Ask the Dryland Coach: Dynamic Shoulder Warm-Up

By Mike Mejia, M.S, C.S.C.S

Question: What's the best way to warm-up my shoulders before getting into the water?  
Amanda, age 16. Boston, Massachusetts   
Answer: This is a really great question, Amanda. I say that because despite all of the evidence over the past several years that static stretching (the type where you hold the muscle in the stretched position for at least 30 seconds at a time), isn't the best way to get your body warmed up for exercise, it's exactly what most swimmers do before jumping into the pool. Whether it's bringing the arm against the front of their body to stretch out the back of the shoulder, or placing their hand on a wall, or a partner, and turning away to stretch out the chest and front of the shoulder, I continually see swimmers doing these types of stretches on deck prior to getting up on the blocks. Besides being counterproductive, some of these stretches can also be potentially dangerous- like the chest/ anterior shoulder stretch that I just mentioned, as it actually stretches the joint capsule, more than it does the intended muscles.  
A much better solution is the following dynamic shoulder warm-up protocol that was created by physical therapist George T. Edelman. Simply follow this sequence before getting into the water at practices and meets and before long, you should see an appreciable difference in the way your shoulders feel and function. One word of warning though; for some of you, these movements may be either difficult to perform, or too fatiguing for the prescribed 12-15 reps per drill. In this instance, make sure you start slowly by cutting the rep range down a bit (especially when you're at a meet) and work on improving your range of motion and endurance until you eventually can do the entire warm-up.

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