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Is your mobility causing you to sink or swim?


Precision Athletica is Sydney's first top level institute of sport accessible to the public, based at Olympic Park Athletic Centre. Precision Athletica offers a new generation of physio for sports performance, giving clients access to the same level of practitioners and high performance training equipment that an elite athlete would have in preparing for their sport. As the Official High Performance Partner of Triathlon NSW, members receive a 10% discount on Precision Athletica's services.

For those not familiar to swimming as a junior, the swim leg of any triathlon can be particularly daunting. Be it a 200m enticer to the 3.8km of an Ironman event, poor body positioning in the water is going to make the journey from the swim start to the finishers chute that much more challenging.

There are many variables in the swim leg that we simply can’t control. The start; deep water, beach or pontoon, a mass gun or rolling waves. The water conditions; a closed lake, rolling swell or breaking waves. Then throw in a blinding sunrise, a few hundred other like-minded athletes and you have a washing machine of arms, legs and neon caps. Each fighting for some open water to propel themselves as quickly and effortlessly out of the water to T1. Whilst potentially horrific to some, the feeling of coming out of the water feeling fresh, in good time and ready to get on with the bike and run that lies ahead is hard to compare.

Swimming efficiency is the key in achieving the fastest possible time for the least amount of effort and energy expenditure. It is a combination of streamlined body position, optimal stroke technique as well as strength, power and endurance of the swimming muscles. Stroke technique is clearly a skill and with the acquisition of any skill requires many hours and hours of appropriate practice. Ever wondered why those adults from junior swim squads seem to swim like fish whilst beginner adults look more like dog’s trying to stay afloat?

Being strong and powerful allows you to exert more force through the water. However a lack of mobility won’t allow an effective streamlined position, inhibiting your stroke.. I’m sure we have all heard poolside being told to maintain high elbows during the recovery phase, only then to be told to keep the hips and feet up. Is this a technique issue or restriction in shoulder mobility leading to compensations elsewhere? 

Swim Mobility - Precision Athletica

The Combined Elevation test, as pictured above, is a really nice and effective screening tool. With it we can measure your upper limb mobility as a combination of shoulder flexion, scapula retraction or shoulder blade mobility and thoracic extension. Whilst professional swimmers and triathletes consistently exhibit > 15 degrees of arm elevation, age groupers and non-elite triathletes have been found to have much greater restrictions. For many of us our days are commonly spent sitting; at desks, computers or on the daily commute. This prolonged time in thoracic flexion and shoulder protraction contradicts what we want to be able to attain in an efficient freestyle position. Should you perform poorly in the combined elevation test, we will be able to identify the exact location of your mobility impairment and provide you with the appropriate mobility, stretching or strengthening exercises.

Next session we will look at the individual components of swimming mobility and the specific exercises and modalities you can use to improve your swim flexibility.

 * This article was written by:

Matthew Sweeney


Precision Athletica (Olympic Park)

Engineering Australia's future elite athletes!

Sydney Olympic Park Athletic Centre | Edwin Flack Ave | Olympic Park | NSW 2127

P 02 9764 5787



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