Exercise Drills with Dowels

Kneeling shoulder flexion/thoracic extension stretch. Photo by Stephen Frink

A healthy range of motion in the shoulder comes in handy when putting on a buoyancy compensator or wetsuit and is particularly beneficial when sweeping for a lost hose. Strengthening hip and back extensors will help you fin with ease and minimize your risk for developing back pain. Hip- and knee-extension strength is important for standing up while weighted with scuba gear.

The exercises in this sequence require only a dowel or broomstick and a chair; they target some commonly ignored regions of the body that are important for scuba diving. Try to complete 10 repetitions of each exercise for the circuit, and repeat the circuit three times. You may not have full range of motion, but it should improve each time you complete the circuit. Focus on how your body feels, and strive for personal improvement.

Shoulder Mobility

Kneeling Shoulder Flexion/Thoracic Extension Stretch

  1. Kneel in front of a chair. Grasp the dowel with palms up and hands approximately one hand-length apart.
  2. Place both elbows toward the end of the chair seat.
  3. Shift back your knees until you can drop your head between your biceps without your head touching the chair.
  4. Continue to lower your head and chest toward the floor until you start feeling restriction through the spine.
  5. Take deep breaths while in this position, and do not force the stretch.

Tip: Make sure the chair is stable.
Challenge: Add a five-second contraction to the stretch by pressing down your elbows and tightening through your abdominal and latissimus dorsi muscles. After the contraction, relax into the stretch.

Seated Wall Shoulder Press with Dowel

  1. Sit on the floor, a yoga block or a box, and place your entire back in contact with a wall or sturdy vertical structure, with your legs either crossed, in butterfly position (soles of the feet together) or with knees slightly bent and feet flat on the floor. To make full contact with your spine, you may need to modify your leg position or elevate your seat.
  2. Grasp a dowel with an overhand grip, and position the elbows at a 90-degree angle.
  3. Start with the dowel on top of your head and with arms and hands in contact with the wall.
  4. With your arms and spine maintaining contact with the wall, straighten your arms to press the dowel overhead.

Challenge: Place your hands closer together with each repetition.

Back Scratch Dynamic Stretch with Dowel

  1. In a tall kneeling position, grasp the dowel in one hand and bring it over your shoulder. With your other hand, reach behind your back and grasp the dowel vertically so that the back of your hand is in contact with your lower back.
  2. Maintaining head, mid-back and tailbone contact with the dowel, walk your hands toward each other until you feel a slight stretch in your arms and shoulders.
  3. Still maintaining contact with the dowel, squeeze together your shoulder blades, bringing your elbows toward each other.
  4. Hold for three to five seconds.

Challenge: Perform this exercise while bent over with the dowel maintaining contact with the head, mid-back and tailbone.

Hip/Back Extensors with Shoulder Mobility

Prone Limb Lift with Dowel

  1. Lie on your stomach with your arms overhead.
  2. Grasp the dowel with palms down and hands approximately shoulder-width apart.
  3. Keeping your elbows straight, press one end of the dowel into the floor while simultaneously lifting the opposite hand and the leg opposite the raised hand.
  4. Lift with the opposite arm and leg.

Tip: Brace your core by pushing the abdominals into the floor. Lift the foot by contracting the glutes with toes pointed; keep the other foot flexed with toes pressed into the floor.
Challenge: Perform with palms-up grip.

Shoulder/Ankle Mobility, Improved Hip/Knee Extensor Strength

Static Squat with Overhead Dowel Reach

  1. Stand with the insteps of your feet in line with your armpits.
  2. Grasp the dowel overhand with your elbows at 90-degree angles, and rest the dowel across your shoulders behind your head.
  3. Perform a half squat, keeping the knees aligned over the toes.
  4. Hold the half squat, and press the dowel overhead until the elbows are straight.
  5. Return the dowel to the resting position, and stand up.

Tip: Avoid throwing the dowel behind the shoulders. Imagine pulling the dowel outward as you press and keep the dowel directly over the top of your head. While squatting, keep pulling the dowel outward, and squeeze your lats until the dowel meets the back of your shoulders.

NOTE: To avoid an increased risk of decompression sickness, DAN® recommends that divers avoid strenuous exercise for 24 hours after making a dive. During your annual physical exam or following any changes in your health status, consult your physician to ensure you have medical clearance to dive.

© Alert Diver — Q3 Summer 2019