If your shoulders hurt, the pain might be caused by tired upper and middle back muscles, including the rhomboid that connects your spine to your shoulder blade. Don't just shrug off shoulder pain that won't go away -- seeing a physical therapist or a doctor can go a long way in getting you relief and getting it fast. They may recommend heading to the pool for some swimming exercises to strengthen those rhomboids.
Water Exercise Benefits
To strengthen your rhomboid muscles, your physical therapist may want you to work on exercises that include movement of your shoulder blades. These exercises can be done in the pool where working out in water will help build muscle strength in an environment that allows you to work the injured muscle without causing undue stress. Simply swimming at an easy pace can work your shoulder and back muscles, but get the go ahead and some guidance from your doctor or physical therapist first.
Reverse flyes and pull-ups are great for strengthening your rhomboids. They work your shoulder blades and can be done in the swimming pool. Pull-ups can be done while hanging on the side of the pool, either in deep water or from a kneeling or bent leg position in shallow water. To do reverse flyes, lean forward in the water keeping straight arms hanging down in front, then lift your arms out to the sides until even with your body. This exercise can be performed with or without weights since the water already adds resistance.
Watch from outside the pool while someone is swimming butterfly or breaststroke -- both strokes that rely on strong rhomboids -- and you'll see how they pull their shoulder blades together and then rotate them down and in on each stroke. Sometimes swimmers experience pain caused by fatigued back muscles, which USA Swimming explains is known as "swimmers shoulder." Proper swimming technique and strong upper and middle back muscles, including the rhomboid that connects your spine to your shoulder blade, are important to overall performance and in preventing shoulder injury.
Get Back to Technique
If you are trying to strengthen the back muscles, including the rhomboids, pay close attention to your swimming technique. How you swim matters as much as how well you swim because performing the stroke correctly in the first place will help prevent fatigue and injury. In order to isolate the middle and upper back muscles, you can use a pull buoy or fins to keep your legs afloat or assist in kicking. This will allow you to focus your attention on proper form when pulling.
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