How to Keep Your Shoulders Healthy, Part 2: Shoulder Stability

April 20, 2012

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As an athlete, your shoulder is one of your most often used joints. It suffers the brunt of contact from tackles, body checks and simply falling to the ground.

In Part 1 of this series, we discussed how improving mobility in your mid-back (thoracic spine) can alleviate many shoulder problems. We also presented a few corrective exercises designed to improve mobility in the mid-back. This article will focus more on preventative measures by addressing shoulder stability.

Shoulder Stability

The shoulder is arguably the most complex joint in the human body. It consists of three bones—the humerus (upper arm), clavicle (collarbone) and scapula (shoulder blade); nearly 20 muscles; and a web of ligaments and other connective tissue. The shoulder's complex architecture permits a great deal of mobility; however, the tradeoff is a lack of stability and support, leading to a higher risk of injury.

Fortunately, shoulder stability can be improved by strengthening the supporting muscles that act on the scapula, including the serrated anterior and lower trapezius. Strengthening these muscles improves stability in the shoulder blades, allowing them to maintain a natural, neutral position. This permits the rotator cuff muscles to move freely without restriction, reducing the risk of damaging impingement. You may also see improvements in upper-body strength and pitching velocity.

The exercises below will help you reap the benefits of shoulder stability. Perform them once or twice a week during your upper-body workouts.

Scapular Floor Slide

  • Lie with back on floor and head resting on towel
  • Extend arms straight to sides, in line with shoulders
  • Bend elbows to achieve 90-degree angle and press back of hands against floor
  • Pull elbows to sides as if performing Pull-Up
  • Straighten elbows to return to starting position
  • Repeat for specified reps

Sets/Reps: 2x12-20

Tennis Ball I, Y, T Series
Perform in circuit fashion.

  • Lie face down on incline bench set at 30-degree angle
  • Place rolled-up towel or folded shirt between top of head and bench

I

  • Grasp tennis ball in hands with thumbs facing ceiling
  • Extend arms straight overhead, in line with body
  • Pinch shoulder blades together and drive hands rearward
  • Hold for one second
  • Relax shoulder blades and lower to starting position

Y

  • Grasp tennis ball in hands with thumbs facing ceiling
  • Extend arms straight to sides in line with shoulders
  • Pull elbows to sides as if performing Pull-Up, keeping arms in line with body
  • Hold for one second
  • Straighten elbows to return to starting position

T

  • Grasp tennis ball in hands with thumbs facing ceiling
  • Extend arms straight to sides in line with shoulders
  • Pinch shoulder blades together and drive hands rearward
  • Hold for one second
  • Relax shoulder blades and lower to starting position

Sets/Reps: 2×5-8 each exercise

Med Ball Wall Push-Up

  • Place hands against two lightweight med balls (approximately two to four pounds) positioned on wall at elbow level
  • Press against med balls and turn hands as if screwing med balls into wall
  • Perform Push-Up; keep core tight and body in straight line

Sets/Reps: 2×10-15

Photo:  rockmnation.com

Joe Giandonato, MS, CSCS, is the head strength and conditioning coach at Germantown Academy in Fort Washington, Pa. He has authored numerous articles on a wide variety of topics, including injury prevention, nutrition and improving athletic performance.

Joe Giandonato
- Joe Giandonato, MS, CSCS, is the head strength and conditioning coach at Germantown Academy in Fort Washington, Pa. He has authored numerous articles on a...
Joe Giandonato
- Joe Giandonato, MS, CSCS, is the head strength and conditioning coach at Germantown Academy in Fort Washington, Pa. He has authored numerous articles on a...
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