SWIM CLINIC – shoulders blowing up early into swims

By: Alun Woodward

A common problem among swimmers and triathletes is the sensation of shoulders blowing up very early on in races or hard sessions, this just leaves us feeling weak and uncoordinated for the remainder of the swim and unable to perform to our potential. This feeling is a sure sign that something is going wrong in the swim, the shoulders should not be taking the brunt of the workload when we swim hard rather the latissimus muscles should be working harder.

When we look at top swimmers we typically see a V shaped body with very broad upper back, this is the latissimus muscle and should be well trained in experienced swimmers. We all have this muscle and even if not as developed as top swimmers it is a much more powerful muscle to use to propel us forward when swimming than the shoulders. While this muscle is much more powerful it is also much harder for us to switch on and use in the pool effectively due to hand and arm position. If your arms are not in the right place to start pulling the latissimus will not be able to do its job and the shoulders will take over the action. The shoulder muscles being much smaller will fatigue fast and fail long before the latissimus would.

Gliding and stretching forward

How many times do we hear this from swim coaches? If you do this and reach forward with hands near the surface of the water as seems the typical instruction it is almost impossible to switch on the lats and use them to pull, certainly the newer an athlete to swimming the less chance they will be able to use lats in this position and will have to rely on shoulders leading to weaker swim and increasing injury risk.

Angle the entry and push forward and DOWN

By changing the instruction to enter the water and push straight down so when arm is extended the hand is approx 15- 20cm below surface we put athletes in a perfect position to engage the latissimus muscle and use it to execute a powerful pull.

This one simple change to your stroke could be the key to unlocking real power, stopping your shoulders blowing up and some times to smile about on the clock!



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