Corrective Strategies for Overhead Athletes

We all know that the shoulder complex is well…..COMPLEX!  Whenever I talk to coaches, athletes and parents about baseball strength and conditioning, the following question always surfaces.  “My shoulder has really been hurting….Is there anything I can do?”  I respond in the same manner every time.  Pull more than you push!  Skeptical?  Here’s why!

What most of us don’t realize is that everything we do in life is anterior plane dominant.  Typing on the computer, eating meals, driving our automobiles, vacuuming. The list goes on and on.  What happens when you combine an anterior dominant life with anterior dominant sports?  DYSFUNCTION!  If you are a Strength and Conditioning Professional or Physical Therapist you probably just cringed a bit hearing that word.  Dysfunction is a nightmare to diagnose and treat.  This is why I have created a diagnosis table to avoid shoulder dysfunction in my baseball athletes.  If you train baseball, softball, shot-put, discus or javelin athletes take the following guidelines and apply it.  Believe me, it helps!  Your athletes will start to feel better, train better and throw better. Ahhhh…I love the totem pole effect!

1."Caveman”- This is the most common postural distortion in throwing athletes.  It is exhibited when the arms fall forward and directly into the anterior plane.  When this occurs a muscle imbalance is clearly evident.  The overdeveloped/tight muscles are the latissimus dorsi, pec major/minor and the teres major.  The underdeveloped/weak muscles are the middle/lower traps, rhomboids and rotator cuff.  SMR and static stretches should be performed on the latissimus dorsi and pectoralis major/minor.  Strength training exercises should be utilized to isolate the middle/lower traps, rhomboids and rotator cuff.  I recommend the following exercises to strengthen these areas:

Single-Leg Balance Row, 3-pt DB Row, Incline DB shrug, Unilateral DB Shrug, Bent Over Rows, DB Bent Raise, Low External Rotations with Thera Band Tubing, Pitchers with Thera Band Tubing and internal/external rotation isometric wall push.

2.  “Arnold Syndrome”-   This is another asymmetric deficiency which I have found to be very noticeable in side arm throwers.  An athlete with “Arnold Syndrome” will not be able to extend their arms completely.  Their elbows will be flexed consistently which makes it difficult to keep the arms next to the side of the body.  In most cases, the lower arm will remain in front of the abdominal region. The overdeveloped/tight muscles are the pectoralis major and biceps brachii (Long head).  The underdevopeloped/weak muscle groups are the middle/lower trapezius, triceps brachii and rotator cuff.  SMR and static stretches should be performed on the perctoralis major.  Along with SMR and Static stretching, strength training exercises should be used to isolate the middle/lower traps, triceps brachii and rotator cuff.  I recommend the following exercises to strengthen these areas:

Incline DB Shrug, Unilateral DB Shrug, Low External Rotations with Thera Band Tubing, Skull Crushers, Single Arm Push Downs, Diamond Push Ups on Med Ball/Dyna Disc, Pitchers with Thera Band Tubing, Internal/External rotation isometric wall push, T with Internal Rotation (DB’S) and Lying Lateral DB Raise.

These two postural deficiencies should be corrected immediately because poor posture (especially slouching) narrows the space that the rotator cuff tendons pass through in the shoulder joint which will result in dysfunction or injury!  When training the body, take a methodical approach.  Highlight specific muscle groups that are used to perform essential biomechanical movements for each athlete you train.  The opposing or neighboring muscle groups that are not prime movers are what I call “make or break” muscle groups. These “make or break” muscle groups are the foundation for your athlete’s injury prevention programs. 

Stay Healthy!

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