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MSR Freestyle Swimming: Part 5 Recovery

Updated: May 8

Swimmer Training in a Lake

Welcome to 'MSR Freestyle Swimming: Part 5 Recovery ' In this segment, we'll explore the pivotal role played by hip extension, knee flexion, and plantar flexion of the foot in the recovery phase of freestyle swimming. Understanding the structures involved, their functions, and potential dysfunctions is essential for recognizing the subtleties of these movements, and it serves as a foundation for our subsequent MSR treatment demonstration."

Following the Recovery Phase, our focus will shift to two challenges that are common in swimmers: Swimmer's Shoulder and Lower Back Pain. We will offer a comprehensive perspective on these issues by examining the symptoms, underlying causes, and biomechanical factors. These insights will help understand the unique demands of freestyle swimming on the body and offer a foundation for prevention, early detection, and appropriate management.

Article Index:


Key Structures

In swimming, peak performance hinges on the efficient functioning of key structures: the gluteus maximus and medius for hip extension, the hamstrings for knee flexion, and the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles for plantar flexion of the foot. Each plays a distinct role, from initiating recovery phases to aiding propulsion. However, any dysfunction in these areas can significantly impact stroke coordination and overall swimming efficiency.

Hip Extension:

  • Structures Involved: Gluteus maximus and medius.

  • Function: Initiates the recovery phase.

  • Potential Dysfunction: Impaired hip extension could slow or misalign the recovery phase, affecting overall stroke coordination.

Knee Flexion:

  • Structures Involved: Hamstrings group, including biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus.

  • Function: Assists in both hip extension and knee flexion.

  • Potential Dysfunction: Dysfunction may affect proper alignment and timing of the recovery phase, impacting stroke efficiency.

Plantar flexion of the Foot:

  • Structures Involved: Gastrocnemius and soleus muscles, pressure exerted by the water during downbeat.

  • Function: Contributes to propulsive force throughout the entire kicking motion.

  • Potential Dysfunction: Impairment might reduce propulsion and alter the fluidity of the kick, affecting overall swimming efficiency.


Motion Specific Release (MSR)

MSR Treatment Demonstration Video

In this video, Dr. Abelson demonstrates the application of MSR (Motion Specific Release) techniques, specially tailored to address the intricate biomechanics of the lower extremity involved in freestyle swimming. He showcases Motion Specific Release (MSR) procedures that address the glutes, hamstrings, and calf muscles.


Swimmer Performing Workout in the Pool

Two Common Swimming Injuries

Swimmer's Shoulder

Swimmer's shoulder, also known as "shoulder impingement syndrome" or "subacromial impingement syndrome," is a common overuse injury found in swimmers. It stems from continuous overhead activities, placing undue stress on the shoulder joint and nearby tissues.

The manifestation of this condition includes:

  • Inflammation, Irritation, or Compression: Affecting the shoulder's tendons and bursa, these issues can lead to pain, weakness, and restricted movement.

  • Chronic Inflammatory Response: Resulting from persistent microtrauma that surpasses the tissue's healing capacity, it occurs in the subacromial space, beneath the scapula's acromion.

The following imbalances can disrupt the natural scapulohumeral rhythm and accentuate the impingement:

  • Strength or Flexibility Disparities: Specifically between the internal and external rotators of the shoulder or between the scapula's protractors and retractors.

  • Inadequate Stroke Mechanics: Can augment abnormal pressures on the shoulder structures.

The progression of this condition often involves:

  • Inflammation-Pain-Damage Cycle: Continuous injury without adequate recovery time.

  • Training Load and Recovery Balance: The necessity to strike equilibrium between rigorous training demands and sufficient recuperation.

Understanding swimmer's shoulder necessitates an all-encompassing view of shoulder biomechanics, the intense requirements of swimming on shoulder structures, and the harmony between practice intensity and restoration. This insight is vital for prevention, early detection, and appropriate management of the condition, thus ensuring the athlete's long-term well-being and performance.

