Avoid Swimming Shoulder Injury  

Posted by FLATOUT JIM in ,

I've been absent from bloggie world as of late, and struggling with training as I nurse a sore shoulder. It's ok now, but for a while, I was pretty nervous. then I discovered a timely article by Swim Smooth. on how to overcome a swimming shoulder injury. With their permission, I have posted it here on flatoutjim.

So to avoid going through what I went through, please read

"How To Overcome And Avoid Swimming Shoulder Injury" A Swim Coaching Article By Swim Swim Smooth.

Shoulder injury is extremely common in swimming, in fact so common amongst elite swimmers that it used to be considered a fact of swimming life, just something you have to live with.

Fortunately these days we understand that shoulder pain and injury is caused by poor swimming technique and that by correcting your technique we can quickly reduce symptoms and go on to cure the condition. If you suffer from any discomfort in your shoulders during or after swimming then you need to make some changes to your stroke.

The four leading causes of shoulder injury in freestyle are:

- A thumb first hand entry

- An S-shaped pull

- Pulling deep with a straight arm

- Crossing the centre line of the body (a 'crossover')

When we're working with swimmers with shoulder injury, nine times out of ten removing these stroke flaws is enough to cure the injury. Let's look at each flaw in turn and why it causes injury:

Thumb First Hand Entry

Together with an S-Shaped pull, a thumb-first entry into the water with the palm turned outwards used to be widely taught as good swimming technique. The problem with this technique is that it internally rotates the shoulder and causes impingement:

This impingement, repeated thousands of times in training is the leader cause of shoulder injury. If you use a thumb first entry and also have a crossover (see below) then you'll be very lucky to escape shoulder injury.

Instead of entering thumb first, it is good technique to enter with a horizontal hand, fingertips first:

Elite swimmers have been taught this since the 1990s and it has the advantage of setting you up for more propulsive catch and pull phases of the stroke:

The S Shape Pull

Pulling through with an S shape was taught in the 1970s in combination with a thumb first entry. This involved pulling out wide, then in and then out wide again by the hip:

The idea was that an S shape created a longer pull-pathway and therefore more propulsion. However, this has since been scientifically disproved and we now know that a near straight pull pathway gives the best and most efficient propulsion.

The problem with the S-Pull shape is that it involves internally rotating your shoulder to push outwards and this outwards force at full arm extension severely loads the shoulder. If you modify your stroke to pull straight backwards the load on the shoulder is much lower. Visualising a straight pull will result in a very slight curve to your pull pathway as your body rotates but the point here is that it's not something you're actively trying to do.

Pulling Through With A Straight Arm

If you are not entering thumb first and are definitely not pulling with an S shape then consider the depth of your pull, many swimmers try and pull deep with a straight arm under the body:

Whenever you swim with a straight arm it involves pressing down on the water at the front of the stroke during the catch phase – biomechanically it's impossible not to this. Pressing down on the water like this is bad technique all by itself but it also takes a lot of force to do so. Water is very heavy and by pressing down you are changing its direction requiring a high force which applies a large load to the shoulders.

By changing to a bent elbow catching technique we start to press the water back behind us which requires much less force as we are simply helping the water on its way:

Find out more about developing a good catch technique here

Stroke Crossover

There are two classic ways to crossover the centre line within the freestyle stroke. The first is in front of the head, this might happen on every stroke, just one side or on breathing strokes only:

The second way is later during the pull phase of the stroke where the hand crosses the centre line under the body:

Both of these actions are bad for your shoulders because they pinch the joint internally and they involve a long reaching arm action which requires a lot of force. By removing crossover from your stroke you will dramatically reduce the load on the shoulder.


In the vast majority of cases shoulder injury is cause by poor stroke technique. Even if you are only experiencing a small niggle or dull ache in your shoulder it is well worth addressing your stroke technique now before you develop chronic symptoms. To reach your potential in swimming, as in any other sport, you need to train consistently and injury free. As we get older we become more susceptible to injury and modifying our stroke technique becomes harder – there's no time like the present to fix that shoulder niggle!

About Swim Smooth

Swim Smooth is a swimming coaching company famed for its straightforward approach to improving your swimming. On our website you'll find a wealth of easy to read articles to improve your swimming. We offer swimming DVDs, swimming training plans and training tools to improve your stroke technique. Also don't miss our amazing animated swimmer "Mr Smooth" showing you an ideal freestyle stroke in action:

Rumble Strips. Sure they Work, Nudge Nudge Wink Wink Say No More  

Posted by FLATOUT JIM in

So really, how effective are rumble strips at preventing car crashes? Rumble strips are those milled grooves on the shoulders of major highways. Look closely at the picture above, the strips are just to the left of the white line marking the shoulder.

As a vehicle drifts off the lane and crosses over the white line onto the paved shoulder, the rumbling noise made by the vehicle’s tires hitting these depressions in the asphalt are supposed to snap the driver back to alertness and avoid a catastrophic encounter with an immovable object like a guardrail.

Government departments responsible for highways like them because they are cheap and easy to install. They allow officials to boast about their proactive approach to driver safety.

Cyclists hate them as they cut into the usable portion of the shoulder, and in some cases force cyclists out into the road with traffic. They also seem to be popping up everywhere, including roads used as popular cycling routes.

Clearly, rumble strips don’t always live up to the hype. I received these pics as a humorous email. I have no idea where it is or what the details are, but hopefully the driver and passengers were not seriously hurt.

Anyone else have any good rumble strip stories or photos?

Hydration for Triathletes  

Posted by FLATOUT JIM in ,

Still a common question. Race Hydration. How much should I drink while racing and training?

It seems the waters are murky regarding racing, and training hydration, and protocols for what and how much to drink. I have read several articles recently advocating hydrating by drinking when thirsty.

One such recent article in Bicycle magazine listed Six fitness rules that you didn't know you could flout--until now
and included the following:

THE TRUTH Drink before you're thirsty.
THE WHOLE TRUTH Drink up, but don't drown yourself.
NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH A little dehydration doesn't hurt performance or put you at risk for heat stress. In a study from the Sports Science Institute of South Africa, researchers found that runners who drank according to thirst performed just as well as those who drank moderate or high amounts, and they didn't have any higher heat stress or core body temperature.

If there are legitimate studies to support the “Drink when thirsty protocol” I can’t dispute it. However, I do feel that a large majority of athletes will not read the warning signs of de - hydration and thirst, and will miss the window of opportunity, and just simply not hydrate until it’s too late.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the moment when you are racing, or concentrating on an intense workout. And I know for a fact that it happens to a lot of people. I have the pictures from Clearwater to prove it.

I posted about hydration before, and explained how I felt my attention to detail in hydration and fueling was one of the biggest factors in my securing a slot in Cleawater in 2008. If you want to read how I did it, CLICK HERE.

And if you are interested in a little more background on hydration, check out these articles.

A Trifuel article from April 2010 talking about the importance of hydration.
Hydration: Water is Essential to Good Health & Performance

An Active.com article from 2009 hilighting the new rules for hydration.
The New Rules of Hydration.

The rolling buffet table. I believe in being prepared, but this is extreme.