4 Fundamental Shoulder Exercises for Swimmers

Fundamental shoulder strengthening exercises for competitive swimmers

Written by Behnam Liaghat, recognized specialist by the International Federation of Sports Physical Therapy, based in Denmark at the University of Southern Denmark. Email: bliaghat@health.sdu.dk

Following my recent blog about identifying joint hypermobility in swimmers, in this blog I will go through some of the top shoulder exercises for the competitive or elite swimmer to develop fundamental strength and neuromuscular control of the rotator cuff and scapular stabilizers.

In our recent research about young competitive swimmers with joint hypermobility (Liaghat et al., 2018), we found that swimmers with inherent shoulder joint hypermobility displayed reduced internal rotation strength and a tendency to poor activation of the scapular muscles. Another interesting finding was that swimmers with joint hypermobility not only display reduced absolute internal rotation strength, but these swimmers are weaker through the entire range of shoulder rotation. The suggested dry-land exercises in this blog can be designed to be beneficial for both hypermobile and non-hypermobile swimmers with few adjustments in range of motion, i.e. by increasing shoulder rotation to be as close as possible to the individual end range.

What are the benefits?

The four exercises specifically aim at improving shoulder retraction (refers to moving the scapula towards the spine), internal rotation and external rotations strength. To avoid injuries, it is important to target muscles on both sides of the shoulder to achieve a balanced intermuscular function. This is the rationale for including exercises for both internal and external rotation movements. Adequate strength in these movements has, besides injury prevention purposes, a positive effect on swimming stroke performance.

General guidelines

Some general guidelines for these exercises include performing them without producing any pain or discomfort and slowly through the entire range (approximately 6-8 seconds per repetition) to engage all important muscles. As there are no golden standard number of repetitions, you may want your swimmers to start with 3 x 30 seconds for the first 2-4 weeks and then move on to 3 x 8-12 repetitions with heavier resistance. Depending on the load applied and experienced level of muscle soreness, the exercises can be performed 3-5 times weekly. Make sure your swimmers breathe in a relaxed manner and engage the whole kinetic chain in all exercises.

When introducing these exercises to your swimmers, be certain that they can control the shoulder so excessive movement of the tip of the shoulder in either upward (towards the ear), backward or forward directions is avoided. In principle, reducing resistance and/or decreasing the range of movement may be applied to increase quality of shoulder control.

Fig. 1. Infraspinatus muscle on the posterior side of the scapula http://c1healthcentre.co.uk/one-of-our-top-5-reasons-you-have-arm-pain-infraspinatus-muscle-problems/

Active release of muscles before you start

Before instructing swimmers in performing these exercises, it is recommended to do some active release of the posterior rotator cuff muscles by standing against a wall with the arms perpendicular to the trunk and putting a pressure to the mid-point of the scapula with a lacrosse ball to target the infraspinatus area (Fig. 1). From here the swimmer can simply roll on the ball and add a shoulder external and internal rotation movement for up to two minutes to release tight and sore muscles (Fig. 2 A-C). The active self-release can be performed in supine for adding more pressure.

Fig. 2 A-C. The Danish swimmer Matilde Lerche Schrøder showing an active release of the posterior rotator cuff muscles.

Now let us move on to the top dry-land exercises for fundamental shoulder strength


Exercise 1: Prone 1-arm diagonal lift

Either lie on the floor or on a gym ball supporting with your feet and one arm. Apply resistance with an elastic band. Slightly retract and depress your shoulder before lifting your arm with a 45 degrees angle away from the trunk´s midline. While lifting the arm, a maximum external rotation is performed in the arm so the thumb points towards the ceiling.

Level down by lifting the arm perpendicular to the trunk’s midline.

Level up by adding a back extension in the movement or lifting the opposite leg.


Exercise 2: Supine internal rotation 1

Either lie on the floor or on a gym ball supporting with your feet. Apply resistance with an elastic band. Slightly retract and depress your shoulder before turning one arm at a time internally as far as possible without losing shoulder control (e.g. protracting the shoulder towards the ceiling).

Level up by adding oscillation (fast movements back and forth) through the movement.


Exercise 3: Supine internal rotation 2

Description: Either lie on the floor or on a gym ball supporting with your feet. Apply resistance with dumbbells. Slightly retract and depress your shoulder before slowly turning one arm at a time externally in cranial direction and then back to vertical position in the underarm without losing shoulder control (e.g. avoid pushing the shoulder towards the ceiling).

Level up by adding more load and increasing range of external rotation.


Exercise 4: Prone external rotation

Lie on a gym ball supporting with your feet and one arm. Apply resistance with a dumbbell. Slightly retract and depress your shoulder before externally rotation your arm with the upper arm perpendicular to the trunk.

Level up by adding more load and increasing range of external rotation.


Every swimming coach should be familiar with these top shoulder exercises and include them in some content as part of the dry-land routines for injury prevention and for enhancing swimming stroke performance.


A special thanks to the Danish swimmers Matilde Lerche Schrøder and Line Virkelyst Johansen for giving their photo consents.


Liaghat, B., Juul-Kristensen, B., Frydendal, T., Marie Larsen, C., Søgaard, K., & Ilkka Tapio Salo, A. (2018). Competitive swimmers with hypermobility have strength and fatigue deficits in shoulder medial rotation. Journal of Electromyography & Kinesiology, 39, 1-7. DOI: 10.1016/j.jelekin.2018.01.003

Download link: https://authors.elsevier.com/a/1WU8g3kurobLDS

SSP 022: Coaching Olympians, College Swimming, and Transitioning Elite High School Swimmers into College Programs with Greg Meehan

This episode of the Swimming Science Podcast features Greg Meehan.Greg Meehan

Greg Meehan was named head women’s swimming coach at Stanford in August of 2012, and the 2014-15 campaign will mark his third on The Farm.

