Residing on the Surf Coast means that you live in one of the most active water sports capitals in the world! Throughout all seasons, the ocean is busy with members of the family participating in activity and exercise that involves long periods of time moving in the water. You may participate in competitive sports or just enjoy recreation time in the ocean.
Surfing, ocean swimming, Surf Club, SUP (stand up paddle boarding) and bodysurfing all use a lot of shoulder muscle as a means of propulsion. The muscles which surround the shoulder area attach right up to the base of the skull and down to the waist. This means a need for strength and mobility throughout the shoulder girdle (arm/collar bone/shoulder blade and the muscles that attach to them) and stability through the waist and low back to anchor the movement. Tight shoulder muscles can therefore lead to issues with the shoulders and neck but also the low back and the mechanics of breathing.
The typical water sports body type is broad shoulders and narrow waist with a strong curve in the low back (sway back). This is due to the overworking of the shoulder, back and side muscles and not enough work on the front muscles. Dr Piers Bubbers says: “In clinic, I often have people visit with a sore low back which is due to the shoulder muscles being tight and clamping down onto the waist. The low back is the weak link in this instance and the part that takes all the hard work when things above are too tight.”
Dr Bubbers often sees people on the beach doing fantastic warmups which are all about lunging and stretching the leg, glut and hip muscles but totally misses the shoulder muscles. It is the latissimus dorsi (lats) which get worked very hard when you raise your arm above your head and pull it down to your waist against the resistance of the water. There are some simple shoulder stretches you can do which will ease up the shoulders, neck, and low back. However, the big tip is – warm up before you go into the water, but ensure you stretch after you have been in the water. Dr Bubbers would argue that stretching after exercise is far more important and will help ease the tightness from water sports and help to avoid wear and tear problems for you down the track. If you make time for a post exercise stretch and even an Osteo treatment, then this will help you to be far more alert and responsive in your body and not feel like concrete in water.