Triathletes: Strength Exercises to help prevent “Swimmers Shoulder”

Swimmers shoulder has hindered many a triathletes season, and even led to a career or two to be shortened.

While it’s understood that swimmers shoulder often appears to occur when a certain yardage is hit in a swimmers career, the cause itself is NOT the yardage swam, but often times an imbalance in the shoulder musculature itself, which leads to the joint position and angles changing over time due to these imbalances. Through proper strength training and properly balancing your pool work, you can prolong your swimming career, and even help you swim stronger, and faster!

Including proper strength training in your 360 degree training approach, this common shoulder issue is relatively easy to prevent. Here are the 6 exercises that can help keep your shoulders healthy so you can swim strong!

Before jumping into the exercises it’s important to note that if you’re experiencing any kind of shoulder pain or discomfort you should first see your local physical therapist for a proper assessment and to help ensure you receive the proper treatment for YOU.

1. Foam Roller Y & W stretch-
While these aren’t exercises, they are an important part in your program to help the chest muscles (Pectoralis Major and Pectoralis Minor) to start to relax.
Start off with 3-4 repetitions of 15-30 seconds each,.

We don’t want any tingling or sharp pain, nor do we want your fingers to go numb.


2. “Back on the corner” Shoulder External Rotation

This variation of shoulder external rotation will not only help you to strengthen the muscles of the Rotator cuff (a group of 4 muscles that help suck the upper arm bone back and down into the shoulder joint), but will also help you recruit and strengthen the mid and lower Trapezius muscle, which is super important to help you keep your shoulder blades moving properly on the rib cage.

3. Wall Scapular Slides- 

This exercise is very important as it begins to teach you how to fire the Serratus Anteriro Muscles, which help stabilize and guide your shoulder blades on the ribcage. While often neglected, these muscles are important as they help keep our shoulders healthy and working properly.

 The Serratus Anterior plays an integral role in Shoulder health, and must be trained properly. Learn more about it at: http://palpate.com.au/serratus-anterior/ The Serratus Anterior plays an integral role in Shoulder health, and must be trained properly. Learn more about it at: http://palpate.com.au/serratus-anterior/

4. Incline Bench “Y’s”

These are really important as a part of any shoulder health program, as when executed properly, they can significantly help boost rotator cuff strength, and to allow you to tap into the power of the mid-back musculature to help you maintain proper posture.

5. Seated “V- Grip” Rows, Focus on mid-back

While this exercise can help build shoulder-saving back strength, it is unfortunately often done in a way that has the opposite effect.

Make sure you’re executing it properly: Start with your feet in front of you, keep your abs slightly active, tuck your chin so you have a double chin, and then bring the V-bar grip to your stomach, BUT STOP when your upper arm is parallel to your torso/upper body, OR when you feel that your shoulder is beginning to rotate forward. This is important, as we only want to row as far back as we are using our back muscles to row, and not our biceps.

6. Side-lying Windmill’s

Our last exercise is geared to help begin to open up Thoracic Rotation, as well as begin to unlock your hips, so you can produce power on the bike and run after you get out of the water.

Start off easy with these, as most triathletes are so tight in the chest and lats, they find that 3-4 repetitions are the most they can handle. Stay within your abilities, be patient, and consistent, and the movement will open up.

7.  Foam roll the UPPER BODY!

Unfortunately these aren’t as common as we here at Human Vortex Training believe they should be, but Foam Rolling for the upper body is super important to ensure you’re muscles are as close to their ideal resting length as possible, so you can go out and perform at your best on race day. Of course foam rolling is not an end-all, be-all, solution, but rather a part of the puzzle to help you perform at your best.

Don’t go crazy, simply 20-30 seconds at each spot 4-6 days a week will allow you to see significant results over time, and allow your body to properly adjust along the way…..

Stay healthy, Swim strong, and crush your race!

Learn more about Strength Training for CYCLING Success via Coach Brodies Training Peaks University online Course!


Learn more about Strength Training for TRIATHLON Success via Coach Brodies Training Peaks University online Course!



Picture of Menachem Brodie

Menachem Brodie

Coaching since 2000, Menachem Brodie has been working with athletes in a number of settings, and a broad variety of sports.

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