Swimmer Stretching

Lower Back Pain

Lower back pain is a common issue among freestyle swimmers, stemming from the specialized biomechanical demands of this swimming style on the lumbar spine. Two main factors contribute to this condition: the pronounced spinal loading during the flutter kick and the repetitive torso rotation.

The Flutter Kick: A vital part of freestyle swimming, the flutter kick involves:

  • Vigorous Hip Movements: Alternating hip flexion and extension generate substantial force.

  • Force Transmission: This force is channeled upwards to the lumbar spine.

  • Potential Stress: Without adequate core strength, this force can overload the lower back's structures, including intervertebral discs, facet joints, and supporting ligaments and muscles.

  • Cumulative Impact: This can lead to microtrauma, inflammation, and pain, culminating in lower back pain.

Continuous Torso Rotation: Another essential aspect of freestyle swimming, torso rotation contributes to:

  • Breathing and Propulsion: Facilitates efficient movement in the water.

  • Torsional Stress: Continuous twisting can result in overuse and strain if not executed with proper technique and muscular support.

  • Risk of Over-Rotation: If driven mainly by the spine instead of the core muscles, it can heighten shear and compressive forces on the lumbar discs and facet joints.

Understanding the mechanisms and risks related to lower back pain in freestyle swimming necessitates a detailed examination of the biomechanics involved in this specific swimming style. Adequate core strength, proper technique, and awareness of body mechanics can play vital roles in prevention and management. Coaches, therapists, and swimmers must work collaboratively to ensure proper training and recovery strategies are in place, recognizing the unique demands of freestyle swimming on the lumbar spine and aligning them with the individual's capabilities and needs.


Swimmer Resting by the Pool

Conclusion Freestyle Swimming

Freestyle swimming is a complex sport that demands a delicate balance between strength, technique, and awareness of the body's biomechanics. From the roles of specific muscles to the prevention of common injuries like swimmer's shoulder and lower back pain, understanding these elements is crucial for both performance and health.

The application of Motion Specific Release (MSR) demonstrated in this five part series highlights the importance of recognizing and addressing potential muscle imbalances, connecting optimal performance with injury prevention.



Photo of Dr. Brian Abelson

Dr. Abelson's approach to musculoskeletal health care reflects a deep commitment to evidence-based practices and continuous learning. In his work at Kinetic Health in Calgary, Alberta, he integrates the latest research with a compassionate understanding of each patient's unique needs. As the Motion Specific Release (MSR) Treatment Systems developer, he views his role as both a practitioner and an educator, dedicated to sharing knowledge and techniques that can benefit the wider healthcare community. His ongoing efforts in teaching and practice aim to contribute positively to the field of musculoskeletal health, with a constant emphasis on patient-centered care and the collective advancement of treatment methods.


MSR Instructor Mike Burton Smiling

Join Us at Motion Specific Release

Enroll in our courses to master innovative soft-tissue and osseous techniques that seamlessly fit into your current clinical practice, providing your patients with substantial relief from pain and a renewed sense of functionality. Our curriculum masterfully integrates rigorous medical science with creative therapeutic paradigms, comprehensively understanding musculoskeletal diagnosis and treatment protocols.

Join MSR Pro and start tapping into the power of Motion Specific Release. Have access to:

  • Protocols: Over 250 clinical procedures with detailed video productions.

  • Examination Procedures: Over 70 orthopedic and neurological assessment videos and downloadable PDF examination forms for use in your clinical practice are coming soon.

  • Exercises: You can prescribe hundreds of Functional Exercises Videos to your patients through our downloadable prescription pads.

  • Article Library: Our Article Index Library with over 45+ of the most common MSK conditions we all see in clinical practice. This is a great opportunity to educate your patients on our processes. Each article covers basic condition information, diagnostic procedures, treatment methodologies, timelines, and exercise recommendations. All of this is in an easy-to-prescribe PDF format you can directly send to your patients.

  • Discounts: MSR Pro yearly memberships entitle you to a significant discount on our online and live courses.

Integrating MSR into your practice can significantly enhance your clinical practice. The benefits we mentioned are only a few reasons for joining our MSR team.



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