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Question from a Newbie


Iâ??ve been lurking in the background for a while but this is my first post. Iâ??m a college student getting ready to graduate Iâ??ve been swimming competitively since I was 7 (but Iâ??ve only got one more season) and lifting for 4 years but I think Iâ??ve been developing a muscle imbalance.

My right pec is smaller than my left and about 2 months ago I started feeling a bit of pain under my shoulder blade while and after I bench. I think Iâ??ve had this problem for a long time probably because I breathe to my right more often in freestyle. I just never noticed because I was mostly skin and bones and in the past 3 years Iâ??ve put on about 10 pounds and now I can see the muscle and have the pain.

Iâ??ve changed over to D/B bench and tried to do some rotator cuff work and I have a back day in my workout. I Does anyone have any suggestions to even it out and stop the pain before I actually injure myself? Iâ??d really appreciate an article link or some general advice.


Without physically seeing you, it's difficult to determine what the problem is, and I'm no GP...

Any kind of pain associated with something your doing, you should get checked out. I worked through some shoulder pain and ended up getting a partial tear in one of my rotator cuff muscles. Not fun. Get the pain checked out first, then deal with the imbalances.

That said, it's normal to have an imbalance, some are more pronounced than others.


My school has a trainer that I can see for free once my season starts next week I guess I'll leave out my bench day until then. Do you think it would be worthwhile for me to post some pictures?


Looking a little more closely at the forums I see an injury and rehab section.... I guess this is the kind of thing that should have gone over there.


Without physically examining you it would be difficult to reach a diagnosis. Certainly the pain while benching on the posterior of the shoulder blade, makes me think of a 'winged scapula'. The pec may or may not be a related issue. I have mildly assymetric pecs and have seen others with assymetric pecs who are normal. Now if the pec is related, my concern would be a cervical radiculopathy (i.e. pinched nerve by a disc). The reason being that the long thoracic nerve innervates the serratus anterior. The long thoracic nerve comes from nerve roots C5-6-7, the clavicular head of the pec comes from C5 and C6.

I would advise that you see a physician, one who is trained in sports medicine. You may need additional studies like an EMG or MRI. The decision would of course be based on a thorough history and physical exam.



That's a lot to absorb and after researching for half an hour I think I get it. Thanks for taking the time to explain.


What strokes do you swim in competition? Are they the same strokes you have mainly done over the course of your swimming career? What does you overall S&C program look like? Under which scapula do you feel the pain when benching? Do you get the pain while swimming as well?

As others have said, without physically examining you it is hard to give specific advice, but from my experiences with swimmers, I would lean towards beefcake's advice. Most likely a winging scapula problem due to a muscular imbalance and weakness. Generally, with swimmers, they have the typical upper cross syndrome (tight pec major/minor and anterior muscles with weak and/or inhibited posterior shoulder musculature). Again, from my experiences of working as an athletic trainer at the collegiate level with swimmers, I have found a lot of swimmers to have costal-vertebral irritation and mild subluxations of the rib as it lines up with the thoracic spine. Working on your thoracic spine mobility and scapular retractors and depressors should help.

Go see your athletic trainer as he/she will be able to give you a hands on exam and then refer to a physician if needed.


I've done just about everything except freestyle since I started swimming. Iâ??ve always been good in back fly and breast and I swam IM for a while. Through high school I swam with a team that practiced a lot more stroke than most teams and I never did much more than ice my shoulders once in a while but my college team isnâ??t particularly serious in practice we swim mostly free and my coach loves to see a 6000 yard practice.

My team doesnâ??t actually have a S&C program. I took it upon myself in the offseason to start lifting heavy 4 days a week squats, dead lifts, benches, and rows because while I still wanted to swim in my last season I wasnâ??t too worried about how well I did and I wanted to gain some weight.

The pain is under my right scapula (the side that has the smaller pec and that I have been breathing to in freestyle). I havenâ??t been back in the water all that long but I havenâ??t had a problem while Iâ??m swimming yet.