Meehan progressed the Cardinal from an eighth-place showing at the NCAA meet during his first season to a second-place effort in 2014. Last season, Stanford won four of five relays, Maya DiRado swept the IM races and Felicia Lee won the 100 fly, as the Cardinal outpaced all expectations on its way to its best NCAA showing since 2010. For his efforts, Meehan was named the CSCAA Swimming Coach of the Year.

DiRado, who was the Pac-12 Swimmer of the Year, and Lee led Stanford to an undefeated dual meet season in 2013-14, including an upset of then-No. 1 California in front of a near-capacity crowd at Avery Aquatic Center. Lee, one of the most versatile swimmers in the country, earned two Pac-12 Swimmer of the Month awards, before taking home the prestigous Honda Award for swimming.

Meehan wasted no time making his mark on the Cardinal program in his first season. He groomed nine student-athletes to 30 All-America honors during an eighth-place showing at the NCAA Championships, including NCAA 400 IM runner-up Maya DiRado.

Stanford set four school records and three Avery Aquatic Center records to help highlight the 2012-13 season. The Cardinal won the Pac-12 Conference Championships for the third time in four seasons, holding off second-place USC by 21 points. Meehan also steered Stanford to a dual meet win over No. 1 USC.

Regarded as one of the top assistants in the country during his tenure at Cal, Meehan took over the Cardinal program after leading the Golden Bear men’s swimming and diving program to back-to-back national titles. Meehan, who spent five seasons with the Golden Bears, was promoted to associate head men’s swimming and diving coach in 2011. In Meehan’s five seasons with Cal, the program produced a pair of NCAA championships (2011, 2012) and a runner-up finish in 2010.

Prior to joining Cal’s staff in 2008, Meehan was the head coach for both the men’s and women’s programs at the University of the Pacific. Meehan coached at Pacific from 2005-08, leading his women’s team to a second-place finish at the Big West Conference Championships in 2006-07 and two fourth-place finishes.

On the men’s side, Meehan led the Tigers to three fourth-place conference finishes. Krzysztof Zoldak earned Big West Swimmer of the Year in 2005, while Ja-Neil Bragg advanced to the NCAA Championships in each of Meehan’s three seasons. Bragg also competed in the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials.

Zoldak and Wojciech Bettej both advanced to the NCAA Championships in 2006-07. In all, Meehan’s Pacific teams broke 13 school records and three conference records, and seven of his student-athletes qualified for the NCAAs.

Prior to coaching at Pacific, Meehan was the assistant women’s coach under Cyndi Gallagher at UCLA from 2001-05, helping the Bruins to a 2003 Pac-10 title and seventh-place NCAA finish in 2004. Thirty-three All-Americans were produced and 32 school records broken during his time with the Bruins, where he specialized in working with the distance and individual medley corps in addition to recruiting duties.

Meehan also was assistant women’s coach at Princeton from 1999-2001, helping the Tigers to a 17-0 dual meet record and the 2000 and 2001 Ivy League titles. Meehan was the first assistant and later interim head coach at William & Mary in 1998-99.

In the summer of 2003, Meehan served as assistant coach for the USA Swimming National Distance Camp at the USOC Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., mentoring the top young male and female distance swimmers from around the country.

At the international level, Meehan was as a manager for the United States team that competed in the 2007 World University Games in Bangkok, Thailand.

A graduate of Rider, Meehan earned a degree in mathematics and secondary education. While at Rider, he competed in the 200 backstroke and was a member of several Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference champion relays. Meehan also was a four-time All-Academic Award recipient.

Meehan and his wife, Tess, reside in Moraga, Calif., with their two sons, Salvatore and James.


  • College swimming
  • Simone Manuel
  • Lia Neal
  • Club and college coach interaction

Right click here and save-as to download this episode to your computer.



Thanks for joining me for this episode. I know the conversation broke up a few times and I apologize, I’m still very new with this! If you have any tips, suggestions, or comments about this episode, please be sure to leave them in the comment section below.

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5 Hot Swimming Topics for Elite Swimmers

As a take home message:

  1. Some of the hot topics for elite swimmers are shared in this piece
  2. I will elaborate on what Science tell us on those topics and what we have yet to learn
  3. For further reading, I will share a few papers and interviews with leading researchers

We are on the road to two major international competitions: Kazan 2015 and Rio 2016. Everybody is looking forward for both competitions. Those that work on the backstage, such as analysts and researchers, hopefully are experienced, as hot topics can diverge training plans, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worst.

Here you will find five selected hot topics, based on my personal opinion, that several coaches and elite swimmers have been seeking advice. You are most welcome to add more topics on the bottom of this piece. Please, be my guest.

The piece is structured in a not-too-wordy FAQ style:

  1. What do we know so far? I.e., what is the solid scientific knowledge on the topic and the take home message;
  2. What we don’t know yet? I.e., what are the gaps that we still find in the Science, the grey zone, or the limitations reported by the researchers;
  3. Where do I find more details on this? You can have deeper insight on these topics referring to selected research papers or interviews with leading researchers.

And without further ado, the selected topics are……

5 Hot Swimming Topics for Elite Swimmers

  1. High-intensity (interval) training & Ultra-short race-pace training

What do we know so far?

We do know that for low-tier swimmers, any training program is effective. Can be HI(I)T or any other program, including MICE (acronym

High Intensity Swimming Training

for “moderate-intensity continuous exercise”).

