Many paddlers complain of injuries such as shoulder instability and pain at the top of their stroke (impingement) that gets in the way of their training. How do these injuries happen and what can you do to prevent them? Here is a bit of advice to keep you injury-free.
Inherently, if you are a paddler, you probably already have an appropriate amount of shoulder mobility. Good shoulder mobility leads to a more efficient stroke, which allows paddlers to train for a longer period of time. In addition, paddlers also have strong chest musculature. While these traits are beneficial for paddling, weakness of the shoulder blade stabilizing muscles and other imbalances are common due to the repetitive nature of the stroke.
One of the best ways to prevent shoulder injuries caused by muscle imbalances is to include supplemental training exercises that support not only your shoulder joint, but also your shoulder blades. This will ensure a higher degree of dynamic stability when you are paddling.
To see if you have shoulder blade weakness, try this strength test: Lie on your stomach and place your arm straight out to the side with your thumb pointing down to the floor. Have a friend push your hand in a downward direction toward the floor. Second, turn your thumb up towards the ceiling and repeat. If you are unable to resist against them using a moderate force, you have some strengthening to do.
To get started, here are some exercises to make sure that your shoulders are ocean-ready. With all of these exercises, it’s important to focus on squeezing your shoulder blades down and back and avoid hiking up your shoulders towards your ears.
Shoulder Blade “A”:
While lying face down on an exercise ball or bench at the gym, raise both arms up at about a 45* angle while keeping your elbows straight and squeezing the bottom of your shoulder blades together. Hold 3 times for 30 seconds.
Bent Over Row:
Support your body with your left hand and knee on the bench with palms facing inward. First pinch your shoulder blade then begin to row your elbow upward and past the plane of your body. Do 3 sets of 10.
Start in a high plank position with your shoulder blades squeezed together. Push your body up and round using only your shoulder blades while keeping your elbows straight. You should feel your upper back sinking down and together during the rest phase and rounding out as you push your body up during the work phase. Do 3 sets of 10.
Catherine Cullison, PT, DPT