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Stroke Technique

Eliminate Shoulder Pain While Swimming Freestyle

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Chances are you've experienced shoulder pain or discomfort at some point in your swimming career. If this has ever prevented you from swimming, you will appreciate just how frustrating this can be. Many people spend lots of time trying to recover but always seem to overlook what is actually causing that pain in the first place: poor stroke technique.

Swimming freestyle with an early hand entry at the start of each stroke will almost always cause the swimmer to drive down with his or her arm rather than extending forward. This digging motion causes an ineffective straight-arm pull that produces little power and puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the swimmer’s shoulders and back.

Swimmers typically pull through with either a dropped elbow or with a very straight arm, causing their shoulder muscles to carry a heavier load. This is due to the majority of the pull being spent pushing down, rather than pressing back. To fix this problem you must make sure that when your hand enters the water at the beginning of each stroke, it does not cross your body's imaginary midline running from head to toe. Crossing this line puts an immense amount of strain on the shoulder joint and makes your body swing from side to side.

So how do swimmers avoid the pain and gain the ability to swim with correct form and technique?

  1. Swimmers with chronic injuries should be evaluated by a sports medicine professional and know what their limitation are.
  2. Consulting a certified coach to correct any glaring errors in technique is crucial. This is especially important for self-coached swimmers, who may not have had anyone examine and correct their stroke in a long time and who have developed bad habits.
  3. Swimmers should learn and adopt a shoulder warm-up routine that precedes their swim workouts. Just 10 minutes of properly warming up the shoulders can make a world of difference. (Be sure to get current information—almost all the “stretches” and windmill-type motions of yesteryear have been proven to do more harm than good.)
  4. Fourth, there are certain paddles that can help with developing better freestyle technique. These paddles are designed to help with a swimmer’s rotation after hand entry. There are two different paddles currently on the market that are beneficial in training specifically freestyle. First is the Speedo Hydrosity Paddle, which provides an increased force that naturally creates correct biomechanical stress on pull. The second is the FINIS Freestyler Hand Paddle.

Freestyler Paddles by FINIS maximize the swimmer’s extension of their initial rotation by using a hydroplaning technique to make a swimmer’s hand glide through the water. The paddles naturally want to glide forward, forcing the arm and body of the swimmer to stretch further making the stroke more graceful and beneficial. The fin that was placed on the paddles, similar to those on surfboards, provides the natural roll a swimmer should utilize during the stroke. To achieve this, the paddles were designed to be the similar size of a swimmer’s hand. This design removes the digging hand technique that many swimmers have adopted and eliminates the shoulder pain that most paddles generate. For more information: finisinc.com/freestyler-hand-paddles.html

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