Prevent a Torn Labrum: The Full Body Approach

STACK Expert Mo Skelton prescribes exercises to help athletes avoid suffering a torn labrum.

Torn Labrum Exercise

The labrum is a ring of fibrous cartilage around the shoulder socket that keeps the shoulder flexible and working smoothly. Athletes who play sports with a lot of repetitive shoulder motion—including baseball pitchers, gymnasts and volleyball players—are especially susceptible to torn labrum injuries, which can weaken the shoulder and cause a considerable amount of pain if the tear becomes too severe.

I've put together this workout to strengthen and stabilize your shoulder joints to prevent labrum tears. Do not load the shoulders too much in resistance training, because the added stress can cause tears.

Torn Labrum Program

Shoulder-Specific Prehab Movements

  • Swiss Ball Stir the Pot: With your elbows on a Swiss ball and the rest of your body in a plank position, gently move your elbows in a circular pattern while maintaining core stability.
  • Theraband Walk-Aways: Position your arm in various spots: at the top of the throwing motion, in a golf backswing and in a tennis backhand. Once your arm is in position, grab a Theraband and walk away until the band tenses up. Walk toward and away while keeping the shoulder stable in the functional position.
  • Rhythmic Stabilization Mimic the shape of the letters T, I, Y and W with your arms to move your shoulders into various positions, then have a partner resist you while you try to maintain each position.

Lower-body mobility

When the lower body is stiff, the upper body will compensate.

  • Scorpion Hip Rotation Drill
  • Cossack Squats
  • Lunge with Torso Rotation
  • Squat to Stands

Core stability

A weak core is floppy, and the torso will lean, bend and twist out of position during swinging, throwing or even changing direction. Core stability during athletic movements allows the shoulder to remain in a stable position instead of compensating its position to make up for a core that has moved out of the center of gravity.

  • Split Squat Plate Swings
  • Plank with Arm Lifts and Leg Lifts
  • Quadruped Hip Circles
  • Side Planks with Bottoms-Up Kettlebell Holds with Shoulder in Abduction
  • Superman
  • Reverse Hyperextensions
  • Quadruped Bird Dogs

The following three are extremely effective core exercises but are highly stressful to the shoulder. Take care to stabilize the shoulders, especially the lats, when performing roll outs.

  • Swiss Ball Rollouts
  • Barbell Rollouts
  • Ab Wheel Rollouts

Unstable surface for a stable joint

Training with an unstable surface encourages the use of the small stabilizers that protect the joint.

  • TRX strap - Push-Ups and Inverted Rows
  • Slosh pipe - Overhead Press
  • BOSU - Push-Ups and Planks

Multi-joint upper-body strength (in order of least to most stability required)

  • Floor Presses
  • Band Presses with a block: Allow for more weight, but limit the distance traveled.
  • Incline Dumbbell Presses: Somewhat of a "tweener" exercise. While the incline can be stressful, the lats can be activated a little better to protect the joint by using a lighter load and placing the forearms in neutral.
  • Flat Bench Press: Allows for the most resistance and progression of strength, but also the most challenging to the shoulder joint.

Pulling Variations/Progression

  • Lat Pull-Downs
  • Inverted Rows
  • Band-Assisted Pull-Ups
  • Strict Pull-Ups (but avoid dead hanging; keep the shoulder stabilizers active prior to the pull)

External resistance for the posterior shoulder and scapular stability

  • Seated Cable Rows
  • Cable Face Pulls
  • Bent-Over Barbell Rows
  • Single-Arm Horizontal Abduction

Total Body Strength

When performing heavier resistance exercises, focus on having an extremely firm grip. This helps with shoulder stabilization.

  • Farmer's Walks
  • Goblet Bulgarian Split Squats
  • Good Mornings
  • Cable Pull-Throughs

Deadlift Variations

  • Sumo
  • Standard
  • Romanian

Power development

Coupling strength movements with plyometrics develops increased power.

  • Trap Bar Deadlifts coupled with Double Unders on the jump rope
  • Safety Bar Squats (to protect the loaded joint vs. using the Back Squat) followed by Box Jumps
  • Goblet Lunges followed by Med-Ball Shot Put
  • Lateral Sled Drags followed by Heiden Speed Skater Hops
  • High-Rep Pull-Ups followed by Rear Foot Elevated Hops
  • High-Rep Push-Ups followed by Light Sled Sprints

Upper-body mobility

This should be properly assessed by a professional, but here are some examples of mobility exercises specific to the shoulder.

Posterior shoulder tightness

Many athletes have some level of posterior tightness, but not all. In fact, some labral problems are associated with the posterior side. So torquing the shoulder with the stretches below is not safe. Do not stretch into a significantly painful position.

  • Crossbody Stretch
  • Sidelying Sleeper Stretch
  • Internal Rotation with the Rotator
  • Self-mobilization of the posterior capsule in the plank or quadruped position

Anterior shoulder tightness

If you play softball, baseball, volleyball, or are a quarterback or gymnast, you probably don't have this. But it is important to know where you are tight. If you have anterior (front-side) tightness, try these exercises:

  • Stretch into external rotation with the elbow at shoulder height
  • Quadruped Thoracic Rotation with one hand behind the head
  • Pec Stretch using door frame
  • Biceps Stretch

Training before, after or while you are dealing with a shoulder stability issue is possible, but only with a careful progression of exercise and a cautious approach toward extremes of motion.

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