Shoulder pain is beating up too many swimmers.  But with the right tools and plan, you can strike back.  A proven plan that has worked with swimmers of all levels includes these 3 steps:

Get Ahead of the Pain

Nagging shoulder pain is wrecking your mechanics.   Subconsciously when you’re in pain, your shoulder muscles turn off and your stroke mechanics change to avoid the irritation. Continuing to swim while in pain may actually be making you slower as you train your body to compensate and move poorly. Save your stroke and come back faster by stopping swimming for a week or two.  This allows your inflamed shoulder to calm down and to start healing.

Fix the Breakdown

Fixing the breakdown with corrective movement is critical to solve your shoulder problem. Removing pain provides a blank slate to change how you move.  The brain is open to change when it’s not trying to protect itself.  It is time to develop:
  • Scapula Stability- The scapula forms the foundation for the shoulder joint.  A poor foundation places excessive load on the smaller muscles of the shoulder.
  • Coordination-  Training the body to move better with muscles that fire in sync can be the key to eliminating pain and producing a more powerful stroke.
  • Rotator Cuff Strength- Swimmers are known to have loose shoulders.  But looseness without control leads to shoulder pain.  A strong rotator cuff controls shoulder position and maximizes the advantages that loose shoulders provide without causing pain.

Push Performance

Now pain free and moving properly, it’s time to push performance. This is where stroke assessment, swim volume, training aids, and other tools generate maximum gains.   The strong foundation you developed in Step 1 and 2 pay off big time, because the large muscles of your shoulders are freed up to generate power.  

Putting It All Together- The 30 Day Fix

Crossover Symmetry has a 30 Day Shoulder Program for Swimmers designed around these 3 steps and taking less than 5 minutes per day. Here is a closer look.

Week 1: 

GET AHEAD OF THE PAIN: Stay out of the pool and stick with dryland training.   Maintain training intensity, by upping dryland training focusing on legs, core & endurance.
FIX THE BREAKDOWN: Focus on mobility work.  Despite shoulder laxity, the scap stabilizers are tight as a natural reaction to fight shoulder pain.  Additionally, facilitate the smaller stabilizers with light resistance focused on technique

Week 2: 

GET AHEAD OF THE PAIN: Get back in the pool with drills light on the shoulder.  This is not the swimming you’re used to, but working on balance and rotation goes a long way.  Also, continue dryland work to maintain your training intensity.
FIX THE BREAKDOWN: The accessory work this week moves into eccentrics.  Slow movements improve blood flow and promote tendon health around the shoulder.

Week 3: 

GET AHEAD OF THE PAIN: You should be feeling good, but it’s important to stay cautious. Full strokes are now ok, but with fast intervals and long recoveries.  The goal here is to apply the skills of week 2, but not fatigue the shoulder.
FIX THE BREAKDOWN: The accessory work should also move up a notch and focus on building strength.  This means a dynamic program requiring stability to the point of fatigue.

Week 4: 

GET AHEAD OF THE PAIN: Restrictions are now removed, swim any stroke you like, but limit volume.  So give it another week before putting your foot on the gas.
FIX THE BREAKDOWN: The accessory work continues to push strength of the scap and shoulder stabilizers.  Now with more intensity, taking it up a notch to match the intensity you will feel in the pool.

Beyond Week 4: 

PUSH PERFORMANCE: You are back in the pool unrestricted. Yet it’s not the end of your accessory work. The shoulder still needs a brief warm-up of the stabilizers before training and a strength program to maintain balance or the shoulder.    

To start the full Swimmer’s 30 Day Program to End Shoulder Pain – Click here.