Healthy Shoulders and Arms (Part 3)… Training the Shoulder

By Nunzio Signore (B.A., CPT, NASM, PES, FMS)

Intro Image 2 - Part 3

In today’s post we are covering Part 3 of Healthy Shoulders and Arms.  In case you missed Part 2 please click here.

The shoulder requires a tremendous amount of strength and mobility to function, making it inherently unstable and prone to injuries.  Rotator cuff surgeries are performed on in excess of 75,000 patients per year in the US.  Improving stability in this region is paramount for overhead athletes and especially pitchers given the undue amount of stress placed on the shoulder.  Although the lower body (especially lead leg Internal rotation) can play a huge role in shoulder mobility and health, for this continuing article we will be dealing with the upper body only.

If you want to throw at your maximum velocity all season long taking care of the shoulder is critical.  In my prior blog on this topic (Part 2 of this series), I covered the first 3 components of a comprehensive shoulder and arm program.  Here, we are going to pick up exactly where we left off at #4:

    1. Breathing (covered in Part 2)
    2. Improving tissue quality (covered in Part 2)
    3. Improving thoracic spine mobility (covered in Part 2)
    4. Improving stability and timing of the rotator cuff and scapula
    5. Creating dynamic stability, putting it all together

4. Improving Stability and Timing of the Rotator Cuff and Scapula:  As I mentioned in Part 1 of this series, stability and strength training of the cuff needs to be done in a balanced manner.

Why: It’s very easy to “overuse” or “over train” the rotator cuff.  Many athletes don’t realize that simply throwing a baseball is strengthening the cuff (this can also be applied to other overhead sports such as swimming, tennis, volleyball etc.).  Working on timing is what gets overlooked.  Here are a few drills we do to help get the job done:

Rhythmic Stabilizations – Stabilizations are a great way to get the cuff to fire quicker and at different points in the pitching delivery.

External rotation (manual resistance) – External rotation is crucial for strengthening the posterior cuff. This is a great drill for improving it in the “lay back” position.

Note: We generally do most of our stability and cuff work prior to strength training or as “fillers” in place of a break in between sets of strength training.

5. Create Dynamic Stability: Now that we’ve created strength, timing and stability in the shoulder we have to make sure we can do it while the arm is in motion!!

The shoulder moves in three planes of motion so while it’s moving in one, it’s stabilizing in the other two. This requires strength, timing of the scapula on the ribcage, and timing of the humerus on the scapula.  Here’s one exercise that puts it all together:

These are a few examples of the way we train the shoulder at RPP, and a snapshot of our Pitcher’s Program (which begins in September, please click here for more on this topic)

As a strength coach I can tell you what movements cause stress on a pitcher’s body, arms and shoulders.  Our program can help reduce that stress.  I am 100% convinced that as we reduce stress/tension in the movements and make a pitcher’s motion more stable and efficient his velocity will rise.  Ever look at major leaguers pitch 90-95 mph.  It looks effortless. Why? Physical and mechanical efficiency.  We can help improve your efficiency, pure and simple.