Dry-land workouts help keep swimmers pain-free
hen you are a swimmer, having a painful shoulder, irritating back pain, or pain in your knee can pull you out of practice, meets — or even worse, a season. Knowing how to train safely with dry-land programs is a key component to avoiding these common swimming injuries. Dry-land workouts are conditioning programs done outside of the pool. The goal of a dry-land program is to improve swimming performance and to prevent injury. Most dry-land programs are performed two to three times per week. Dry-land programs should have three components: a warm-up, and the main workout, followed by stretching. The warm-up should be a dynamic warm-up using dynamic stretching activities. The workout component should encompass a combination of strength, flexibility, power, and endurance. This may include upper and lower body exercises, core work, and even plyometrics. A study published in 2011 on pubescent swimmers showed that a six-week plyometric program significantly improved start times, and turns. Stretching should include upper body, and lower body, including the hip flexors. Swimmer’s shoulder is a condition affecting the upper arm, and primary has been described as an over-use injury. Pain can be present in the front of the arm, back of the arm, or where the arm connects to the shoulder. By incorporating a scapular strengthening program, studies have found a significant decrease in the onset and duration of symptoms. Coaches must be careful with this injury since dry-land programs incorporating upper body exercises with bands can accentuate the injury if the participant has bad posture. Coaches need to be aware of forward shoulder and head positions which place the shoulder into undue stress. Athletes should feel their shoulder blades working, not just the shoulders. Back pain in young swimmers is commonly seen with athletes who have tight hip flexors and are increasing mileage too quickly or overtraining in events such as butterfly and breaststroke. Both of these strokes
powerfully extend the back, forcing the spine into an extended posture. When the hip is tight, and the muscles in the back aren’t ready for this position, the back can spasm and swimmers are left with pain. By adding hip extension exercises into your dry-land training, and hip flexor stretching (dynamically with the warm-up and statically with the cool down) hips are less likely to pull on the deep hip flexor muscles attaching to the spine. This will decrease the amount of pressure on the spine and is a good way to avoid this condition. Breastroker’s knee is a disorder characterized by pain in the medial knee region. This is primarily caused by tight adductors, or muscles that bring the legs together, and weakness in the hip stabilizers. When performing lower body dry-land exercises make sure participants know the proper mechanics for squats, lunges, and jumping activities. The guidelines of a perfect squat are that participants should have their knees over their second toe, sit hips back, toes forward, and make sure that their knees don’t bend past their feet when standing. Next, be sure to incorporate hip abductor exercises, or side leg lifts into your dry-land programs. Tight Iliotibial bands (ITB) can also increase the pressure on the medial knee. Using foam rollers prior to workouts will stretch this area. If your dry-land program has a lower extremity plyometric or running component, good form, and good solid court or running shoes should be worn on a surface safe for jumping to prevent any exacerbation of knee pain. Using proper form and mechanics will give you the best outcomes from dry-land workouts, and the best way to avoid injuries and swim fast!
Health Watch Robin Bousquet
Robin Bousquet is a physical therapist for the staff of Sports Medicine For Young Athletes, a division of Children’s Hospital Oakland with a facility also located in Walnut Creek. If you have questions or comments regarding the “Health Watch” column, write the Sports Medicine For Young Athletes staff at Health@ SportStarsMag.com.
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April 28, 2011
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