HI(I)T is on one end of the spectrum (High-intensity; low-volume) and MICE on the opposite end (Low-intensity; high-volume). USRPT is considered by some people as an extension of HI(I)T although including some extra features. We also find “mixed” programs with different Hi-Lo combinations of volume and intensity.

Mid-tier swimmers show the same performance enhancement regardless of the program being HI(I)T or MICE. Hence, HI(I)T can be considered as more efficient because they get the same outcome with lower physical and psychological stress.

What we don’t know yet?

We find anecdotal reports and claims that a few elite swimmers showed improvements or delivered good performances after a HI(I)T/USRPT program.

We don’t have solid scientific evidence that HI(I)T/USRPT is more or less effective in high-performance swimmers though. I.e., there is not sufficient evidence to endorse or discontinue HI(I)T/USRPT in elite swimmers.

Nevertheless, I am wondering if world-class coaches, at some point of the periodization program, include in their training sessions some of the HI(I)T concepts.

Where do I find more details on this?

Interviews to leading researchers on the topic can be found here and here.

One research paper can be retrieved here.

  1. Altitude

What do we know so far?

An altitude training camp should take roughly 4 weeks. The best times are posted 2-4 weeks after returning to sea level.

On the first week at sea level, performance might even impair. So re-acclimatization is a good moment for tapering before major competitions.

The duration of this recovery seems to be dependent on the event to be raced and individual characteristics of the swimmer.

Altitude training is related to the hypoxia effect, but also the fact of swimmers and coaches are completely focused on the training round the clock, with no need to juggle between different commitments.

Most of the times these camps are held at venues where swimmers can easily approach support staff (e.g., biomechanists, physiologists, Mireia Belmonte VO2 swimming test Altitude Trainingnutritionists, physical therapists, etc.) to be monitored, seeking their advice and thoughts (seems to improve performance at least by 3%).

What we don’t know yet?

There is an individual response to altitude, hence swimmers that are low-responders should be flagged beforehand.

The effect of intermediate- v high-altitude training is still a little bit controversial. I.e., what is the minimum altitude needed?

A lot of research will be done on the different combinations of Hi and Lo regimens.

The nocebo and placebo effects of being part on this kind of training camps is still to be studied.

Where do I find more details on this?

The interview to a leading researcher on the topic can be found here.

One research paper can be retrieved here.

  1. Warm-up

What do we know so far?

Active warm-up has a positive effect on the swimmer’s performance. Bigger effects were found notably for middle- and long-distance (i.e. 200m onwards) than for sprint events.

Pre-race dry-land stretching drills are a common practice as a complement to the in-water warm-up; despite no effects preventing injuries or enhancing the performance. Clarification: I’m talking about stretching before the race and not about a well-designed program over time to enhance flexibility to an optimal range of motion.

The in-water warm-up should last for 15–25 min, including a moderate-intensity set, another of specific drills focusing also on the stroke efficiency, a set with reps at the race pace, starts and turns.

For the time-lag between the in-water warm-up and the race, passive warm-up should be considered.

What we don’t know yet?

The optimal design (e.g., duration, volume, intensity, type of drills and recovery period) according to the event to be raced is not yet fully understood.

Little is known on the effect of different passive warm-up strategies, although none should rise the body temperature above 39 degrees Celsius, otherwise performance might impair.

Where do I find more details on this?

The interview to a leading researcher on the topic: still to come. Stay tuned.

One research paper can be retrieved here.

  1. Strength & conditioning

What do we know so far?

A S&C program concurrent to the in-water training helps to prevent injuries and enhance the performance.

A S&C coach should also monitor anthropometric features and sometimes a preliminary assessment of the body posture and limbs’ alignments. However, physiotherapists can run more comprehensive clinical tests.

The program must be coupled with a proper diet according to the goals to be achieved (i.e. swimmer should refer to a nutritionist).12th FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) - Day Three

S&C can help when the swimmer pushes solid bodies (i.e. block-start; wall-turns) being explosive power a major determinant.

Performance can also be improved while he pulls a fluid body (i.e. water-swim strokes).

Dryland S&C does not have a direct effect on the performance. The earlier one will have an influence on specific in-water parameters and the later on the performance.

As rule of thumb, routines should change every 3-4 weeks (i.e., mesocycle or block) and training loads adjusted to remain effective and avoid injuries.

What we don’t know yet?

The challenge though is the transfer of dry-land strength & power to water and make the best use of it swimming, turning and starting.

More reliable in-water measuring techniques could be developed in the new future. E.g., handgrip testing is not specific enough and tethered swim has some hydrodynamic limitations. Obviously, these tests also have some pros, but I won’t elaborate on that today.

One concern that we cannot rule out is how to build-up power (that is based on maximal strength) avoiding the significant increase of body surface area and weight that affects drag force, buoyancy and underwater torque.

Should the S&C session be before or after the in-water training?

Where do I find more details on this?

The interview to a leading researcher on the topic can be found here.

One research paper can be retrieved here and here.

  1. Starts & turns

What do we know so far?Doha 2014 Dive

Starts plus turns can account up to 50% in a sprint.

Turns can represent up to 30% of the race time in middle- and long-distance events.

Streamline gliding and dolphin kicks are important phases in both race moments.

Over the start, underwater phase (i.e. gliding and dolphin kick) depends upon above-water phases (i.e., take-off horizontal velocity and optimal flight trajectory).

What we don’t know yet?

The body of knowledge on the start seems to be more solid and consistent than for the turns.

The big challenge for the swimmer is to understand when to stop gliding and begin the dolphin kicks, stop the kicking and start or resume the swim stroke.

Where do I find more details on this?

The interview to a leading researcher on the topic can be found here and here.

One research paper can be retrieved here.

