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Every year, coaches tell me one of their top concerns is making sure their athletes stay injury-free. Athletes who compete in “overhead sports”—those that use overhead movements during gameplay, like baseball, softball, volleyball and tennis—must work particularly hard to prevent injury in the vulnerable shoulder region.
As a sports performance professional at the collegiate level, I have my athletes perform prehab as opposed to rehab work. By performing prehab exercises, we try to prevent lower- and upper-body injuries and thus the need for rehab.
With my softball and tennis teams, I begin each workout with prehab shoulder exercises that are both multi-directional and multi-planar, meaning they work all surrounding musculature. These exercises use minimal weight, and the athletes can move with ease.
When training these “overhead sports,” I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel. It’s important for my athletes to realize that even though they play an overhead sport, their power and strength are still generated from the ground up. Lower body and core strength give athletes the necessary tools to execute overhead movements. We do many single-leg and -arm exercises, which develop needed strength and stability, but also help prevent injury.
For tennis and softball, some of my recommended exercises are:
Single-Leg DB Lunges: Keep foot on bench, chest up and knee facing ground
Single-Leg Box Squat: With one leg lifted off ground, sit back to box, then drive up with single leg
One-Arm DB Walk and Press: Walk the length of the weight room pressing DBs with every other step
One-Arm DB Bench with Feet in Air: Keep feet in air and place free hand on hip, not on bench