ATC 296: Six Swim-Specific Strength & Conditioning Exercises, Running with A Stroller, and More

September 27, 2019


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  • Tawnee did a 6K Xterra trail race! Holding back on the hill climb by walking allowed her to cruise for the rest of the race and win her age group.
  • Google has changed their algorithm to downgrade functional and alternative medicine information. You’re going to have to look harder to get this information.

Swim Study:

A Swim-Specific Shoulder Strength and Conditioning Program for Front Crawl Swimmers


“Interestingly, shoulder flexibility and range of motion have a relatively low association with shoulder pain. Time off from competitive swimming is associated with shoulder problems, perhaps suggesting there is a continual adaptation that occurs in swimmers through their swimming career. Hence, return to competitive swimming following time off should be managed carefully to avoid potential shoulder injury.”

“Three main phases have been identified in the FC stroke where shoulder problems may occur (38): the catch phase, the pull phase, and the recovery phase (Table 1). In these phases, swimmers who are at high risk of experiencing shoulder impingement typically show 3 characteristics in their FC stroke technique: (a) a large amount of internal rotation of the arm during the pull phase; (b) late initiation of external rotation of the arm during the recovery phase; and (c) a small tilt angle or shoulder roll (38). Pink et al. (24) similarly observed that 70% of shoulder pain occurred during the first half of the pull, and 18% of symptoms were in the recovery phase. Swim fatigue has also been shown to significantly influence the swim stroke mechanics by reducing stroke length and external rotation range of motion (20).”

The exercises:

  1. The swim hand plank
    • The swim hand plank coordinates thoracic rotation, scapular rotation, and the trunk and abdominal muscles (Table 2). It is the only SSKC exercise that incorporates a thoracic rotation movement
  2. Step and rotate with marching arms
    • The step and rotate with marching arms exercise focuses on the rotator cuff shoulder muscles alongside the hip flexors and spine extensor muscles (Table 3). The rotator cuff muscles are responsible for key phases of the FC stroke (Table 1). During the catch phase, the rotator cuff muscles undergo initial eccentric then concentric contraction as the hand enters and catches the water. This stabilizes the humeral head and improves the dynamic GH joint control during this phase.
  3. Overhead squat sequence
    • The overhead squat is a good exercise for developing a strong push off and streamlined glide position adopted in swimming while activating the posterior rotator cuff, gluteal muscles, back extensor muscles, trapezius muscles, and whole-body range of motion (Table 4). The addition of elastic resistance and light weights will encourage good recruitment of the rotator cuff muscles throughout this whole-body movement.  In addition, this exercise recruits the gluteal, trapezius, and back extensor muscles that are important in the coordinating and stabilizing role of the leg kick.
  4. Prone over a stability ball
    • This exercise activates the deltoid muscles, teres major, triceps, pectoralis major, latissimus dorsi, abdominal, rotator cuff, and serratus anterior muscles (Table 5). It is a very good sequence for using the swim kinetic chain within an upper-limb closed kinetic chain scenario. Rotator cuff and scapular muscles will be engaged alongside abdominal and hip flexor muscles. The prone position with external arm movement aligns with the arm movements in the catch phase of FC swimming, and correct movement will activate eccentric contraction of the subscapularis muscle of the rotator cuff group. The internal rotation of the GH joint during this exercise will activate concentric contraction of the subscapularis muscle and align with the pull phase of FC swimming (Table 1).
  5. Glenohumeral External Rotation Motor Control
    • This exercise uses the rotator cuff muscles that are used in the catch, pull, and recovery phases of the FC stroke (Table 6)
  6. Glenohumeral Internal Rotation Motor Control
    • Similar to the GH external rotation exercise, this GH internal rotation exercise uses the rotator cuff muscles that are used in the catch, pull, and recovery phases of the FC stroke (Table 7). Lying supine with the arm supported, the eccentric– concentric internal rotation movement develops the internal rotators of the GH joint (subscapularis and deltoid muscles).

Want photos of the exercises?

If anyone would like more information and a visual guide on the exercises mentioned please email and she will send photos.