By Tiago M. Barbosa PhD degree recipient in Sport Sciences and faculty at the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

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4 Strategies for the Prevention of Swimming Overtraining

I struggle to fall asleep, my muscles feel heavy and my heart rate is through the roof. I don’t understand what’s wrong with me; training is my life but, right now, I don’t even feel like going to the pool. I have no motivation to push myself and I just feel like crying, staying in bed and not leaving the house. I’m exhausted, I feel overwhelmed and the championship is right around the corner – I’m going to make a fool of myself. I have no energy, I’ve lost five kilos and I just can’t find the necessary motivation to concentrate. If that weren’t enough, my parents tell me I’m unbearable, that I’m impossible to talk to, that I answer back and always in a bad mood.

But what do they want? They completely ignore me… they should try and put themselves in my shoes.

This is swimming overtraining – a kind of prolonged and chronic fatigue that attacks you like a virus and leaves you weak and defenseless [read our previous posts on the subject: Overtraining in Elite SwimmersSprint OvertrainingOvertraining Inhibits Muscle Growth]. Your energy evaporates, as if by magic. You feel exhausted and anything you do, no matter how simple, becomes impossible. Your performance is seriously affected and you feel like you’ll never be who you used to be again. Various factors influence the appearance of these feelings.

Here are some of them:

  • A disproportionate increase in training volume and intensity, inadequate planning of training loads between work outs, over a long period of time.

  • Insufficient recovery that is partly or entirely disproportionate to the effort made.

  • Personal problems or concern over academic results. Anxiety or other circumstances that cause mental or physical stress in the swimmer.

  • Unreal goals that are impossible to achieve and lead to desperation, unease and tremendous sadness.

  • A program that is poorly suited to the athlete and their objectives.

  • Environmental and family pressure that causes insecurity and instability, preventing the achievement of objectives by the swimmer and destroying self-esteem and confidence.

  • Early return to training after a long disease or injury without fully recovering, which can lead to the re-emergence of the problem if not properly treated.

  • Insufficient food and drink, which prevents proper recovery.

  • Heat, humidity and training at altitude.

Having the ability to recognize and find formulas that enable us to act properly when the early symptoms appear, take swift and effective action, prevent their appearance and avoid their effects should take preference in any sports program worth its salt. None of the following suggestions are anything new but they should not be forgotten nonetheless. They are effective and can help us achieve our goals.

4 Strategies to Prevent Swimming Overtraining

  1. Personalized work outs

    Be careful not to be too demanding in terms of distances or repetition intensity. Remember that not all swimmers are the same. Each one has a different exertion threshold, respond differently to the same warm-up session and need not necessarily reach optimum performance levels at the same time. Some are capable of swimming long distances seemingly without effort while others are more suited to sprints or less intense activity. Distinguishing the needs of each one will be your main priority.

  2. Listen to your body and rest appropriatelyPhelps stretching and preventing swimming overtraining

    If we stopped a second to think carefully and analyse the daily demands placed on swimmers, we would quickly realise the incredible pressure they suffer every day and the physical and psychological pressures they are subjected to. Training and studying occupy the majority of their daily lives. They sometimes lack the time needed to rest and have to rush lunch in order to get to the pool on time, without letting their digestive system work properly. On other occasions, they finish their day really late at night and hardly have enough time to sleep. They often receive no help in this regard and their only compensation is that of overcoming personal goals. In most cases, they do not receive the recognition they deserve. Pay attention to your body. It demands that you listen. It needs to recover and that you pay maximum attention. It needs you to realise that indiscriminate exertion without the necessary rest will not only harm your performance but also your health.

  3. Recover or break down

    The heading might be a little over-exaggerated but it represents the reality. When you feel that your body is not working normally and is giving you the warning signs – stress, fainting, excessive fatigue – stop immediately and decide what is best with your coach. Perhaps you need only reduce the load or rest a day or two. Sometimes, such a break can be the best possible decision. Pay attention to how you feel. Make sure not to confuse logical tiredness from exertion with an overload beyond what your body can stand.

    After a long disease or injury, returning to normal should always be a slow, gradual and steady process, avoiding major, long-lasting and intense repetitive exertion. Difficulty should be increased carefully and gradually, following the logical principles stemming from common sense.

    Be careful with infections because they can often become one of your worst enemies.

  4. Take care with and watch what you eat

    A correct diet helps provide our body with the substances it needs for a healthy life. Only with proper nutrition and optimum training will a swimmer achieve the best results. Long and intense work outs empty muscle cell glycogen reserves and the best way to return these levels to normal is with a correct diet, especially carbohydrates as the main source of energy when training.

    Drinking enough water during the work out will also help us maintain proper hydration levels and provide our body with the mineral salts it needs and guarantee good performance.

Summary of Swimming Overtraining

These suggestions, effective heart rate control during exercise and rest, appropriate monitoring by the swimmer and coach of physical health, rest times, the number of times the swimmer eats and the use of resources that facilitate faster recovery – massages, sauna, contrast bathing – can be useful in helping to prevent the appearance of these problems.

If, in spite of all our attempts, we are unable to progress towards our objective, the best solution is to provide the athlete with a few weeks of complete rest and ask for the appropriate professional help.

Written by Agustín Artiles (“Champi”). Agustín has more than 35 years of experience as the Head Coach of some of the most important Spanish swimming teams He has been the Coach of the Spanish Swimming Team from 2008 to 2012, and has trained the 50 breastroke Spanish national recordman, Hector Monteagudo Espinosa, from 2002 to 2013 Agustín has also trained several international swimmers from the Spanish National Team and from the european and world top ten, as well as paraolimpics athletes with medals and world records in all the different categories. He has also been accomplished with the award as the Best competition swimming coach in Spain 2006, as several recognition for professional merits.

