I'm sure this is not news to you, but swimmers are particularly prone to rotator cuff injuries.
|via Wikimedia Commons: By Young Lae, Moon M.D. Chair of 3D Based Medical Application Working group. Chairman and Professor of Orthopaedics, Chosun University Hospital, Korea. [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)]|
I definitely experienced some serious shoulder pain in my day, but it was never so bad that it required surgery or anything. My shoulder injuries were easily managed by a little e-stim (electrical muscle stimulation), lots of ibuprofen, and even more ice.
I'm pretty sure the reason I remained relatively injury free during my swimming days was due to a concentration on certain strength training exercises. Many of these exercises can be done quickly and will not only protect you from swimming injuries, they will also make you a stronger, more stabile swimmer and might even keep you from injuring your shoulders in running if you happen to be swinging your arms too much at the shoulder.
The first set of exercises focus on strengthening the muscles around your rotator cuff so that your rotator cuff isn't as vulnerable.
If you don't have any resistance bands (for example, these), you can also do these exercises with small dumbbells.
I thought about making my own videos, but why re-create the wheel when these lovely people have already done such a fine job.
In addition to strengthening the muscles around your rotator cuff, you should also focus are your back (specifically, your latissimus dorsi muscles).
Most of the power behind the swimming stroke should come from your back and not actually your arms. By strengthening this area on your back, you'll be taking a lot of the pressure off your puny arms (I don't care how "big" you think your arms are, I promise you, your back muscles are bigger). So, here are a couple of strengthening moves for your back that you can do at home:
- Lawn Mowers - Start with a 10-15 pound dumbbell. I found this description at Livestrong.com and it is as good a description, or better, than I could come up with.
"Stand beside a flat bench and kneel on it with your right knee and right hand resting on the bench. Pick up the dumbbell from the floor with your left hand in an overhand grip. Pull the dumbbell up to your side until it touches your ribs or until your upper arms is just beyond horizontal. Extend your arm down toward the floor until it is almost straight to complete one rep. Do two steps of 12 to 15 reps."
- Supermans - Basically, lay on your stomach on the floor and make like the man of steel by lifting both your legs and both your arms off the ground. Hold as long as possible and repeat the hold two more times. You can check out a more detailed description with pictures here.
Go through this routine of shoulder and back strengthening moves two to three times per week and then focus on using the back muscles that you've strengthened while you're swimming. I think you'll really feel a difference in your swimming and, if that wasn't enough of a benefit, you'll also help prevent injuries!!