CAN CORRECTIVE EXERCISE IMPROVE FUNCTION? - A SWIMMER TALE
20th February 2012
A client came to address her alignment concerns but saw her swim time’s tumble- a stroke of luck?
Here’s what she told us- read to the end if you want to know why I think it happened.
By Lincoln Blandford
Hi Lincoln, just thought I’d let you know how it’s all been going. The Performance Matrix re-training you’ve provided has given really changed things in a very short space of time. Originally, I came to you to improve my alignment based on the results of a postural assessment. But, the curious thing is what’s happened to my swimming! I’ve spent about 5 years trying to improve my sprint swim times. I managed to reduce this to an average of about 18-20 secs for 25m. I‘ve spent 3 years at this level trying the usual things taught by swim coaches and have achieved a best of 17 secs but I was completely wiped out after each one of these laps. In the short time of training with the Performance Matrix system I’ve got down to 15 secs and have had plenty of energy to turn around and do another at 17 secs. It hasn’t been about just strength or stamina, it’s something about the technique that finally clicked into place and felt effortless. Though the activities you’ve provided are not specifically targeted at improving a fault in stroke technique I can say for sure that they’ve made a difference.
OK, so what has changed? The foot position feels more efficient. I feel I have more power driving through the feet. Having more control through the body prevents ‘snaking’ with each stroke. It also prevents power being lost through uncontrolled areas and allows the arm to drive through the resistance in a more efficient direction.
Having greater awareness of the joints has helped me to isolate the arm movements and prevent other parts of the body trying to assist the pull. This awareness has allowed me to have the benefit of a higher and flatter body position in the water. The simple movement of tilting the head down and reducing the lumbar curve has raised the legs and reduced drag. Tilting the head down provides a greater range of motion in the shoulder, allowing a hand entry closer to the centre line.
A ‘stronger core’ allows for a deeper pull close to the centre line assisted by a strong log-rolling body action. The increased strength across the whole body has improved my tumble turns, making them straighter with more of a whip-like action. The relaxed, but aligned position of the neck allows the water to support the head. The neck muscles don’t get tired and I have less headaches after swimming long distances.
I have also got a friend of mine to do some of the exercises you’ve given me and she’s also reported personal best swim times. I’ve noticed that she now has a stronger, more efficient swim style, elements of her technique that I’ve spent years trying to improve! She also has reported much less aggravation of her shoulder and low back pain.
Lincoln’s review: As a trainer I’m obviously delighted to hear of her improved performance. What do I think the training has actually done for her apart from changing her swimming? The retraining strategies I gave her included exercises to challenge alignment and co-ordination. These focused on slow motor unit recruitment of her stability muscle system through pitching her exercise intensity below 25% Maximal Voluntary Contraction (MVC). We aimed to change the efficiency of recruitment of her global stability muscles (e.g. oblique abdominals / serratus anterior) and in these low level exercises down-regulate the dominant Global Mobilisers muscles (e.g. pectoralis minor / quadratus lumborum). Her retraining also concurrently focused on the strength and speed role of the global stability muscles. We performed these exercises at intensities above 40%MVC and aimed to train her global stability muscles to contribute to a greater degree in high threshold activities e.g. sprint swimming.
To read more about muscle classifications, threshold of muscle recruitment and movement screening visit Lincoln Training