Overhead activities such as throwing require proper sequencing of different body parts.¬†¬† The lower body, trunk, shoulder, arm, and hands are considered links in a chain.¬† If any of these links are not functioning properly, the chain is compromised.¬† Effectively using the body as a kinetic chain maximizes overhead athletic performance and reduces injury risk.¬† Shoulder rehabilitation programs now integrate the kinetic chain theory for a broader approach versus focusing only on isolated muscles.
Exercises targeting the shoulder muscles receive a great deal of attention in overhead athletes and rightfully so.¬† The rotator cuff and scapular muscles are important for dissipating high forces created from throwing.¬† However, most of the energy created during throwing occurs from the lower body and trunk.¬† Weak links in the lower body often result in additional stress to the shoulder and elbow during throwing.¬† Therefore, including exercises that incorporate all links of the kinetic chain are beneficial.
Lower body exercises such as the squat and lunge can be integrated with common shoulder rehabilitation exercises.¬† Total body exercises which incorporate resistance bands or tubing are ideal for integrating links of the kinetic chain.¬† This article described only 3 exercise examples.¬† However, there are many other variations which can be developed based on the athlete’s profile and goals.
Overhead Squat with ‚ÄúY‚ÄĚ
Stand holding a resistance band in both hands with the shoulders flexed and elbows straight.¬† Perform an overhead ‚ÄúY‚ÄĚ by raising both hands with the elbows straight. ¬†¬†Maintain this overhead ‚ÄúY‚ÄĚ position as you perform an overhead squat.¬† Try to reach a maximum depth of the squat without compromising the upper-body position.¬† Maintain the overhead ‚ÄúY‚ÄĚ until completion of the set.¬† Perform 8 to 10 repetitions per set.¬† This exercise integrates the gluteus maximus, rotator cuff, low back muscles, and trapezius.
Lunge with ‚ÄúT‚ÄĚ
Stand holding a resistance band in both hands with the shoulders flexed and elbows straight.¬† Perform a ‚ÄúT‚ÄĚ with both arms by pulling the hands and shoulder blades back with the elbow straight. ¬†¬†Once in the ‚ÄúT‚ÄĚ position, perform a reverse lunge with one leg.¬† The ‚ÄúT‚ÄĚ position is maintained until one alternating repetition is performed on each leg.¬† Reset the ‚ÄúT‚ÄĚ before completing the next repetition.¬† Perform 6 to 8 slow and controlled repetitions on each side.¬† This exercise activates the gluteus medius, gluteus maximus, lats, and trapezius.
Lateral Band Walk with ‚ÄúW‚ÄĚ
Perform an exaggerated sideways walk with a resistance band just above the knees. Remain in an athletic position keeping the toes pointed straight ahead. ¬†It is important to push the knees apart against the resistance band in order to activate the hip muscles. ¬†The shoulder blade and rotator cuff muscles are activated by using a second resistance band in the hands.¬† Make a ‚ÄúW‚ÄĚ with the elbows in order to achieve scapular retraction.¬† Take 3 steps to the right followed by 3 steps back to the starting position.¬†¬† Also, think about pulling the elbows to the opposite back pocket.¬† Perform 6 to 8 slow and controlled repetitions to each side.¬† This exercise activates the gluteus medius, gluteus maximus, rotator cuff, and lower trapezius.
Combining lower body exercises with traditional shoulder rehabilitation exercises is beneficial for overhead athletes.¬† Muscles throughout the entire body function in a coordinated sequence during baseball and softball throwing.¬† Resistance bands have gained popularity in the baseball and softball communities as part of pre-throwing routines and strength and conditioning programs. These shoulder-focused exercises train only a limited number of links in the kinetic chain.¬† ¬†A wiser approach is to integrate upper body resistance band exercises with dynamic, full-body exercises.¬† Talk to your physical therapist if you are unsure about which exercises are best for you.