Monday, 4 April 2011

Water Polo and Your Shoulders

During the game of water polo the shoulder undergoes tremendous forces when throwing as well as fatigue from the amount of swimming throughout the game. In order to help prevent possible injuries as well as overuse injuries the rotator cuff muscles need to be both strong enough to handle the forces involved with throwing, as well as possess the endurance capacity to maintain optimum shoulder stability and movement throughout the match.

The rotator cuff muscles (subscapularis. Supraspinatus, infraspinatus and teres minor) serve the important purpose of stabilizing the shoulder as well as performing elevation and rotation of the arm. These muscles often go unnoticed especially when considering ones gym program. The larger muscles are generally focused on primarily with little or no attention paid to the smaller muscles groups such as the rotator cuff muscles. Even though strength of the large muscle groups may be improved it is important to remember that these muscles require proper stability to exert large forces. Without stability of the shoulder the occurrence of an injury is only a matter of time. Thus the inclusion of rotator cuff exercises in your exercise routine is very important.

In order to strengthen the rotator cuff muscles we need to understand the movements they produce. The main movements performed by these muscles are external rotation, internal rotation and horizontal rotation. To visualize these movements think of standing facing forward holding a bottle of water with your elbow by your side at 90 degrees. If you move the bottle of water out to the side of your body you will be performing external rotation, if the bottle is then rotated into your body to touch your torso you would be performing internal rotation. Now imagine holding your arm out to the side with elbows at shoulder level parallel to the ground flexed at 90 degrees (fingers pointing to the ground). If you rotate your arm till your fingers point forwards and your whole arm is parallel to the ground you would be performing horizontal rotation.

In water polo you combine all of these movements many times throughout the game. So how do we ensure stability and strength? Well here is a sample program that may be incorporated into your current program:

  •          Start off with light weights (1-2kg) and progress
  •          Complete 3 sets of 12-15 reps
  •          Exercises may be performed standing as well.

External Rotation:
  •          Using the floor or a bench lie on the opposite side of the arm you will be working.
  •          Start with your elbow flexed at 90degrees while grasping the dumbbell,
  •          Ensure elbow position is maintained by your side and rotate your arm outward maintaining 90 degree flexion.
  •          Lower back to starting position.

Internal Rotation:
  • Using a bench lie on the same side of the arm you will be working.
  • Start with your elbow flexed at 90 degrees and your forearm parallel to the floor.
  • Ensure elbow position is maintained by your side and rotate your arm upward towards your torso maintaining 90 degree flexion.
  • Lower back to starting position.

Horizontal Rotation:
  • Assume standing position with your elbows raised to shoulder level and flexed at 90 degrees.
  • Grasping a dumbbell in each hand rotate your hands up towards the ceiling.
  • Lower to starting position.

Implement these exercises into your routine and look forward to better performance in the pool and ease of mind knowing you are reducing your chance of injury!

Good luck and enjoy your training.

Nicholas Hitchins

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