Winter has passed, the sun is shining on those early morning swim sessions. The long course triathlon season is well and truly underway.
Now is no better time to focus on your swimming mobility, particularly for those who have shunned the pool over the winter months. In my experience treating age group swimmers and triathletes, many are aware of what is involved in correct technique. Despite this awareness, many are limited in achieving sound technique by limitations in their flexibility.
Following on from our last article on the importance of streamlined position for “free speed” in the swim. Today we will look at the key mobility areas that could help improve your streamlined swim position, making you more efficient and faster in the water.
After we assess the combined elevation test (aim > 10 degrees above horizontal), we can further evaluate and identify individual joints contributing to your limited streamlined position.
We start at shoulder internal rotation range. It is optimal to have greater than 40-50 degrees from the horizontal. Without this amount of internal rotation range, a swimmer is unable to achieve an early catch and high elbow position, limiting the power you can exert through your pull phase. Restricted internal rotation range is the most commonly restricted movement in the pathology of painful “swimmers shoulder”
External shoulder rotation of 80-110 degrees is required to maintain a high elbow position for the recovery part of the stroke. To compensate for a lack of external rotation range we commonly see sinking hips, a highly inefficient position for moving forward in the water.
Abduction with Internal Rotation is an important measure of a swimmer’s ability to achieve & maintain a high elbow throughout the stroke cycle. This test can be quite difficult to perform & requires multiple practitioners to assess appropriately. Optimal range is between 150-170 degrees.
Thoracic Rotation is important in the pull through phase of freestyle. Optimal range is within 60-90 degrees. Lack of body rotation can often lead to snaking through the water, increasing the range the shoulder need to go through the recovery phase.
The final area for consideration is ankle plantar flexion. This is the ability to point the toes down and we look to achieve > 160 degrees. If the feet fail to achieve a straight position that will act as an anchor, increase drag through the water and slowing that swim speed.
In our next article, we will look at the key exercises to address swimming mobility restrictions as evaluated by the movements above.
Precision Athletica (Olympic Park)
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