Over the past 2 years I’ve had the privilege of learning under some of the best shoulder care specialists in the US*, and in that time I’ve learned that our approach to shoulder care is disconnected. Literally and figuratively. When I work with young athletes and coaches, my goal is to help them understand a BETTER approach to warming up the shoulder and maintaining shoulder care throughout the season.
1) The shoulder does not work by itself as one unit when we throw. Therefore we need to quit isolating it as 1 unit when we train.
In short, the position of the scap/shoulder is determined by the ability to maintain core stiffness through our mid-section because the scap craves to be attached to the core for stability. And the core is stabilized through a loaded foot on the ground. When our shoulder is connected to the core and the core to the ground through the foot, it moves freely and relaxed, and we all know relaxed equals speed. When the scap can’t find stability through the core and foot–it seeks it elsewhere–forcing muscles/tendons, and ligaments that aren’t designed to sustain such force (the neck, the front of the shoulder, jaw) to do its job. This leads to reduced speeds in pitching, throwing, hitting, as well as increased pain.
So when it comes to shoulder care, we need to understand how to connect the core to the scap/shoulder sling and foot-to train them to work together.
Problem Movements: Internal/external shoulder rotations with a band, Band Pull Aparts (see pics)
My Go-To Movements: Side-lying posterior capsule stretch/hold, 6-Months Hold/Crawling
1) Lie on your side. Stack hips and shoulders on top of each other. Bottom knee at 90 degrees and top knee at 90 degrees. Lift ribs up off the floor so both sides of your torso are parallel to each other. Open the hand of the bottom arm and spread fingers. Gently press the back of the elbow, tricep, and shoulder into the floor as you roll your body over the top of your elbow and knee (these are your anchor points). Think about giving your shoulder socket room to stretch, roll and move in the socket, so keep the ribs elevated as you roll forward DO NOT crunch down on the shoulder, smashing it in the socket.
- Crawling Holds–Lie flat on your stomach on the floor. Hands just in front of the shoulders. Stamp the entire hand into the floor all fingers, included. Keep elbows slightly bent and angled back toward the body (NOT to the sides). Spread the knees out slightly wider than the hips, and put pressure on the inside of the knee joint for support. NOT the top of the knee cap. From there, fill the belly full of air like a balloon and hold it–think the opposite of sucking it in. Imagine you are keeping your spine stiff like a board with this air pressure. From there, think about pressing up into up push-up position with your arms, lifting your chest and head and torso all as 1 unit–stiff like a board. We do not want any dips in our board. Keep the air pressure. Hold this position do not let the scaps sink inward to the floor or round up to the sky. Keep them aligned straight with the shoulders. Keep pushing the floor away with the hands and knees into the floor as support points.
- This should be felt in the abs, shoulders, and back.
2. The patterns we create in our shoulder care exercises and warm-up’s are what the brain and body re-produce on the field.
We need to ensure the patterns and communication we are giving the brain between games and innings is quality–that it is setting the shoulder joint up to be move safely and quickly–in a relaxed state. This is where my issue with band exercises and isolated shoulder movements becomes a problem. Most of the time I see girls completing these exercises very quickly, chatting with friends, slinging the arms around in all directions nervously, as they do their “shoulder care” before a game. Again, if we refer to #1 listed above, we need to ensure the movements are connected through the core and foot, are controlled and slow, and are putting us into a good position, NOT taking us out of one.
Problem Movements: Banded rows, Pulldowns, Y’s/T’s/A’s with bands hooked to fence, core rotations
My Go-To Movements: Shoulder CARS, Wrist CARS, Paloff ISO Holds, Bear Transitions
3. Bands are designed for strengthening, meaning slow and controlled. Medicine Balls are created for power and speed. Make the manipulative match the goal.
As girls are working through their exercises, they want to speed through and get to the fun part of playing catch and hitting BP. BUT, if we are wanting these exercises to be effective, we have to focus on the goal and ask what are we trying to accomplish here. IF shoulder care is the goal, then slow and steady should be the pace. If power/strength is the goal, then higher intensity should be the pace.
Problem Movements: Momentum-Driven Band T’s, W’s, A’s, Pull-Aparts, Rows
My Go-To Movements: Slow Bear Crawling/Transitioning
- Keep shoulders aligned over hands, and hips aligned parallel to the floor. Weight is in the balls of the feet and toes evenly from big toe to little toe and the entire hand is imprinted into the floor-including all fingers. Keep elbows slightly bent and pointed back toward the body. Head is in a straight line with the spine, stiff like a board. While crawling, visualize a cup of water is on the back and it can’t spill off. Go slow and straight, do not let the hips sway side to side.
- Set a timer to force the athletes to slow down, cue: “Crawl 20′ and it has to take you 20-sec to get there.”
- Crawl all directions.