This featurebrings training and injury prevention advice to Tri Club members. If you have any questions for Troy, please contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will pass them along.
Can You Shoulder the Load?
Shoulder injuries are a very common and sometimes a chronic problem with triathletes. The repetitive dynamic and static stresses put on the shoulders during training and competing are unique to the three-event sport. The shoulder has no rest time through the entire race. It must have strength, stability, flexibility and stamina. The most common injuries are tendonitis and impingement. Rotator cuff tears, dislocations and traumatic injuries are a whole other topic.
POSTURE, POSTURE, POSTURE!!! Being able to attain and maintain proper posture is the most important key to good shoulder health. Without proper posture, shoulder mechanics break down and injury occurs. Notice I said “proper posture” and not “good posture.” Many times a person’s body awareness is affected and the idea of standing posture is distorted and overcorrected. Proper posture for the shoulder joint in standing and sitting is shoulders in line with ears with head and chest up but not extended. To attain and maintain proper posture you must have good muscular strength, tone and flexibility.
The most common posture issue is rounded shoulders, which have many causes: tight chest, tight biceps, weak shoulder blade muscles, weak spinal muscles and core weakness. It causes a change in shoulder mechanics affecting range of motion and strength that can pinch tendons, bursa and cartilage in the joint. Rounded shoulders also lead to over-stretched, tight and weak muscles, leading to increased stress and tendonitis.
Here are three warmup exercises to help address some of these issues during each event.
Swimming: Large shoulder circles with trunk rotation–stand with belly button pulled in and in proper posture. Extend arms down and spread fingers. Now rotate arms in a large circle one at a time like an exaggerated swim stroke. Maintain proper posture alignment during the exercise. Keep head chest and spine in alignment while rotating trunk. Do three sets, 30 seconds forwards and backwards.
Cycling: Planks on floor or countertop/bench (straight arms or on elbows/bent knee or straight legs)–with belly button pulled in and in proper posture. Maintain proper posture alignment during the exercise. Hold for as long as you can maintain good form. Do 3-5 reps.
Running: Runner’s arm swings (seated or standing)–Sit or stand with belly button pulled in and in proper posture. Bend elbows to ~ 90 degrees and swing arms at a comfortable pace as if running. Keep hands open and relaxed. Maintain proper posture alignment during the exercise. Do 3 sets for 30 seconds each.
So there are some words of wisdom on shoulder injuries and posture. Train hard, train smart and have good body awareness.
Troy Andrews PT, CES