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Old 08-12-2013
CoachSuzanne CoachSuzanne is offline
Join Date: Mar 2010
Posts: 2,453
Default Low back pain while swimming?

This is the reply to a post over at another forum i visit, I thought it was pretty good advice and it took me at least 5 minutes to type it up. No replies to it over there (granted, it was the weekend...maybe everyone is out swimming!) So I thought I'd share it here too...

I hope this helps or enlightens someone.

The water is capable of supporting your body in a neutral position when swimming, but it's easy to overcompensate and cause arching in the low back.

Kick sets are notoriuos for this. If you are going to do kick sets (I don't), do them without a kickboard and with yoru head in the water, rolling to the side to get air. Do kick sets with one arm extended and slightly rotated in a 30-60 degree position to mimic your extended swim position in the water and you can kill two birds with one stone.

Looking forward to any degree can cause this. Looking forward brings the head out of the water, and when one part comes out, some other part has to go down usually the hips. Since kicking usually brings the legs to the surface, the stress is placed on the low back. Relax the head into the water, gaze towards the bottom, not necessarliy straight down, and you'll take the curve out of your low back

Reaching too far over the surface before entering the water. This cauess the first part of your arm in the water to push down which lifts the front of the body...hips go down...see above paragraph for the rest. solution, enter the water earlier through a "mail slot" in the water to avoid pushing down on the water.

Arching the back to try and get the legs up. You'll hear this a lot that you have to use the low back to get the legs to the surface. this is just bad advice, and poor core control. Try it, feel the stress in teh low back and feel how at the same time the front of the core becomes disengaged...the ribs and pelvis move furhter away from each other, the belly sags in the middle (along with your lumbar spine).

Instead tuck the pelvis towards the ribs to engage the core better, and use your gluts/hamstrings to raise the legs gently toward the surface, not the low back. If your gluts are not firing or your hip flexors are too tight...both modern society problems, you can do work out side the pool to help correct this...but don't accept that it's something you need to deal with...correct the underlying problem to help you swim more comfortably. Learn to fire the gluts and let the hip flexors open up.
Suzanne Atkinson, MD
Level 3 USAT Coach
USA Paralympic Triathlon Coach
Coach of 5 time USA Triathlon Triathlete of the Year, Kirsten Sass
Steel City Endurance, LTD
Fresh Freestyle

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