State-of-the-Shoulders Address

As you can imagine, I’ve had some great one-liners in my years of swimming. One of my favorite and most unappreciated was this: It was the last practice before Christmas break my junior year at Auburn. Because Coach Marsh knew none of us would work as hard as we should during Christmas Break, he made it a point to pound us into the ground before we left. The last thing we had to do before we could leave was some 4000-yard IM set that he had concocted, of which I no longer remember the details.

After he wrote the set on the board, I blurted out, “I sure hope Santa brings me some new shoulders for Christmas!”

Come to think of it, I don’t think Coach Marsh ever thought I was funny.

While I have had sore shoulders in my day, they’ve never kept me out of the water. I think there are several reasons for that, the biggest one being: I wouldn’t let them. I’ve done several things to keep my shoulders in good shape, and not tear anything up. Here are a few:

The most important is good technique. If you have a tendency of crossing over (and I don’t mean John Edward telling you that your dead grandma has been watching you shower and thinks you should use Head and Shoulders and not Strawberry Essence shampoo), it tends too put a lot of stress on your rotator cuff. Using your whole body, and really riding the legs on harder, intense sets will save your shoulders a lot of unnecessary pain. Anytime my shoulders start to feel like I was grinding hamburger, I re-evaluate my stroke, back off, and do something different.

Second is stretching. I could dedicate a whole article (and I probably will) to stretching because I see a lot of BAD stretching going on. Here’s the thing… this-arm-across-the-chest, I-wish-I-wasn’t-here, this-is-SOO-boring, I-want-to-take-a-nap, why-don’t-we-get-in-the-pool-already excuse for stretching that goes on most places JUST DOESN’T CUT IT. Every stretching routine should involve arm circles. Big circles. Little circles. Circles out front. Circles to the side. SWING your shoulders Doe-see-doe, swing those suckers to and fro. Why all the swinging? For one, it creates a natural lubricant in the ball and socket that makes up your shoulders. If you don’t do arm circles, you’re basically running a car without any oil. Go drain the oil out of your dad’s car and see how far he gets. Send the bill to your coach, and don’t mention my name. Two, it warms up the shoulders with virtually no resistance. It’s always best to start swimming with WARM muscles and not cold, placid, still ones (was going to mention dead grandma here again, but it’s probably best I don’t).

Actually, I think I’m going to make this an ongoing article, and next week I’ll show you actual stretches to do for your shoulders. So, get out your popcorn and diet Cokes cause this baby is going to be a mini-series. Look out, Camp Jim!!

The third shoulder injury preventative work I do is with StretchCordz. The positive and negative resistance of StretchCordz strengthens and balances the very small muscles that are wrapped around your shoulders. By making these baby muscles stronger, they won’t break down due to working out in the water. You don’t really see these little guys at work, but if you don’t exercise them, boy do you feel them after an 8000-meter set.

I won’t lie, I’ve made more water-balloon slingshots out of StretchCordz than I should have, but it’s really cool to see a balloon fly 250+ yards. Maybe I’ll show you that, too, in an article about rubber bands, and how to use them.

The last thing I do to keep my shoulders in shape is in the weight room. Don’t freak out, Mom and Dad. I won’t make your son or daughter look like The Hulk. (Kids, go get some green make-up, and tear up some old jeans!) These exercises are with minimum weight, but they help strengthen and protect the baby muscles that surround and stabilize the shoulder joint.

I hope y’all (learned that word at Auburn) are looking forward to this new shoulder series. If you are a parent, you can send a check for $3000 to me for saving you at least that much on shoulder surgery in the future. Make all checks payable to the Dave Denniston Needs Money for the Olympics Foundation. See you next week, and thanks for your support.