Par Tornholt asks:

Swimming Long

So swimming-related questions…

This summer I did a 3k race and a 21k ”adventure”-swim which wasn’t a race. Completing a 21k swim without any injuries felt good and made me want to try a longer a race (than 3k). Fortunately there is a 10k race close to my location so I have the following questions: 1) How do I structure my schedule? I will want to race, not only finish. I have to train according to work and family which in short means: 10 week cycle, 4 cycles until race; no swim during weekends (but will run and bike with wife); strength training will be at home with mostly body-weight (pull-ups, dips, handstands, upperbody). 2) How do I structure my workouts? Only focus on going long? Kicking? Speed-work? Further reading: I am healthy, not injured and low carb since 2013. Did 3k in 36.30 at 1.13/100m and will try to get to 1.20/100 in 10k. I have a really good wetsuit. Love swimming with pull bouy and paddles but a useless kicker. Longest session so far not counting 100×100 in youth is 20×400 @ 6.00 Pretty good technical swimmer w high elbows and high frequency. Need to get stronger in upper body.

What the Coaches Say:

  • You don’t just need upper body strength. Your whole body needs to work in conjunction.
  • The majority of people should stay away from dips. Be careful about the weight training you choose to do in general. Pull-ups can be stressful on the shoulder joint; assisted pull-ups would be safer. Handstands can also add a high load to the shoulder joint. Is it necessary? Probably not…
    • Tawnee and Lucho would encourage you to do the strength exercises included in the above study.
  • To develop your kick, don’t use fins; you’re more advanced than that.
  • Strive to kick 1500m (3×500 with brief rest).
  • Don’t just relax with the kick board and chat with your friends. Use the clock to force yourself to kick hard and fast.
  • Not swimming on the weekends will be a good modulator for you.
  • 40-weeks is almost too long. You could almost do a double periodization of 16-weeks each (working from non-specific to specific). You can take a polarized approach with 80/20 or 60/40 (aerobic distance vs speed).
  • Don’t become too reliant on pool buoy, paddles, and other “toys.”
  • If you’re committed to the team, do that. But if it’s not specific for your training and you don’t need the master’s setting to motivate you to get to the pool, then ditch it and do your own thing.

Andy R. asks:

Stroller Running 

Just curious to hear your thoughts on training with a jogging stroller for running.
I’m a 30 year old (male) cyclist turned runner with now 2 boys (3mo and 21mo) and am quite proud of the 600+ miles I’ve logged on weekends with the jogger while the older one naps (through winter, summer, rain, snow, and in between). Lately, I’ve been doing the major portion of long runs training for Presque Isle Marathon (Sep 8) hoping to run 2:57 for a BQ (missed it at Boston with a mile 18 blow up, 3:21 finish) with the stroller. FWIW I ran 3:00:04 at Presque in 2017 for my first bq and requalified in 2018 for this year with 2:59:41, in that crazy rain and wind storm. Anyway just curious on your thoughts around long runs with strollers, I’ve gone up to 18 and often will split a run starting with ~12 stroller and 4-6 solo finish. I take the kids in the morning, making solo morning runs less of an option (early wake up while I’m out…no go). We live outside of Amherst MA on a dirt road with variable conditions, often doing all the running back and forth on a single paved stretch, rolling hills. Stoller pace is 30s-1min off regular pace (more on hills) for equivalent HR.

What the Coaches Say:

  • The stroller creates resisted running, which makes your run stride unnatural. Stride frequency, stride rate, and ground contact time all change.
    • Don’t let stroller running be your primary form of training.
  • The good news is, the resistance is making you stronger!
  • Stroller intervals (fartleks or downhill) can be beneficial, but make sure you’re tethered for safety!
  • Stroller running also increases core strength.
  • Wheel size is everything when it comes to choosing a stroller. Bigger wheels will definitely allow you to run easier. Comment below if you have recommendations for a running stroller for Tawnee.

One Comment

  • Courtney says:

    I love my Bob running stroller – When my daughter was an infant it was my ticket to getting out of the house .. I attached my britax infant the car seat to it and when the car seat is in place the baby is facing you 🙂 once she was older I turned her around out of the seat (but not until 10 ish months since she seemed happy enough in the car seat)

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