Mend Physical Therapy Blog and Injury Information

How Much Shoulder Strength Should I Have To Swim?

May 23, 2024

Swimming is one of the more popular forms of exercise in Boulder County.  In our Boulder Physical Therapy and Lafayette Physical Therapy practices we treat swimmers of all ability levels to help them return to pool as quickly as possible.  These participants require a significant amount of mid back mobility, as well as, upper, core, and lower body strength.  If these impairments are not treated properly by a Physical Therapist they can place a swimmer at a great risk of injury or prevent current injuries from healing.  In particular, shoulder strength can be associated with risk of injury in overhead athletes. A recent article detailed the average shoulder strength of elite swimmers helping us create a target for our Physical Therapy interventions.

A study recently investigated if the ratio is different for elite swimmers than other populations. The study found that even though the sport is unique, elite swimmers without shoulder pain still have the same external rotation (ER) to internal rotation (IR) strength of 70% ER to IR as other overhead athletes (Boettcher et al. 2020). Furthermore, the study found that normal values for IR strength were 29% bodyweight and ER were 19% bodyweight (Boettcher et al. 2020). Working with a physical therapist can help you objectively measure your shoulder strength, determine if you are at risk for injury, and support you in reducing your risk for injury.

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Boettcher C, Halaki M, Holt K, Ginn KA. Is the normal shoulder rotation strength ratio altered in elite swimmers? Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 2020;52(3):680-684