Straight arm strength! What’s that? As it turns out the vast majority of people have never heard of straight arm strength and would only ever have exercised using bent arms.
Straight arm strength is when you keep your arms straight for an exercise and bent arm strength is when the elbow bends, it doesn’t get much simpler really. You are probably most familiar with bent arm exercises such as push ups, pull ups, row variations, pull variations etc etc and likely unfamiliar with straight arm exercises such as front/back lever, handstand holds, straight arm pull downs and shoulder extensions.
Neither straight arm or bent arm are better, but straight-arm strength is ‘more essential’, not better. Both are complimentary and they both need to be done but when it comes to creating strong and healthy shoulders, straight-arm strength takes the cake and as swimmers we want strong healthy shoulder right? Also, while the elbow does bend, we start and finish the stroke with a straight arm and need strength in this position to become stronger in the water.
However, before we move forward, if you have not read our introduction, please do so now here – https://bit.ly/3bmlf8M
The 1st part of the series on shoulder mobility here – https://bit.ly/3cGHmHp
The 2nd part on thoracic mobility here – https://bit.ly/3aqcnO3
And finally the 3rd part on core strength – https://bit.ly/3b5b73a
The first exercise we are going to look at is the straight arm pull down;
The straight-arm pulldown exercise is a variation of the classic lat-pulldown. In this case, you perform the movement standing and keep your elbows locked out the entire time. The straight-arm pulldown trains the lats through a long range of motion and is helpful for us swimmers as its works the lats in a similar fashion to a swimming stroke. You can use a band or a cable / pulley.
Secondly, we are going to look at the straight arm pull over;
The straight arm pull over is an iconic movement to build strength in the chest and lats as well as hitting other small muscles like the serratus anterior muscles, which are all vital in swimming, particularly freestyle. This will not only build your swimming muscles but will also improve overhead mobility and thoracic mobility which as we know from previous blogs is vitally important. You can use a dumbbell or kettlebell here.
Finally, the L-Sit is a foundational bodyweight movement that challenges the control of a wide array of muscle groups throughout the body. This exercise which have many progressions and regressions given that its extremely demanding will build strength in the lower abs, psoas and hip flexors which will help with your kicking power as well strengthening the shoulders, pecs and lats which will improve you pull in the water.
If you have any questions on any of the above, please do not hesitate to contact me, Brendan at [email protected]