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Differences Between Summer League Swimming and Year Round Swim Training

Differences Between Summer League Swimming and Year Round Swim Training Take Home Points

1. Summer league swimming can be an effective feeder system for year round swimming
2. With burnout a major problem in the sport, summer teams can help foster enjoyment at the grassroots level
3. It is important to strike a balance between enjoyment and building fundamentals

With summer only weeks away, country clubs, rec centers, and even full time swim programs anxiously await the influx of summer swim kids. Summer programs and year round programs have an interesting coexistence, where sometimes the only thing is common is the fact they involve swimming. At the extreme, summer teams are sometimes perceived as one step above Marco Polo games, while year round programs can seem like strict para-militaries to outsiders. In reality, the truth lies somewhere in the middle, and can vary greatly depending on the team. Despite these differences, many of the sport’s elite have begun their careers as purely recreational summer league swimmers before gradually increasing their commitment to the sport.

Most important with summer teams is to encourage fun. In general, summer teams do this very well, with the sheer numbers of participants as evidence. This fact is especially important with burnout as one of the biggest challenges in the sport. Modern literature and anecdote has shown that long term results are best when kids are allowed to diversify sports. Summer league swimming allows kids to pursue other athletic endeavors at early ages.

But there is also a flip side to remaining in summer swim, namely the difference in mindset. Now, most would agree that having 10-11 year olds swim doubles and 40-50k per week is a bit excessive. While it may teach hard earned lessons of commitment and dedication, it can also cause burnout and injury. But we also cannot avoid the positives that come from an environment of dedication, specifically those intangibles that we all see but sometimes struggle to articulate.

Chambliss (1989) conducted a lengthy study of elites and noted, “Olympic champions don’t just do more of the same things that summer league country club swimmers do. They don’t just swim more hours, or move their arms faster, or attend more workouts. What makes them faster cannot be quantitatively compared with lower level swimmers, because while there may be quantitative differences, these are not, I think, the decisive factors at all…

The best swimmers are likely to be strict with their training, coming to workouts on time, carefully doing the strokes legally… Their energy is carefully channeled. Diver Greg Louganis practices only three hours each day, divided into two or three sessions. But during each session, he tries to do every dive perfectly. Louganis is never sloppy in practice, and so is never sloppy in meets.”

Ultimately one of the challenges in transitioning from summer league swimming into a full time program is a shift in mindset. While fun is the priority at the youngest ages, we also don’t want bad technical habits to develop. “It’s only summer league,” while maybe not explicitly stated, is often implicitly stated and may hold kids back who may consider a transition to a year round program. It is a delicate act to balance seriousness with enjoyment. Yet also consider that seriousness and enjoyment can also be one in the same…

As Chambliss continues, “The very features of the sport which the C-level swimmer finds unpleasant, the top level swimmer enjoys. What others see as boring, they find peaceful, even meditative, often challenging, or therapeutic….No amount of extra work per se will transform a C level swimmer into a AAAA swimmer without concurrent qualitative change in how that work is done. It is not by doing increasing amounts of work that one becomes excellent, but rather changing the kinds of work.”

Summer League Swimming Versus Year Round Swim Training Conclusion

Too often, people focus on volume, numbers of practices, and the fact that a team practices year round as the main discriminators between summer leagues versus full time swimming. Instead, it is a subtle difference in mindset that can distinguish the two cultures. But rather than being simply an academic discussion, recognizing this distinction can help coaches effectively transition kids from summer to year-round if they make that additional commitment.


1. Chambliss, D. The Mundanity of Excellence: An Ethnographic Report on Stratification and Olympic Swimmers, Sociological Theory, Vol 7, No 1, (Spring 1989), 70-86.

Written by Allan Phillips is a certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) and owner of Pike Athletics. He is also an ASCA Level II coach and USA Triathlon coach. Allan is a co-author of the Troubleshooting System and was selected by Dr. Mullen as an assistant editor of the Swimming Science Research Review. He is currently pursuing a Doctorate in Physical Therapy at US Army-Baylor University.

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High Intensity Swimming, More Positive Research, Have you Tried it Yet?

This is an interview with Dr. Anne-Marie Elbe and Dr. Nikolai Nordsborg who recently published the following article: High intensity swimming and reduced volume training attenuates stress and recoverylevels in elite swimmers. This study used the same data set as the study by Dr. Nordborg: Effects of 12 weeks high-intensity & reduced-volume training in elite athletes. Dr. Nordsborg was interviewed on this study, see More Information on High Intensity Swimming Training. Another interview we did on this topic was with Dr. Zinner here: High Intensity Training for Swimmers

1. Please introduce yourself to the readers (how you started in the profession, education, credentials, experience, etc.).

My name is Anne-Marie Elbe. I am an associate professor of sport and exercise psychology at the University of Copenhagen. Besides doing research on psychological aspects of elite sports I worked as an applied sport psychologist for many years. I am Vice President of the European Federation of Sport Psychology (FEPSAC) and section editor for the International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology.

Nikolai Nordsborg: I used to swim from age-group to junior level. I later obtained a one year competitive swim-coach education followed by five years at university studying exercise & sports science. During this period I also coached age-group and junior swimmers and was affiliated with the national Danish swimming federation. In my professional career I obtained my phd related to muscle fatigue in 2005 and now hold a position as associate professor in exercise and sport science. One branch of my research activities is related to swimming.

2. You recently published an article on high intensity swimming compared to traditional training regarding stress. Why did you decide to Thiago Pereira underwatermonitor stress and recovery?

