of these muscle imbalances.

Technique and stroke mechanics

A good coach can help establish the most efficient technique for each individual. This is essential, since competitive swimmers may log up to one million arm strokes per year. At this rate, poor technique can quickly affect performance, as well as the tendons and ligaments around the shoulder girdle. Good technique will go a long way in reducing the stress on the tissues around the shoulder, thereby lowering the risk of injury. A good assessment should consider body rotation, hand placement into the water, pull-through, and breathing technique.


Swimming can cause imbalances between the muscles in the front and back of the shoulder, and also between the right and left sides of the body. These imbalances are exacerbated by frequent training, swim technique errors, and poor posture in non-swimming activities. A good dryland training program can help counteract these imbalances.

Dryland training should focus on establishing and maintaining balanced musculature around the shoulder joints. This will include strengthening and stretching exercises. Pilates is a popular method of training for many swimmers, as it encourages good posture, balanced muscle development, and improved body awareness.






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