Shoulders are the most used muscles in swimming, which is why it is important to strengthen and stretch them. Strengthening your shoulders will not only help prevent injuries, but will also help your performance on your swims. Here are the best exercises and stretches to help keep your shoulders at their best.
External Overhead Rotations
For this exercise, you will need a light dumbbell. Grab the dumbbell in your left arm. Stretch your left arm out and bend your elbow, so that your left hand is pointing to the floor. Slowly raise your hand from pointing downwards to pointing in front of you, almost like you were going to throw a punch, and then raise it until your left hand is facing the ceiling. Repeat this exercise for at least 10 reps before switching arms.
This exercise requires a press bench, or table. In a pinch two chairs that you can lie on your stomach and stick both arms through will work. You will also need some light dumbbells. Start by lying on your stomach with a dumbbell in each hand. Let your arms hang in the resting position. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and lift both of the dumbbells up to your chest. Your elbows should be pointing towards the ceiling. Be careful not to rush through this exercise.
Grab a yoga mat or a towel and your light weight dumbbells. Lie on the ground with the weight in your left hand. Your left forearm and hand should be punching towards the ceiling. Punch your arm straight out towards the ceiling until your shoulder blades are off of the floor. Slowly lower your shoulder blades back down to the floor, but keep your arm straight in the air. Do 20 reps and then switch arms. This helps with shoulder stability, which prevents injury.
Start with your trusty dumbbells in each hand and your feet shoulder width apart. Bend your torso until it is parallel with the ground. Your arms should be hanging towards the ground, but make sure to maintain a straight back. Raise the dumbbells out towards the ceiling, until your arms are stretched out to your sides making a “T” shape. Another way to think of this exercise is to pretend you are a bird and need to flap your wings. Slowly lower your arms to the starting position and repeat.
Hold your dumbbells straight out in front of you with your feet shoulder width apart. Lower the dumbbells so they are just in front of your thighs. Then raise the dumbbells almost to the starting position. Lower the dumbbells just below your belly button and then raise them just above your belly button. Return to the starting position. Repeat this sequence of raising and lowering 5 times.
For this exercise, you will need a resistance band and a mirror. Wrap your hands in the band, so that they are about shoulder width apart. Stand in front of the mirror and pull your hands apart, while keeping your upper arms close to your body, until they are parallel to the side of your body. Check the mirror to make sure your shoulders are not shrugging. Return to the start position and repeat 15 times. This exercise helps strengthen your rotator cuffs.
Upward Plank Pose
To do this stretch, find a surface that you will not slip on. Start by sitting down on the floor, with your feet stretched in front of you. Place your hands beneath your shoulder, and when you are ready inhale and press down on your hands and feet to lift your body in the air. Let your head drop and hold the pose. Your body should be straight and look like a diagonal line.
Becoming a Table
From the Upward Plank Pose, rock up towards your head. Shift your legs until your feet are perpendicular to the ground. You should look like a makeshift table. Take a few deep breaths and then return back to the ground.
Start this stretch by raising both your arms over your head. Place your right hand over your left hand. Keep your hands together and push up towards the sky. You should feel it in your shoulders and in your back. Hold this position for a few moments then lean to the left and hold. Return back to the main stretch, and lean to the right and hold. This stretch will help alleviate any tight muscles that might be sore in the next few days.
Keeping your shoulders strong and stretched will help you perform at your best. Strengthening your shoulders will also help prevent injuries from occurring. Remember to stretch out after your workouts to keep your shoulder muscles from tightening up.