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Wing on the Wall

Avoiding this common posture during recovery could help ease shoulder issues

Carol Nip | October 3, 2014

If you’re having shoulder soreness and you’ve done your due diligence—you’ve talked technique with your coach, you’ve seen a doctor to rule out chronic or acute injury—but you’re still sore, have you considered the way you rest at the wall?

Swimmers are creatures of habit; we like routines. We park our cars in the same spots, use the same lockers, ritualize our pre- and post-race nutrition, and attend workouts on set days and times.

In the middle of our swim sets, we rest at the wall in a way that is unique to us. Our rest intervals may be 5, 10, or 15 seconds, depending on the set and our own rate of recovery.

In all this habit-making, many of swimmers are completely unaware of their body position at the wall during these rest periods.

The next time you swim, take note of how you rest at the wall. When in deep water, does your same elbow extend several inches into the gutter? Supported by your biceps, is your entire body held in place at an angle to the wall?

In several seconds of rest, a combination of things can be happening: recovering your breath, determining whether you have descended a time, thinking about how to swim the next set, listening to your coach, getting ready to follow the lead swimmer, repositioning the buoy between your legs, an so on. Perhaps lowest on your priority list is your wall technique.

Poor wall technique means compromising the shoulder joint due to an unnatural body position that stresses the ligaments and muscles of your shoulder joint.

Good wall technique means maintaining an excellent body position at the wall during recovery time in between swim sets. Especially when in deep water, this means that your foot supports your body, and you are in a ready position without added stress on your shoulders.

A major benefit of good wall technique besides lightening the load of stress on your body, is mentally preparing for excellent swimming in the next set.

Whether you spend sixty seconds or half your swim practice resting at the wall, why add stress? Here are some handy tips to avoid recovery stress.

Avoiding Recovery Stress

  • Place one or two hands—not biceps—on the wall
  • Alternate between placing your right or left hand on the wall during recovery
  • Use the shallow end of the pool for your recovery times and stand or kneel on the bottom
  • Use a leg to connect to the wall
  • Toughen up by treading water during recovery
  • Whatever you do, don’t hang on the lane lines to rest!

Years of recovering with a wing on the wall may be a hard habit to break, but having ruled out all the possibilities for shoulder ache, you might find that improving wall technique really is a good practice.

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About the Author—Carol Nip

Carol Nip is Head Coach of Albany Masters Swimming in California. She is a USA-S Level 2 Age Group and USMS Level 3 coach. Five years of head coaching a high school team along with two years head coaching age-group and Masters swimmers has heightened her experience as a USMS swimmer. 

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