Updated: Apr 10
There are several overhead sports including volleyball, tennis, lacrosse, and baseball. Each of these sports require our shoulders to produce a lot of power over and over again. It is not uncommon to experience shoulder pain at some point in your athletic career that either limits your play or ability or takes you out of the game altogether.
The good news is, there are many things that you can do to prevent shoulder pain and also make your overhead swing or throw more powerful and with greater velocity. In this blog, we’re going to discuss a few ways to enhance your performance while decreasing your risk for injury. Let’s check it out!
Building Shoulder Strength
Shoulder strength comes from the contraction of several muscles. We have small shoulder stabilizers and also bigger shoulder muscles which assist with lots of movements. The rotator cuff is probably the most important muscles for our shoulders because they provide rotational strength and also stability around the shoulder joint. They are also the most commonly injured due to their anatomy as the tendons cross through our shoulder blades to insert onto our humerus (arm bone).
Our posture has a lot to do with creating inflammation and repetitive stresses on the rotator cuff and simply focusing on your shoulder blade position throughout the day and with sport-specific movements can decrease your chances of injuring it. To increase our ability to maintain good upright posture, strengthening our bigger back muscles like our lats and lower traps is also of importance. If you're not sold on this "posture stuff," check out my post "Posture: Does it Really Affect Us?" to gain more insight as to how poor posture can affect you.
The shoulder was created to move through several planes of motion and also to do it repetitively as we reach and lift objects all day every day. Therefore, in order to strengthen the shoulder muscles you want to focus on increased repetitions with a moderate to heavy weight while able to maintain good posture and form. Complete shoulder strengthening a minimum of 3x/week.
Depending on your sport, you will want to include different movements that mimic what you do, but general postural and rotator cuff strengthening is a must for all overhead athletes. If you want to learn a few of my favorite shoulder strengthening exercises, you can check them out in my previous blog “Shoulder Pain in Sports”.
Building Shoulder Power
When looking to build power in your shoulders, or how much force you can produce over time, you should focus on shoulder strengthening exercises with increased speed and decreased reps. Your weight will be slightly higher, but still able to maintain correct posture and technique.
Overhead athletes need to strengthen in the positions that they will use the most during play, for example:
90/90 external rotation with a resistance band,
All of these exercises work on strengthening, power and overhead technique.
Increasing Velocity in the Shoulder
The overall goal in your overhead sport is to hit or throw the ball with increased velocity in order to make it harder for your opponent. To increase velocity the focus of your training will be on increasing both strength and power through the above mentioned techniques, but with increased weight to the point of fatigue, but right before your form goes downhill.
Resistance bands are a great way to increase velocity because they allow you to move through the throwing/hitting motion while strengthening. It is easy to progress through resistance levels and also focus on your form while watching yourself in a mirror or having someone assist you.
Incorporating core and hip strength into your throw and hit will also help you increase velocity. We can only create so much power through our shoulders, but if we also contract the muscles of our core and glutes we gain that much more power. It is important to include whole body strengthening in your training and learn how to incorporate these muscles in your throw.
Individual and Team Training
Did you know that I offer strength and conditioning and injury prevention training for individuals and teams? You don’t have to hurt or have an injury to work with a physical therapist. We are movement specialists who are doctors in our field. I can watch you move and anticipate what might be weak, tight, or stiff.
The best way to get an idea of how we could work together is either to schedule a No-charge phone consultation OR join my Facebook group: Strength & Conditioning Performance for Metros Atlanta Athletes.