Did you know that having weak gluteal muscles could contribute to shoulder pain?
If you’ve ever spent time with a physical therapist, chiropractor, or masseuse you may often hear them say the phrase: “Everything is connected.”
This seems like a vague way to explain your symptoms, but when you understand functional anatomy you know that the human body is a series of connected chain links that are interdependent on one another to make up a strong chain.
It is well known that the shoulder is the most commonly injured body region in swimmers. Research indicates that upward of 90% of swimmers experience a bout of shoulder pain at some point in their career.
It is also widely known that swimmers are not generally known for having the most muscular backsides… Talking about the glutes! If you look around the pool deck you’ll see a lot of swimmers with frankly under developed… How do I say this politely? Peaches. Rears. Butts. There, I said it.
My strength and conditioning coach used to say: “Big butt. Good athlete.”
And he’s not wrong. The hips are powerhouse of the athlete. Without strong hips, the rest of the body suffers.
So how does this relate to swimming?
Since you are suspended in water during swimming and rarely in contact with a stable surface (except for the start and the turn), you rarely have the opportunity to generate a ton of power; as compared to any land-based movement.
Remember Newton’s Third Law? “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”
Meaning: our ability to generate power is dependent upon the surface we are pushing against. Last time I checked, concrete was a little more solid and stable than water.
Which is to say, it’s not your fault if you have weak glutes. It is the reality of the sport that you do.
However, this does not mean that you cannot improve! Incorporating targeting gluteal strengthening into swimming conditioning has not only been shown to reduce incidence of injury, but also help performance!
You might even see your shoulder pain dissipate. Look back at those schematics to recall how the glutes are connected to the shoulder.
If you are interested in learning more and seeing practical solutions for swimming specific injuries follow me on Instagram:
Thanks for reading!
Dr. Jacob Reynolds PT, DPT, OCS – Physical Therapist
Board Certified Specialist in Orthopedic Physical Therapy
Wanivenhaus F, Fox AJ, Chaudhury S, Rodeo SA. Epidemiology of injuries and prevention strategies in competitive swimmers. Sports Health. 2012;4(3):246-51.