by Devin Blessing, DPT, OCS >> Request an Appointment
Is shoulder pain holding you back from training for your next triathlon or Ironman? Stiffness in your latissimus dorsi (or “Lats”) is a common complication with triathletes due to the amount of work the lats do while swimming and the amount of time spent in aero position on the bike. If you aren’t addressing mobility in this area, it can limit your ability to get your arms into a streamlined position while swimming and cause pain during the catch phase of the swim stroke.
Oftentimes, an athlete can benefit from hands-on treatment, such as myofascial decompression (cupping), instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM), massage or active release techniques that will address mobility impairments in the lats. But if you can’t get in to see a physical therapist, here are a couple mobility exercises you can try.
Kneeling Thoracic Extension/Lat Stretch (30 sec - 1 min hold)
Start with the kneeling thoracic extension/lat stretch. There are a few key points to keep in mind for this exercise to be optimally effective. Make sure your elbows are narrow and your hands are outside of your elbows while gripping the dowel rod. Allow your lower back to round as you rock your butt down towards your heels. Focus on good diaphragm breathing (belly breaths). Allow yourself to exhale all the way as you sink deeper into this stretch.
Prone Swimmers Hovers (3 reps each side)
After the lat stretch, we want to follow up with an active exercise to work on controlling your shoulder throughout your newly acquired range of motion. For this exercise, start by laying face down with one hand on the back of your head. Reach forward, keeping your hand as high above the ground as possible. Continue to reach your arm out to the side while internally rotating the shoulder, ending with resting your hand as high up on your back as possible. Reverse this motion until you are back at starting position. Similarly to the lat stretch, try not to compensate by arching your lower back. You can prevent this by taking a breath into your belly and holding it there as you complete each direction.
Give these two exercises a try and see if they help you out on your next swim workout!