Swimming Injury Prevention Guide


This guide has come about after 13 years of treating a wide variety of swimmers – from those of a recreational standard to those competing at a National level. It is hoped that by sharing with you our experience you won’t make the same mistakes that countless other swimmers have. If you do have a specific issue then these exercises WILL help you. However, if you’d like to get back in the pool quicker and with less effort on your part then give us a call now on

Swimming Physio Pec Stretch
  • 1. Pec Stretch

    To start stand facing the wall with your nose touching the wall. Put one arm on the wall in the position shown with the elbow at 90 degrees in line with your shoulder. Rotate your torso away from the arm. You should feel a stretch across the front of your chest. Take this stretch to comfort not pain. Hold this stretch for about a minute each side and repeat. This one is great to do before and after any training session.

Swimming Physio Rotator Cuff Stretch
  • 2. Rotator Cuff Stretch

    Following on from the pectoral stretch this is one for people who found they had discomfort at the back of their shoulder when attempting the pectoral stretch. This one stretches the small rotator cuff muscles that we mentioned. As shown in the picture lift your arm up to shoulder level and then with the other hand pull the arm across your body. You should feel the stretch around the shoulder blade area and / or onto the top of the back of your arm. Hold this stretch for a minute either side and repeat. Another great one to do before and after training. If you get pain whilst doing this stretch or feel it at the front of the shoulder instead then leave this one out.

Swimming Physio Lats Stretch
  • 3. Lats

    These muscles along with the pectoral muscles are the ones that generate all the power in all swimming strokes. Equally they contribute to the round shouldered posture that can lead injury. As shown in the picture stand next to a wall with the side you are trying to stretch next to the wall. Grab onto the edge of the wall with your hand just above the level of the shoulder. Stick your backside out behind you with your head down until you start to feel a stretch – somewhere around the back of your armpit or somewhere in your back. To increase the stretch rotate your torso in towards the wall. Hold each side for one minute.

Swimming Physio Lumbar Extension
  • 4. Lumbar Extension

    This stretch is to ensure that your shoulders have enough room to function as powerfully as possible. Ideally this should be performed over the back of a Swiss Ball but if you don’t have one you can use the back of the sofa or edge of a bed. Simply arch backwards over the Swiss ball (or whatever you are using) and let the arms and legs hang in a relaxed fashion. You should feel a stretch through your stomach. You may get a sensation in your back also. So long as this is not painful carry on. Hold for a minimum of one minute. Longer if you can cope with all the blood rushing to your head!

Swimming Physio Half Moon Stretch
  • 5. Half Moon

    Particularly good for all you front crawlers out there! The amount of rotation from the front crawl stroke can cause a tightening in the oblique muscles causing biomechanical knock on to the shoulder joint and into the legs. To avoid this simply standing up straight in a streamline position as if you were in the water. From this position bend over to the side as shown – making a half moon shape. You may feel the stretch anywhere along the outside of your body. If you feel a compressive sensation on the side to which you bending then try the other way first and see if that eases the compression. Hold each stretch for a minute on each side.

Swimming Physio Trap Stretch
  • 6. Traps

    Two stretches in one. These are the muscles that hurt after a really tough session! The muscles along the top of your shoulders. To stretch put the same side hand that you are trying to stretch behind your back at belt level (in the picture shown the right hand). With your free hand (left in the picture) pull your head gently to the opposite side (left) you should feel the stretch along the top of your shoulder (right). You can also pull the head slightly forward at the same time. This will stretch a slightly different muscle. Experiment with the direction of the pull and see what works best for you.

Swmming Physio Rehab Single Leg Lift
  • 7. Single Leg Raise

    This is a really straight forward, but potentially hard, core exercise. Lay on your back as shown in the picture with the legs straight and one hand under the small of your back – you may wish to bend the knee of on one side to make the exercise easier initially. Use your core muscles to push the arch of your back flat against the floor – you shoulder feel the downwards pressure on the hand at the small of your back. Whilst maintaining the downward pressure lift one heel about six inches off the floor. Hold for about 3o seconds and then put it back to the floor. If you can, maintain the same pressure onto your hand under your back and repeat on the other side. If you found the first bit really hard have a breather first! Repeat 3 times on each side. If this becomes too easy then hold each repetition for longer or pulse the leg slightly up and down. The next progression is to take both hands over the top of the head whilst maintaining the contraction.

Swimming Physio Rehab Exercise Hitchhiker
  • 8. Hitchhiker

    So far we have concentrated on stretching the tight muscles which pull the shoulder forward. Now we need to look at strengthening the muscles which pull them back. Strengthening these muscles will help you generate more power through the water. As shown in the picture lay flat on your front with you arms out to the side, thumbs turned up as if you were hitching a lift. Engage your core slightly and try not to arch your back. From here move your arms up and down about 6 inches. You should feel the muscles between your shoulder blades working. If you feel the exercise more at the top of your shoulders stop hunching them! Relax them down and then try again. Continue this exercise for 1 minute at a time if you can and repeat three times. If you get any pain in your back stop.

Swimming Physio Rehab Exercise Lower Traps
  • 9. Lower Traps

    Lie on the floor with arm out stretched. Hand a little wider than shoulder width. Engage your core a little and simply lift one arm off the floor a few inches as shown. You can hold in this position for 30 seconds or do repetitions up to a maximum of about 30. You should feel this working muscles in your back about halfway down. A little lower than the last exercise. If you feel the exercise at the top of your shoulders then relax your shoulders and try again.

Swimming Physio Exercise Scaption
  • 10. Scaption

    This exercise is a variant on a traditional gym exercise called a Lateral Raise. Start off with some light dumbells until you get an idea of the intensity of this exercise. If you don’t have any dumbells then 2 tins out of the cupboard will be fine! Start off with both arms down by your side holding a dumbell in one hand. In a controlled manner take the arm out to the side as shown and slowly lower back down. You can vary the position of the arm for each repetition. Start straight out to the side, then go to 30 degrees forward, then 60 and then straight out in front i.e. 90 degrees and then repeat through a few times until you feel the muscles around your shoulder blade working hard. Do each side three times in total.

If having done these exercises you have realised you have more pain than you thought, or you’ve been putting off getting an old injury or ache seen to then give us a call now. At Brighton Sports Therapy we’ll show you how you can not only enjoy swimming pain free but improve your performance with absolutely no effort on your part!

Call now to find out how we can help you feel great about your swimming. You can be sure you’ll be getting the best and most effective treatment possible from Brighton Sports Therapy.