I’m still splashing away in the pool, learning to swim the front crawl for the fabulous cause that is Sainsbury’s Sport Relief, kicking off on March the 23rd 2014 at the epic Olympic pool. Anyone can take part and if swimming isn’t your cup of tea there’s also the cycle / marathon . You’ll be getting fit for 2014 (the classic resolution) whilst raising money for some of the poorest in the world. Why not sign up?! Check it out HERE!
You might notice that whilst I’m rattling on about swimming, I’m not in a pool in these pictures (shot outside the newly re-opened Kenwood House, just at the top of London’s Bishops Avenue, aka Billionaires Row). Yes, it’s hard to swim through air, but this post is actually about training the small stabiliser muscles that comprise the shoulder; it’s usually these smaller ones that are susceptible to strains in the pool, and are often neglected when you train in the gym. To build them up and prevent injury, there are a few simple exercises you can do with just a trusty resistance band…
WHY BOTHER? (THE THEORY)
The rotator cuff stops the humerus (upper arm) from slipping out of its shallow joint. It’s made up of four muscles (the Infraspinatus, the Supraspinatus, Subscapularis and the Teres Minor), and when they all work efficiently together, they enable the shoulder to stay stable, whilst the stronger more dominant muscles do their thing, such as the deltoids. They’re much like the flaps on an airplane, where comparatively tiny pieces make a huge difference to the overall shape of the flight. The smaller stabiliser muscles are easily neglected when weight training, but if you introduce the below exercises into your shoulder routine, you’ll definitely find you can reduce the risk of instability and injury but also improve you shoulder strength and work harder.
Instability injuries are easy to avoid but equally very easy to induce when training; our bodies are exceptional at trying to find the path of least resistance when performing an exercise, but if you’re not paying attention you could be dangerously sacrificing form. For example Charlie, my fab swimming coach and physiotherapist tells me I’m showing signs of right arm dominance whilst swimming. As I get to grips with the freestyle stoke and increase the distance I’m swimming, I’ll start pulling harder and lifting my right arm higher than my left arm. The left, being slightly weaker is struggling to perform at the same level as the right. This doesn’t sound like a very serious injury/ concern, but if this imbalance continues I will likely end up developing shoulder strains on my right side – BAD! I could damage the ligaments and muscles of the deltoid groups as they will be working of their tolerance levels.
OK – NOW, THE FIX:
To combat this instability I need to make sure I’m strengthening my rotator cuff, on both sides, whilst also increasing the strength and mobility on my left. This doesn’t mean that I only train the left, but I need to focus on the left slightly more. This can be done by increasing the repetitions on the left for a short time and make sure both sides are stretched well after every training session, both on land and water. Here’s my shoulder-strengthening routine, which I do 2-3x a week:
1. INTERNAL ROTATION (as per below pics)
Using a resistance band, shortened to your appropriate level of resistance, perform 3 sets of 15-20 repetitions.
• Holding the band with your elbow bent at your hip
• Keeping your elbow close to your side slowly bring your arm across your body.
• Return to the start position and repeat.
2) EXTERNAL ROTATION (as per below pics)
Perform 3 sets of 15-20 repetitions.
• Hold the band with your elbow bent and at your side.
• Keeping your elbow close to your side, slowly rotate your arm outward.
• Return to the start position and repeat.
3) EXTERNAL ROTATION WITH ARM ABDUCTED 90 DEGREES (as per below pics)
- For the starting position, raise the elbow to shoulder height. Keep it bent, at 90 degrees (as if forming an L-shape) and with the hand facing forward
- Slowly raise your hand until it’s level with your head; the elbow should remain at shoulder level throughout the motion. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat for 15-20 reps, 3 sets.
- N.B. as per the pictures, use a resistance band when performing the rotator cuff exercises to start with; as you progress and build strength, perhaps move on to the cable machine. You may find that the resistance band no longer does it, but avoid overloading these muscles, as they are prone to snapping.
Below are some more pictures from the afternoon spent around a truly fantastic English Heritage site!
I was wearing:
T-SHIRT: Sport Relief t-shirt, available at all Sainsbury’s stores from the 17th February 2014’.
SHOES: an absolute favourite from the upcoming Asics SS14 collection
LEGGINGS: Vevie Brunswick Satin Rouche, as ever.
JACKET: Montebello Parka from Canada Goose
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