As a guy who is not the most talented swimmer in the world, I need all the help I can get with my stroke.

Something that has helped me enormously (both with my improving my stroke and reducing Rotator cuff inflammation), are Thoracic Spine (TS) and Shoulder Girdle (SG) Mobility and Range of Motion (ROM) exercises.

The thought process behind working to improve your Mobility and ROM is that if a joint is able to function and move as it was intended to, you will:

· Reduce the risk of injury
· Improve the ability of the joint to transfer the forces generated by the muscles involved in the action.

From the Middle Recovery phase of the stroke to the Hand end Phase and Forward Reach phase, the upper body has to overcome 3 things that can limit its ability to maximize force production:

1> Shoulder ROM
The Shoulder, if not capable of performing through its full ROM cannot “reach forward” to its maximum, and as such the amount of force that can be generated in the Pull through phase of the stroke becomes reduced.

2> TS mobility
This is related more to the TS ability to rotate than act in Flexion and Extension.

This rotation that we are looking for also assists the shoulder maximize its “reach forward” and thus facilitate a better generation of power through the shoulders full ROM.

3> Latissimus Dorsi (Lats) VS Rotator Cuff muscles:
These muscles are not able to lengthen optimally when the arm / shoulder is in the fully flexed position (in the Forward reach phase).

Along with limited TS mobility, it will result in the 4 Rotator Cuff muscles (Supra-, InfraSpinatus, Teres Minor and the Subscapularis) taking over the function of moving the shoulder (as opposed to stabilizing it) through the Catch and Pull Phases of the stroke, and this can very quickly lead to Inflammation of the connective tissue and pain.

Now that we have had a quick look at the why, we can address the “how” to limit the occurrence of this.

1: Improve Shoulder Mobility:

Open Books:

Use this exercise it is a great exercise for improving shoulder mobility, and generally improving shoulder girdle ROM

Pectoral Girdle stretch:

Hold this stretch for 45 – 60 seconds per arm, and try to keep the rest of the body as relaxed as possible.

Swiss Ball Wheelbarrow roll outs:

Great for stretching out the Lats and the Pectoral girdle

2> Improve TS Mobility:

TS Mobility Arm Drops

Deep Squat + TS Rotation
TS Mobility Reach Backs

For the Dynamic movements, do 2 sets of 15 repetitions per activity, always starting the movement conservatively, and progressively moving further into the movement as the set progresses.

Add these exercises to your training and use them as dynamic warm ups before you swim, and you will start to feel an improvement in a very short time.

James Greenwood is a competitive tri and multisport athlete currently training for Ironman Canada 2009. A level 1 Triathlon Coach, he holds a post graduate degree in Exercise Science, and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA. James is also currently the resident health and fitness programs expert at, and has starred in a number of multisport specific fitness videos.
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