With hockey season in full swing, football season just ending, and volleyball season about to begin, we want to make sure this point is hammered home about the importance of maintaining a strong, healthy shoulder girdle.  

Here are a few aspects of each sport that make shoulder health so important.  

Hockey/Football are contact sports, and can be very jarring on the shoulders.  If they are not strong enough to withstand significant, recurring impacts, players are vulnerable to many types of contact injuries, and can have seasons and even careers shortened.  After a few shoulder injuries myself, including AC joint issues, and a dislocation, I found an immense value in  strengthening and stabilizing this complex muscle/tissue group.

Volleyball/Baseball- ​​​​​​​​​​​​​Overhead athletes are particularly vulnerable to chronic overuse issues such as tendonosis, and tendonitis, micro tears and complete tears of shoulder muscles and tendons.  The rotator cuff tendons are especially at risk because they move within a very tight space and can often end up rubbing on the acromion and causing impingement.  

These injuries are especially prevalent in players who have coaches who lack the understanding of rep management within a season.  Female volleyball athletes who play on both club and school teams at the same time, and baseball players who don’t have a long enough off-season, are particularly at risk.  ​


Here are 4 tips to strengthen shoulders, and ensure a long and healthy season.  

1. Do pressing movements where the scapula isn’t fixed.

Who doesn’t love a good bench press session? – It’s a very effective exercise that has many uses.
Unfortunately, when benching, your upper back is always pinned to a bench, meaning the shoulder blades can’t move freely. Over time, this may lead to them losing the ability to rotate up to positions you need to do overhead work safely. As such, it’s important to also do other pressing movements where the shoulder blade can move freely.

All push-up variations are great choices, but I think I like landmine presses even more.


2. Improve Rotator Cuff Strength
Doing rotator cuff exercises is like cleaning your gutters; it’s not sexy or fun, but you need to do it or else bad things will happen. Many athletes  just wait to hit the point where the shoulder gets angry, and then figure something is wrong, but by then it’s too late to be proactive.
Train the rotator cuff with some external rotations.  Here’s one of my favourites (you can also use a band instead of a cable):​

3. Row, Row, Row Your Boat

Everyone knows it’s important to do more pulling than pushing in your strength training program. However, many people don’t row properly, nor do they understand that rowing improperly can actually hinder performance.  We love the 1-arm cable row for this reason, as it is hard to mess up.


4. Mobilize the thoracic spine 
Improving posture, and working to engage the muscles of the cuff at the same time is a great way to ensure the shoulders function optimally.  A lot of students and people who work at a desk all day suffer from excessive, even chronic thoracic flexion, so working on extension posture can definitely help.