April 10

Shoulder Health and Swimming

Swimming is a great low impact activity which can be used to improve cardiovascular function. Making sure you get the most out of your time in the water means we need to ensure proper pain-free movement. When muscle imbalances exist in the shoulder, freestyle, front crawl, back crawl, breaststroke, or butterfly can be difficult to perform. These muscle imbalances may present as excessive laxity, also known as swimmer’s shoulder, resulting in excessive range of motion and decreased pull phase strength.

Swimmer’s shoulder may develop over time as a result of repetitive overhead use. Up to 62% of swimmers experience generalized laxity, while the majority experience a moderate degree of multi-directional instability. Swimmer’s shoulder can often be resolved with a well-rounded strengthening program of the rotator cuff and supporting musculature.

Below are three exercises which can help strengthen the muscles involved in the pull phase of all strokes. These can be performed every day (as tolerated) with a structure of 3 sets of 10 repetitions.

1. Banded External Rotation

Shoulder Exercise for Swimmers - external rotation


2. Superman

Shoulder Exercise for  Swimmers - Superman


3. External Rotation with Arm Abduction at 90˚

Shoulder Exercise Swimmer - external rotation in abduction






De Martino, I., & Rodeo, S. A. (2018). The Swimmer’s Shoulder: Multi-directional Instability. Current reviews in musculoskeletal medicine, 11(2), 167-171.


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