Why Rotation is Important for the Triathlete

Why Rotation is Important for the Triathlete

When one thinks of the three components of the triathlon, it’s easy to emphasize motions that target “forward motion.”  Running, biking, and swimming are sports that seem like the athlete moves in one direction, and as such we try to create a more streamlined looking posture in all three of these actions.  But there is a key component that often gets overlooked in training, and that’s rotation.  You may think you don’t need any rotation in your joints, but believe it or not, you see quite a bit of rotary elements in triathlon, in particular the swim.  

Both shoulders need quite a bit of rotational freedom in the swim, which may seem a bit obvious to you.  But what may not seem as obvious is the need for thoracic spine rotation.  The thoracic spine makes up your midback and covers the entire length of the torso.  The scapula, or shoulder blade, rests atop the rib cage.  The rib cage is attached to the thoracic spine, so both the ribs and the thoracic spine are linked together.  Wherever the thoracic spine rotates, the rib cage goes along with it – and guess what else? Yes, your shoulder blades.  

During the swim, the shoulder needs to rotate back and out of the water on one side, and rotate down and in on the other.  Simultaneously, the thoracic spine rotates to assist this motion.  What happens if your thoracic spine is restricted and does not rotate well? Your shoulder has to work harder to reach the same result, which can lead to repetitive motion disorders such as shoulder impingements and rotator cuff problems.

Even if you aren’t in pain, you may be losing out on some efficiency due to a lack of thoracic spine rotation.  You may be able to increase the power out of your shoulder simply by gaining more rotation through the spine.  Plus you’ll be reducing the chance of picking up a shoulder injury along the way.

If you suspect you aren’t using your spine in the swim, talk to Coach Joel for some technique evaluation and give us a call at (984) 225-2149.

Dr. Evan Kahn, DC, DACBSP is a sports medicine chiropractor and the owner of North State Sport & Spine in Holly Springs, NC.