Percussive Therapy for Swimmers
Swimming is an activity that occurs in water that engages almost all parts of the body. It is the propelling and balancing body in the water – more like impersonating a fish! This activity though involves all the parts of the body, it engages the upper body parts the most. This includes the shoulder muscles, the neck muscles, the lower and upper back, the pectoral cavity in the chest region, and the arms.
Not just that, swimming also engages the muscles at the thigh and the leg regions for propulsion. These muscles include the quadriceps and the hamstrings. There are various styles of swimming and each style has its unique advantage, and its calorie consumption rate. These styles include the breaststroke, freestyle stroke, backstroke, and butterfly stroke.
Why is Percussive Therapy Important for Swimmers?
Swimming can be fun, no doubt. It could also be very demanding on the muscles of the body, almost every one of them. In an interview with LA Times in 2013, former IBF, WBO, IBO and WBA heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko was asked what exercises he engaged in to maintain his boxing prowess. Amazingly, the former boxer with an amazing record of 59-3 said weightlifting was not part of his routine, in his own words:
“I run, but boxing conditioning is different, so you have to get used to running in the ring. Boxing movements are very different. Swimming is one of the best because every single muscle is working. I swim a lot. I train very hard at things that mimic boxing.”
– Wladimir Klitschko
For context, Klitschko has a doctorate in Sports Science. Many athletes understand that swimming is highly demanding on the muscles. Percussive therapy cannot be more important in any sport as it is structured to loosen the stiffness of muscles and treat the injury of the muscles by delivering rapid vigorous pulsating strokes which travels deep into the muscles and knots, relieve muscle soreness and pain, and to increase muscle recovery. It effects on various parts of the body are as follows:
- The Shoulder: It helps to relieve shoulder pain and shoulder muscle tightness. Shoulder pain usually occurs as a result of training hard and adopting poor swimming stroke mechanisms. The shoulder muscles are one of the most engaged muscles while swimming. Shoulder pains and stress are very common and recurrent injuries for swimmers.
- Reduces proneness to muscle cramps: Muscle cramps are sudden involuntary stiffness or contractions of the muscle tissues. It signifies the absence of relaxation in that region. Muscle cramps can be very painful if not attended to early. Massage guns loosen the muscle tightness, by softly pounding the muscles into a relaxed state, straightening the muscle fibers.
- Improves the thigh muscles (quadriceps and the hamstrings): These muscles are responsible for propelling the swimmer in the water. The massage gun helps to improve the rate of blood flow in the hamstrings by helping to push pooled blood in the varicose vein often around the thighs and legs back to the heart for oxygenation. Pulling a hamstring is very common in swimming, but swimmers can avoid this with percussive therapy.
- It also improves the range of motion (flexibility): The body muscles tighten up after swimming for a long period. Ideally, they stiffen and become strong and inflexible as they are engaged and put to work. Interestingly, it also stimulates natural body lubricants that help foster body movement and flexibility by lubricating the joints. This is also beneficial before swimming, for flexibility.
- It increases the circulation rate of the blood and other fluids in the body: The use of a massage gun facilitates the flow of blood and lymphatic fluid, allowing the muscles to be reached and bathed by more oxygen and nutrients. Similarly, it helps to remove toxic wastes and debris from the body tissues, arousing muscle contractions, and dilation of blood vessels.
- It activates the swimmer's nervous system and enhances the swimmer's homeostatic and mental focus (pre-workout): The massage gun helps to activate receptors in the nervous system to ease dilation of the blood vessels, ultimately maintaining good body homeostasis. This creates a suitable internal environment for the body to work more effectively.
Using a Massage Gun Before or After Swimming
After a rigorous swimming activity, it is advisable to do short time body stretches to help loosen the muscles a bit before applying the percussion therapy. Here a guide to help you:
- The first step is to insert the ball attachment to the head of the massage gun without switching the device on (The massage gun has several head attachments to gain convenient access to every nook and cranny of the body).
- The second step is to adjust the neck of the massage gun to a position that would enable you the convenience to apply the device to that area of the body.
- Make sure the massage gun is not resting on any part of your body before switching it on. This is to prevent a possible conflicting reaction from your body.
- Now turn on the massage gun, hold gently, yet firmly (Massage guns are not as heavy as they look). Don't be too grippy on the device as its vibrations can send unexpected waves through your hand, possibly shock.
- Apply the massage gun over the muscles. Several muscles are engaged when swimming. However, some muscles have been observed to suffer stress and injury more.
- The Arm muscles: Let the massage guns pound these biceps and triceps into liberty. At a point, you would literarily see an action similar to a wave flow originating right from the point the massage gun makes contact with your arms.
- The neck and shoulder muscles (the deltoids, trapezius, the shoulder blade): Glide the massage gun around the back of the neck down to the shoulder muscles. (The neck and shoulder muscles experience much of the workload. The shoulder muscle injury has been proved to be one of the most reoccurring injuries for swimmers because of its pivotal role in swimmers.)
- Paraspinal muscles: Swimmers experience upper and lower back pain, or even tech neck, as a result of the need to repeatedly stretch their face above the water at intervals to breathe in air. This eventually builds up stress on the back muscles.
- The Pectoral Muscles: This consists of the pectoralis major and the pectoralis minor. Apply the massage gun to the left and right areas of your chest. Endeavor to restrict the movement of the massage gun only to the muscles in your chest. Try as much as possible to avoid contact with the rib bones and nerves.
- The quadriceps and hamstrings: Make sure to glide the device over the full length of your hamstrings and quadriceps. These muscles are very important to the swimmer as they serve as propellers for the swimmer.
Swimming is a unique exercise because of how it engages the whole body and also doubles up as a breathing exercise. Percussive therapy goes a long way in keeping the swimmer healthy and fit.
Massage guns will not only save you the cost of paying for the services of a physiotherapist but will also offer you a massage that is as effective as a physical massage therapist at the comfort of your home – business and pleasure if you like.