Pulling motion

Increasing Shoulder and Scapula Flexibility

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Increasing Shoulder and Scapula Flexibility

Last week, we wrote about stretching the shoulders before workouts to help prevent shoulder injuries and pain, a controversial topic. What is not disputed, however, is that more flexible shoulder and scapula joints can help you swim faster, especially in butterfly, freestyle and backstroke. 

While swimming these three specific strokes, using the best possible technique, swimmers will put their shoulders and scapulae through an extensive range of motion. In particular, the swimmer’s ability to extend the shoulders backward, internally and externally rotate the shoulders and rotate, elevate and tilt the scapula are of primary importance. Having extraordinary flexibility in those areas enables swimmers to streamline better, recover the arms more vertically in fly and freestyle, rotate the shoulders better in freestyle and backstroke and use a drag-reducing pulling motion under water in all three strokes. 

In addition to improving swimming technique, there are many other potential benefits to increasing shoulder and scapula flexibility. Here are some of them:

  • Improves freedom and ease of movement (bend, reach and turn further)
  • Reduces aches, pains and stiff, tight muscles and joints
  • Improves swimming performance
  • Reduces the susceptibility to soft tissue injuries like muscle and tendon strains
  • Reduces fatigue and delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)
  • Improves posture
  • Develops body awareness
  • Improves coordination
  • Promotes circulation
  • Increases energy 
  • Improves relaxation and stress relief

This week in our Race Club video, we feature a new swimmer, Marc Clayton, who has very limited flexibility in his shoulders and scapulae. Marc demonstrates some of our favorite shoulder and scapula stretches to improve flexibility and help his swimming technique and performance. We hope you enjoy it!

Yours in Swimming,

Gary Sr.

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