View Full Version : Stretching bad for swimming?!

February 21st, 2012, 08:39 PM
So recently I came across this article here:
http://www.chiro.org/LINKS/FULL/Identifying_and_Managing_Shoulder_Pain_in_Competit ive_Swimmers.pdf

Pay special attention to the bottom of page two, where it states the stretches that could hinder a swimmer's performance.

Here is what is says word by word in the article for those who don't want to click the link :D

Similar to athletes in other competitive sports, most swimmers conduct a stretching routine prior to exercise. Unfortunately, stretching may be more harmful than helpful. For example, most of the stretches that swimmers perform (figure 1), including buddy stretches (figure 2), serve to stretch the anterior capsule of the shoulder. If the capsule is overstretched, the risk of instability and subsequent injury permanently increases.10 Therefore, the indication for stretching in swimming is limited. Any stretching should be specific to the individual and designed to correct specific muscular or capsular tightness.16 Because swimmers tend to have a relatively tight posterior capsule, which can promote impingement pain, swimmers without pain should focus on stretching the posterior capsule and anterior chest musculature.7 To selectively stretch the posterior capsule without stretching the scapular stabilizer muscles, it is necessary to stabilize the scapula. The easiest way to do this is to stretch the shoulder while lying supine, partially rolled onto the lateral border of the scapula. In swimmers who have kyphotic posture because of tight anterior chest and shoulder musculature, stretching those muscles without stretching the anterior capsule helps decrease the forward shoulder posture and increase the subacromial space.7 Swimmers with shoulder pain should be instructed to cease all anterior capsule stretching and instead focus on posterior capsule stretching.5,11 Swimmers with multidirectional instability or a history of subluxation should avoid all stretching.2 Buddy stretching should be avoided altogether, because it can easily range a shoulder beyond its physiologic barrier and promote further anatomic damage.10 For athletes in whom stretching is contraindicated, a gentle warm-up is sufficient to increase blood flow to the muscles and prepare them for the workout.10,17

I know that the article does state some beneficial stretches but the wording confuses me >.<

So what do you think? If stretches do help swimming, what kinds do you do? And since the article is specifically talking about shoulder stretches, do you recommend any?

February 21st, 2012, 09:23 PM
If stretches do help swimming, what kinds do you do? And since the article is specifically talking about shoulder stretches, do you recommend any?

I swear by these: :agree:

This article is from the Jan/Feb 2010 issue of Swimmer Magazine. I do these before each swim and do more yoga-type stretching after I finish; . I also do these before doing my dryland workout.

In addition to this routine, I am now doing yoga (thanks to Fort's recommendation) after my Saturday recovery swims. This is what I am using for yoga. I bought it used at Amazon:
Amazon.com: Power Yoga for Beginners (9780060535414): Liz Lark: Books

February 21st, 2012, 10:18 PM
Interesting. I read the article fairly quickly and I'm not a physiatrist, but I believe they're saying stretching one specific muscle/muscle area is associated with the injury. It uses the wording "if (the capsule is) overstretched". Over-stretching is not stretching, it's over-stretching.

I never liked "buddy stretching" because people are stupid, don't know your ROM, and can easily overstretch any body part.

So in conclusion, I don't feel stretching is by any means bad. Over-stretching is. In this case they're saying over-stretchng can lead to perhaps greater problems than if other muscles are over-stretched. You'd have to look into the cited materials to see what they're really talking about. I'm also curious how they determine what stretches are good and what stretches are bad. Is it purely theoretical? How are the studies designed to realize the adverse effects of specific stretching when there are so many variables in play?

I'll have to ask my friend who is a swimmer and physical therapist.

Thanks for the articles to Paredes and ElaineK though. I learned some new stretches in the USMS article and learned I am guilty two of the five things they say not to do haha. The last stretch the recommend, for the trapezius muscles, is by far one of the greatest stretches ever discovered.

I once went to a camp to basically get in shape for the fall sports season. The coach (drill sergeant, basically) said to never statically stretch. We were taught to stretch while running. It was very odd. I never stretch cold though. I always do a warmup, then stretch, continue with my workout, and then stretch afterwards.

February 22nd, 2012, 01:11 PM
I think that the article is trying to stress the importance of not OVER STRETCHING. Over stretching DEFINITELY does more harm that good. I personally don't really stretch a whole lot before I swim just out of habit. My dad on the other hand swam in the 70s and 80s when they were taught that one should ALWAYS stretch before doing any type of strenuous activity. Everything in moderation.

February 23rd, 2012, 12:12 PM
Over doing anything is not good. I need to warmup my hamstrings cuz of surgeries, so I also stretch arms & shoulders as a routine.

joel schmaltz
February 24th, 2012, 11:19 AM
I think that doing ballistic stretching prior to swimming and doing dynamic stretching afterwards is the way to go, at least for me.

Ballistic stretching is similar to what a boxer does as he prepares to fight. Bouncing around, swinging of the arms etc.

Dynamic stretching is the more traditionally known method. Increasing your "reach" with no quick movements.

I do believe that increased flexibility can only enhance athletic performances.

I am no expert. Just my opinion

February 24th, 2012, 04:52 PM
I do most of those stretches from the Swimmer magazine. I do agree that it's not really about stretching but over-stretching. I actually happen to think that light stretching with more focus on warm ups are better. I think I do better when I take a lap or two to warm up although it's not always convenient if you're at a meet.
Tabitha - busy swimming at the many swimming pools Little Rock (http://www.familyleisure.com/Little-Rock/Above-Ground-Swimming-Pools)