Let’s face it. Swimming is a repetitive sport that puts your muscles through some rather unnatural motions. And no matter how strong or experienced a swimmer you are, swimming for long periods of time can and often does result in shoulder soreness and injury. But there are some simple things that, if you do them every day, act as a pre-emptive strike against soreness and injury. All you need are 5 minutes and two pieces of surgical tubing, or surgical bands.
Why Do It:
The shoulder circuit is an easy routine that will help maintain strength and stability in your shoulder joints and rotator cuffs. It’s so easy, in fact, that you might not think it’s worth the time. But trust me on this one. This circuit really works. Just ask yourself if it’s worth five minutes a day to avoid a chronic shoulder problem that can takes weeks or even months to get rid of. And these are usually weeks and months when the doctor advises that you STOP swimming. Spending five minutes a day with tubing or a band can help ensure that you swim every day if you want to. I learned this circuit from Jerry Foley, head coach of the men’s and women’s swim teams at Bucknell University.
How To Do It:
To do this circuit you will need either surgical tubing or stretch bands. Surgical tubing and bands come in varying resistances and lengths. The lower-resistance bands are for stability and therapy; the higher-resistance bands are for building strength. You will need two pieces of tubing or two bands — each about 4 feet in length. Here’s an inexpensive source if you don’t already have bands or tubing: here.
The circuit consists of five different exercises, and you don’t need to do more than 8 to 10 repetitions of each exercises. See, I told you this was really easy.
Exercise #1. Take one of the bands and grasp an end in each hand. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, and hold your arms straight out in front of you at shoulder height. The backs of your hands can face either up or out to the sides. In one smooth motion, send your hands outward until they the band touches your chest (Photo 1). Control the band as you slowly return your hands to the starting position. Repeat 8 to 10 times.
Exercise #2. Grasp a band in each hand and let the other two ends of the bands rest on the floor. With your feet shoulder-width apart, step on the ends to anchor them. Hold the other ends of the bands so that your thumbs point up toward the ceiling. Raise both hands until they are even with your shoulders. You want to have them come up at about a 30-degree angle — halfway between straight out in front of you and straight to the side. Control the cord as you return to the start position (arms at your sides). Repeat 8 to 10 times.
Exercise #3. Repeat Exercise #2, but this time point your thumbs down. Repeat 8 to 10 times.
Exercise #4. You should still be standing on the bands for this one, with feet should-width apart. Bend your arms at the elbow and lift both arms so that the elbows are at shoulder height and palms are facing down. In one motion, raise your hands straight up without moving your elbows. Return to your starting position without moving your elbows. Repeat 8 to 10 times.
Exercise #5. Continue to stand on the ends of the bands, but for Exercise #5 you need to switch each band to the other hand. That is, the bands will make an "X" in front of your body. With thumbs facing up, lift the arms in a continuous motion (Photo #3). Control the bands as you lower your arms to the start position.
How To Do It Really Well (the Fine Points):
1. Make sure that you have the right resistance for your needs. You should be able to complete the movements without too much strain.
2. Try to feel the muscles in your shoulders as they contract. Make slight adjustments in the placement of your arms, hands, and shoulders until you can feel that the muscles are working.
3. Do each exercise in a slow and controlled manner, no jerking.
4. You can repeat the whole circuit 2 to 3 times, or twice a day.