When looking at the effects of new training methods it is important to not only focus on the effects it has on athletes’ performance, but also on how it affects their well-being. Some athletes do not pay enough attention to their recovery and a stress-recovery imbalance that lasts over a longer period of time can lead to overtraining.

 3. What did your study look at?

We looked at two different types of swimming training and compared the psychological stress and recovery levels the elite swimmers experienced during these two training methods. One group of swimmers participated in high volume training, whereas the second group of swimmers participated in a reduced volume but high intensity training (HIT) over a period of 12 weeks. Stress and recovery was measured with the Recovery Stress Questionnaire for Athletes.

4. What do we know about stress, recovery, and performance?

Training stress is necessary in order to improve one’s performance. However, after training, sufficient recovery is necessary in order to be in an optimal state for the next training session or a competition. In addition, to the training load, athletes can experience a number of additional stressors outside of sports e.g. school pressure or relationship problems that can impact athletes’ overall stress level. Recovery can occur on different levels e.g. mentally, physically and socially. Only those athletes who are sufficiently recovered can show peak performance.

5. What were the results of your study?

Our study showed that a 12 week intervention of lowering the volume and increasing the intensity of the swimming training sessions had a positive impact on the athletes’ levels of general stress and general recovery. The swimmers that swam less distance, but at a higher intensity experienced significantly lower stress and higher recovery levels over the 12 weeks.  A previously published study with this sample of swimmers could show that there were no performance differences between the two groups of swimmers.

6. What were the practical implications for coaches and swimmers from your study?

It is of practical importance to note that the distance reduction of 50% and a more than doubled amount of high intensity swimming training for 12 weeks did neither improve nor compromise performance or physiological capacity in the group of elite swimmers as reported elsewhere (Kilen et al., 2014). Together with the current findings, this suggests that a period of high intensity training for up to 12 weeks can be used to reduce athletes’ psychological stress levels and might have a preventative function with regard to overtraining.

7. Do you think the results would be different if you had older, younger, or less trained swimmers?breaking-the-surface

We can only speculate about this since we did not conduct the intervention on other groups of athletes. The assumption, however, would be that the results from this study can be transferred to other swimmers as well.

8. What do you think of other methods of monitoring stress, like HRV?

AM: I am not an expert on HRV but I know assessing HRV is a lot more complex than using a questionnaire. Questionnaires have shown to be very easy to administer and evaluate and are very reliable measures to assess stress and recovery. In comparison to HRV, the questionnaire used in our study can assess stress multi-dimensionally. This means stress is assessed from a physical, mental and social perspective. Furthermore, the questionnaire differentiates between general stress and sport-specific stress. This kind of information can not be retrieved by using HRV.

Nikolai: There are to date no convincing studies that demonstrate HRV measurements as a tool to predict training effects and performance changes.

9. What do you think is the ideal training strategy for minimizing stress and maximizing performance?

Not sure I can answer this one because it also asks about maximizing performance.

10. Should swimmers alter their swimming training during emotionally stress life events (like school exams)?

This depends on the individual swimmer and one can not give a general reply to this question. However, I would suggest to very carefully monitor stress and recovery states during stressful life events to ensure that the athletes are receiving sufficient recovery.

11. What makes your research different from others?

It is a study with a fairly large number of elite athletes that changed their training for a substantial amount of time. I think this is what makes this study quite unique.

12. Which teachers have most influenced your research?

The colleague that influenced me most in relation to this study was Michael Kellmann. When we worked together at the University of Potsdam, Germany he introduced me to the Recovery Stress Questionnaire for athletes, which he developed together with Wolfgang Kallus and taught me a lot about the importance of sufficient recovery for elite performance.

13. What research or projects are you currently working on or should we look from you in the future?

I am working on a number of different projects related to the health promoting aspects of team sports. Currently, I do not have any ongoing projects about swimming but a lot of studies on the health effects of football, for example.

The post High Intensity Swimming, More Positive Research, Have you Tried it Yet? appeared first on Swimming Science.

SSP 021: Swimming Biomechanics, Swimmers Shoulder, Swimming Rehabilitation and Much More with Jenni Brozena

This episode of the Swimming Science Podcast features Jenni Brozena.

 Jenni Brozena is the President and Owner of Aqueous, a healthcare education and human performance company specific to the aquatic athlete. The company’s cross-disciplinary approach brings exercise physiologists, physical therapists, athletic training, sports medicine doctors, athletes, and parents together to understand the body/water connection. The evidence-based approach is centered on the deliberate treatment of the unique needs of the aquatic athlete. She also currently serves as the Director of Aquatic Performance at Kinetic Physical Therapy where she and physical therapists utilize video analysis to build a deliberate treatment plan and return to sport goals for aquatic athletes. Her research has been accepted at the Biomechanics and Medicine in Swimming Symposium and the 3D Analysis of Human Movement Symposium. Her current research interests include neuromuscular core control during the body roll and utilizing video analysis as a patient outcome measure in the health care setting.


  • Swimming Rehabilitation.
  • Cycle of Swimming Injury
  • Swimmers Shoulder
  • Swimmers Shoulder Rehabilitation.
  • Role of Coaches and Therapists during an Injury.
  • Aqueous.
  • Continuing Education in Swimming.

Right click here and save-as to download this episode to your computer.



Thanks for joining me for this episode. I know the conversation broke up a few times and I apologize, I’m still very new with this! If you have any tips, suggestions, or comments about this episode, please be sure to leave them in the comment section below.

If you enjoyed this episode, please share it using the social media buttons you see at the bottom of the post.


If you enjoyed this podcast, tell Jenni thanks on Twitter!

