Maintaining Shoulder Stability & Strength for Synchronized Swimming

Support scull, torpedo, spins, contorted arm strokes, and—just when you think you’re getting a break—land drill. This is just the short list of what the shoulders of synchro swimmers endure in a sport full of repetitive arm motion.

Arm strokes might seem like a natural break from the tedious motion of sculling, but upright swimming can be just as hard, if not harder, on your shoulders as sculling.

Hopefully, your cross training has already helped you build a strong front in the battle against menacing shoulder injuries. But if not (or you think you could use a little more insurance), here’s a list of basic exercises you can do using only an exercise band:

Before You Start

Check with your coach and/or a doctor before adding anything new to your training plan. And keep in mind that these exercises should not replace other shoulder and upper body exercises you already do—they’re supplemental.

Once you have the go ahead to begin, all you need is an exercise band. Choose one that is the right length and will provide the right amount of resistance for you. You should be able to do ten repetitions consecutively, but still feel the burn.

Do three sets of 10-15 repetitions for every exercise.

Hot Tip: Beware the Self-Diagnosis

You’ve probably heard this in the locker room before: “My shoulder hurts… but I think it’s just sore.” Then a few weeks later, that same teammate is getting physical therapy for an actual injury, not just a sore muscle.

Downplaying or self-diagnosing pain can lead to more permanent or long term damage than if you acknowledge and address the concern from the beginning. Don’t wait until you have a full blown injury to tell your coach and call a doctor.


Internal Rotation

  1. Tie one end of the exercise band to a door knob, fence at the pool, or similar unit. The band should be even with your elbow when you’re standing up.
  2. Hold the other end of the band in your right hand and stand with your right side closest to the tie point.
  3. Create tension by either shortening the band or moving farther from the tie.
  4. Keep your elbow in by your waist and bend it 90°, as if you’re support sculling.
  5. Rotate your arm inward so your hand passes in front of your body. This “in-scull” part of the motion will move your arm farther in than it would be during support scull.
  6. Return to the starting position and repeat 10-15 times.
  7. Repeat with the left hand with the left side facing the tie.

External Rotation

  1. Follow steps 1-4 from the internal rotation exercise above, but this time, hold the band with your left hand (with your right side still close to the tie).
  2. Starting with your left arm crossed in front of your body, rotate your hand outwards to achieve a full range of motion.
  3. Return to the starting position and repeat 10-15 times.
  4. Repeat with the right hand with the left side facing the tie.

Diagonal Raise

  1. Stand on one end of the exercise band with your right foot, holding the other end in your left hand.
    Hot Tip: It's Only Proper

    Proper form is the key to successful cross training. The muscles trained in these exercises aren’t designed to help you pull a truck in the World’s Strongest Woman Competition—they’re small joint stabilizers meant to develop joint stability and prevent injury.

    If you pay attention to posture and isolate the intended areas, you will see better results with fewer reps. Don’t eek out a few more reps just to finish the set. If you’re using proper form, your body will tell you went to stop.

  2. Stand upright with your left arm straight, left hand in front of your right hip and palm facing in.
  3. Raise your arm in a diagonal line. Keep it straight, passing in front of your left shoulder, until it is above your head. (If your arm was the hand on a clock it would be pointing at one o’clock.)
  4. Return to the starting position and repeat 10-15 times.
  5. Repeat with the right arm, standing on the band with your left foot.

Seated Rows

  1. Sit on the ground in a pike position with your legs straight out in front and body erect.
  2. Wrap the middle of the exercise band around the bottom of your feet and hold one end in each hand. The closer to your feet you hold the band, the more tension there will be.
  3. Initiate the rowing motion by squeezing your shoulder blades together. Then pull on the band by bending your elbows, passing close to your waist to engage your full range of motion.
  4. Return to the starting position and repeat 10-15 times.

Standing Rows

  1. Stand on the exercise band and hold one end in each hand. There should already be some tension in the band.
  2. Hold your hands in front of your legs with palms facing your body.
  3. Pull your hands up to just under your chin. Your elbows should come out to the sides as you pull up, but never rise higher than your ears. (From a side-view, your hands should be moving up and down on a vertical line.)
  4. Lower your hands back to the starting position and repeat the exercise 10-15 times.

Stay Strong

There is nothing worse than having to sit out injured on the side of the pool while your teammates perform without you. These exercises won’t take up much of your time, but could end up saving you from a serious shoulder injury and weeks of physical therapy. Incorporating them into your routine may keep you out of rehab and in the pool where you belong.

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