The most effective strength exercise for shoulder stability and recruitment is overhand pullups. These can be very difficult for athletes unaccustomed to recruiting their back and shoulder muscles this way. Building up to this exercise with assisted pullups is an option. Pull-ups with the palms facing away are the best for accessing swim-specific muscles and having the arms in a swimspecific posture.
Training the core muscles with long hold planks is beneficial for all disciplines of triathlon and directly influence body position in the water. Performing planks correctly is critical. Ensure the upper back is flat rather than rounded at the rhomboids. Keep the shoulders pulled down and back, while holding the butt and legs in a straight line to the ankles. Starting with short 10-second efforts with rest to ensure good form, build up to 10 minutes of a variety of plank positions including side and prone position.
Swim cords create visual cues for athletes trying to improve mobility and access new arm, shoulder and hand positions. Using the cords to create the right shape with the arms, shoulders and back muscles in front of a mirror helps athletes feel the position before attempting to transfer it to the water. There is also a strength component practicing with the swim cords, so swim cords are a hugely beneficial training tool. Start with 3 x 40 pulls with swim cords using high elbows, engaged back muscles, relaxed shoulders, then build up to multiple sets.
Melanie Mcquaid is a three-time Xterra world champion and a six-time Ironman 70.3 and Challenge half-distance champion. She lives in Victoria.