The Importance of a “Functional” Shoulder in a Swimmer
Front crawl, breaststroke and backstroke. All three strokes require different shoulder muscles to accomplish the task. When we train in the water and on land for swimming we make those muscles stronger. But what is happening when we train and train and these muscle actually become “weaker” and essentially, our shoulder becomes “dysfunctional”?
The truth is, the muscles aren’t actually weak and they don’t require strengthening exercises to get strong. Rather, the muscles are “inhibited”, meaning, they are unable to perform 100% and they need to become “uninhibited” in order to be functional.
Inhibition is a result of muscle strain and/or nerve compression.
i. Muscle Strain – the more you use a muscle repetitively plus add an increased load (ie: water resistance), the more strained it becomes. If a muscle is excessively strained a neurological response occurs and the muscle becomes inhibited and presents as weakness.
ii. Nerve Compression – when a muscle becomes tight due to training it can compress on a nerve. The tighter the muscle the more nerve compression. The more nerve compression the more inhibition to a muscle. Inhibition will present as muscle weakness.
When a muscle is dysfunctional due to inhibition it can predispose a swimmer to plateaus in training or injury. Inhibition of muscles however can be addressed and resolved. Once resolved the muscle (and the athlete as a whole) can achieve the full benefits of a training program with a functional shoulder.