Susceptibility of the shoulder to injury
To strengthen and stabilize the shoulder which should increase athletic performance and reduce the occurrence of injuries, multiple areas of development must be considered. The shoulder complex is unique in that it allows for a 360° rotation in both the frontal and sagittal planes and as a result of such full range of movement, the shoulder is very susceptible to injury for those athletes who fully extend the rotating arm at high velocities.
Protecting the shoulder joint
It is necessary to develop strength, mobility, and stability in the shoulder joint and surrounding musculature. Initially, good flexibility and basic strength in the muscles anterior and posterior to the shoulder are of primary importance. Muscle and tendon strength in the pectorals, infraspinatus, supraspinatus, teres minor, teres major, serratus anterior, and subscapularis must be developed for shoulder stabilization. Upon developing this stabilizing strength, good flexibility must be created with the proper stretching techniques to handle the extreme extension and rotation at the joint when throwing or striking an object. Thoracic spine mobility exercises are essential for increased range of motion and for the transference of forces to that portion of the spine designed for such movements. For example, these movements can be visualized when examining the serve of a tennis player, a spike from a volleyball player, or the throwing motion of a baseball pitcher.
Strengthening the shoulder
Stabilizing by strengthening the supporting musculature, increasing flexibility and mobility, then strengthening the primary movers should be the developmental sequence for overall shoulder strengthening. A sample routine has been provided which will demonstrate an effective means for developing strong shoulders allowing for an increased resistance to injury and an increase in athletic performance.
Sample strengthening routine
1. Shoulder mobility and stability
a) Arm circles – frontal plane (15-20 for each arm)
- sagittal plane (same number of repetitions)
b) Thoracic spine mobility series (see video)
c) Shoulder warm up series (perform 2 circuits)
- Open cans 1 x 10
- Internal-external rotation 1 x 10
- Scarecrows 1 x 10
- Halos 1 x 6 in each direction
d) Turkish 1/2 get-ups – alternate hands for 4 minutes
2. Shoulder strengthening
- 1 arm kettlebell clean and press 3 ladders of 4 3 x (1,2,3,4) Superset with weighted pull ups
- Arnold dumbbell presses 3 x 8
- Incline bench press supersetted with inverted rows 3 x 8
- Cable face pulls 3 x 10