The post SSP 021: Swimming Biomechanics, Swimmers Shoulder, Swimming Rehabilitation and Much More with Jenni Brozena appeared first on Swimming Science.

Swimmers Shoulder – When to See an Orthopedic Surgeon

Shoulder pain is almost universal in swimming, and like most endurance sports, overuse injuries are commonly encountered (commonly called swimmers shoulder).  The difference between routine soreness associated with sports can be had to distinguish from the pain of injuries.  Usually, soreness in the shoulder is relatively mild and associated with training.  It improves with time or the occasional anti-inflammatory medication.  In general, shoulder pain that is progressively worsening, unresponsive to conservative treatments (over the counter medications, ice, etc) or causing significant functional limitations should be evaluated by your team orthopedic surgeon.  Additionally, any shoulder dislocation should be seen managed by an orthopedic surgeon.

All doctor visits will be different, but most follow a similar pattern.  Your orthopedic surgeon will take your history, where you explain your shoulder Myofascial Trigger Points in Shoulder Musclesproblems and perform a physical examination of your shoulder.  X-rays will usually be obtained, and these show valuable information.  Many causes of shoulder pain (including those not associated with swimming) can be identified on x-rays – for example bone spurs, arthritis, avascular necrosis, tumors, or infections.   Depending on the information from your visit, sometimes an MRI or an MRI Arthrogram (where a radiologist injects contrast into the shoulder to show more information) may be ordered to help with your diagnosis.  This can show more detail on soft tissue injuries, such as rotator cuff tears, tendonitis, labral tears, or biceps injuries.

Controversy exists around “Swimmers Shoulder” and what exactly causes it.  It is associated with training volume and is thought to be due to the miles accumulated during a career.  Depending on the exact cause, a treatment program will be discussed.  Fortunately, most of the injuries associated with swimming improve with out surgery.  A short period of rest, with anti inflammation medication, and physical therapy can help with much of the pain. Physical therapy can be extremely helpful to retrain the muscles around the shoulder and the shoulder blade to make you more stable and decrease pain.  Occasionally, cortisone injections can be useful for tendonitis or inflammation that does not respond.  For some injuries, shoulder surgery may be recommended to get you back to optimal performance and relieve your pain.  Your orthopedic surgeon can help make recommendations based on your individual case.

Written by Lucas Wymore. Dr. Wymore is an orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine.  He attended Notre Dame for college where he swam for the Irish.  He went to medical school at Texas A&M University, completed my orthopedic residency at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a sports medicine fellowship with the San Diego Sports Medicine and Arthroscopy fellowship.   He became interested in sports medicine while in high school.  He loved sports, and because of swimming, he had a desire to remain involved in the sport and work with athletes as a career.  

The post Swimmers Shoulder – When to See an Orthopedic Surgeon appeared first on Swimming Science.

Swimming Core Training Interview with Dr. Angela Hibbs

Today is a written interview by Dr. Angela Hibbs. As she described, she is a lecturer and sports biomechanics specialist. Her latest Swimming Core Trainingarticleentitled Isolated core training improves sprint performance in national-level junior swimmers is the topic of this interview. Here is her full list of research articles. If you enjoyed this piece, consider learning more about swimming core training with the Swimming Core Training product.

1. Please introduce yourself to the readers (how you started in the profession, education, credentials, experience, etc.).

My name is Dr Angela Hibbs, I am a senior lecturer at Northumbria University (UK) specialising in sports biomechanics and performance analysis. I completed my PhD in 2011 which focused on core training in swimmers and developing an effective core training intervention programme. I have over 8 years of experience working with elite sports performers and professional sports clubs both nationally and internationally. I worked at the English Institute of Sport for 6 years and the Australian Institute of Sport for 1 year providing biomechanical and performance analysis support to the athletes and teams.

2. You recently published an article core strength. What do we generally know about core strength and athletic performance? What about core strength and swimming performance?

Generally, it is agreed that core training, whether it be core strength or core stability, is essential for injury reduction and performance enhancement.  The term core strength is very vaguely defined in many articles, with the terms core strength and core stability being used to define the same training in many articles.  Fundamentally, they are two very different processes and both need to be trained specifically. Stability training focuses more on the stabiliser muscles (small muscles for posture and small corrections, not trained when doing heavy strength training).  Strength training focuses on the globaliser muscles (larger muscles which bring about movement).  Both are important to have effective core ability.

Specifically for swimming, core training is seen as essential due to the lack of a point of contact with a solid surface to produce force against.  All of the force has to be produced through the kinetic chain of the body (force developed from shoulders, to elbows to wrist to fingers).  To maximise this transfer of force, the muscles need to be ‘rigid’ and have ‘good posture’, hence ‘core stability’, poor core stability is represented as a weak middle where this force generation is lost in sideways movement of the trunk for example.    

3. What did your study look at?

The aim of the study was to quantify the effects of a 12-week isolated core training programme on 50-m front crawl swim time and measures of core musculature functionally relevant to swimming.  We did this by recruiting 2 groups of swimmers; The intervention group completed the core training, incorporating exercises targeting the lumbo-pelvic complex and upper region extending to the scapula, three times per week for 12 weeks (this core training was performed in addition to the normal pool-based swimming programme), the control group maintained their usual pool-based swimming programme but performed no extra core specific training.

4. Were there any other core exercises you considered?Ryan-2BLochte-2BCore

One of my initial PhD research studies investigated some of the ‘popular’ core training exercises and measured the muscle activity using electromyography to establish which exercises activated which muscles to what extent.  This was to enable us to design a well-planned and balanced core training programme which would target all of the core muscles we wanted to enhance the chance of seeing a performance enhancement.  These initial exercises included static, dynamic, symmetrical and asymmetrical movements of low and high loading on the muscles.

It was decided that a lot of the static exercises were not functional enough to transfer any training improvements into swim performance so they were discarded.

5. What were the results of your study?

Compared to the control group, the core training intervention group had a possibly large beneficial effect on 50-m swim time, this represented a 2% improvement on 50m swim time. Results also showed small-moderate improvements on specific core ability tests; such as the prone-bridge endurance test and straight-arm maximum strength pull-down test. The results showed moderate to large increases in peak EMG activity of the core musculature during isolated tests of maximal voluntary contraction of the core muscles analysed, this suggests that the individuals had gained strength in the core muscles as a result of the core training programme.

6. What were the practical implications for coaches and swimmers from your study?

Our findings suggest that implementing a well-planned and specific swimming focused core exercise programme is a worthwhile addition to the programming of a swimmers dry-land training routine. It can result in muscle stability and strength enhancements which can be transferred to actual swim performance.

7. Do you think these results would show for all the different strokes and longer events?

I believe that for longer events the enhancements would be even greater.  As fatigue sets in, technique is the first thing to go.  This is due to muscles getting weaker and the synchronisation of muscles firing is lost.  This reduced an individual’s technique and makes them less efficient through the water and therefore slower.  If the individual can strengthen the core muscles to be able to ‘hold’ the optimal position for longer then this muscle fatigue will be delayed.

Equally for other strokes, some of the more complex strokes, such as butterfly, would benefit from enhancing the individuals core ability greatly as the coordination and control of the body to produce the movement and force to be successful is hugely important.  The asymmetrical strokes (backstroke and freestyle) engage the core stability muscles differently to the symmetrical strokes (breaststroke and butterfly), the exact differences in requirements of these strokes on the core muscles has not been analysed in great depth, may be a future study!

8. What other core strength and swimming research is needed?

See above! One of the main problems we have with swimming research is that it is at present very hard to measure muscle activity levels during actual swim performance (electromyography data collecting and water do not mix!) so all of the measures regarding muscle activity have to be made on dry land in performance tests and then swim performance measured as time.  It would be great to have a fully waterproof EMG system to specifically measure the core muscle activity during actual swimming for the different strokes.

9. What are the biggest flaws in swimming core training?

It needs to be functional and transferrable.  Swimmers who use swiss gym balls to do core training are not performing functional movements. Equally static exercises have a limited functionality.  The exercises need to recruit and train the muscles in a similar direction and intensity to what they will be doing in the pool.

A lot of the core training is also done after the main swim set when individuals are fatigued and tired. This will not be as effective as if it was done before when the muscles are fresh and able to maintain good posture during the exercises and recruit the muscles as they should during the exercises.

10. Do you think performing spinal flexion exercises increases the swimmers risk of low back pain?

Not if they build up the movements and resistance slowly. Flexibility is important for all of the strokes and it is important to train the body to be able to withstand forces and resistance in all planes of movement to reduce potential injury in that area.

11. What makes your research different from others?

We were one of the first to actual specifically design a swimming specific core training programme and then implement this for 12 weeks (others have done 3-4weeks of a general training programme).  We also include the EMG (electromyography) analysis which added to what others had done in the past.  This allowed us to try and answer why swim performance had improved, was it due to reduction in muscle activity during maximal contractions or improved synchronisation of muscle recruitment for example.

12. Which teachers have most influenced your research?

I would say the athletes and swimmers who I have worked with have influenced me more.  As a sports biomechanist, trying to help them achieve faster performances and be successful that motivates me to try and understand how we can do that and what do we need to do to make that happen.

13. What research or projects are you currently working on or should we look from you in the future?

I do not have any swimming specific research on the go at the moment but core training and how it influences sporting performance remains key in my research interests.

The post Swimming Core Training Interview with Dr. Angela Hibbs appeared first on Swimming Science.

SSP 020: Learn if Circumin Reduces Inflammation, Whether Inflammation is Helpful, and If Athletes Take too Many NSAIDS with Dr. David Rowlands

This episode of the Swimming Science Podcast features Dr. David Rowlands.

Prof Rowlands’ research is focused on the role nutrients play in metabolic, molecular and cellular mechanisms that govern skeletal muscle responses and adaptation contributing health and physical performance. The work target nutrients: specifically, protein and amino acids for post-exercise recovery and skeletal muscle adaptation in both athletes and diabetics, nutritional supplements to manage pain and inflammation, and carbohydrate blends for energy-hydration and performance. Recent research also included work on the effect of environmental and technical (titanium impregnated sports garments) interventions on running mechanics, while stable and radio isotopes and nuclear magnetic resonance were employed to determine intramuscular metabolism with reference to starvation, diet and insulin resistance.

In this episode we discuss his latest research article: Curcumin supplementation likely attenuates delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Here is a list of all Dr. Rowlands research.


  • Inflammation and sports.
  • What is circumin.
  • Learn if circumin reduces inflammation.
  • If reducing inflammation benefits sports.
  • The short- and long-term effects of inflammation.

Right click here and save-as to download this episode to your computer.



Thanks for joining me for this episode. I know the conversation broke up a few times and I apologize, I’m still very new with this! If you have any tips, suggestions, or comments about this episode, please be sure to leave them in the comment section below.

If you enjoyed this episode, please share it using the social media buttons you see at the bottom of the post.


If you enjoyed this podcast, tell David thanks in the comments and if you have any questions, please post them below!

The post SSP 020: Learn if Circumin Reduces Inflammation, Whether Inflammation is Helpful, and If Athletes Take too Many NSAIDS with Dr. David Rowlands appeared first on Swimming Science.