A volleyball players shoulder is almost as important as Jockey’s horse. If you do not take care of your attacking shoulder you will have a short, frustrating volleyball career. If you wait until you are experiencing shoulder pain to start taking proper care of your shoulder it is too late. You need to be proactive. The purpose of this article is to help educate volleyball players and coaches on preventative exercises to help save as many volleyball shoulders as possible.
I have done physical assessments for 1000’s of volleyball players. It is commonly shown that the attacking shoulder is depressed, the shoulder blade pushed out laterally, and the dorsal muscles and the posterior and inferior part of the shoulder capsule shortened….. blah, blah, blah. There is significant difference in the amount of internal rotation of the attacking (much less) shoulder compared to the non-dominant shoulder. The rotator cuff muscles are also extremely tight.
***Please note that I am describing the typical volleyball shoulder. There are exceptions where athletes should not perform this routine. For instance if you have a hypermobile shoulder, this routine is not for you. If you experience shoulder pain for an extended period of time make sure to get it checked out!
The most common volleyball shoulder injuries are overuse injuries that have been built up over a prolonged period of time. The common overuse injuries are:
Shoulder Tendinitis, Bursitis, and Impingement Syndrome.
These shoulder injuries are closely related. To put it as simply as possible the shoulder blade does not sit in a healthy position and the muscles surrounding the shoulder joint are tight which causes congestion of the tendons, ligaments, and bursa pad that run between the humerus and and the acromion. This congestion is what leads to pain. If these over-use injuries are not properly treated there is an increased chance of suffering a much more serious shoulder injury like a tear in the rotator cuff or labrum.
SO WHAT DO YOU NEED TO DO IN ORDER TO PREVENT THESE SHOULDER ISSUES?
You need to regularly work on the mobility of our shoulder blades, release tight muscles that insert in or around the shoulder joint, and increase the strength of your shoulders (rotator cuff and deltoids) and the muscles in your upper back.
A little further down in the article I have given you three exercises that will significantly help a volleyball player reduce muscle tightness, improve scapular (shoulder blade) mobility, and reduce pain in the shoulders. The best part is, the only piece of equipment necessary is a lacrosse ball or some other type of hard ball. I am also giving you access to five amazing shoulder and upper back strengthening exercises. Click here and then subscribe to receive five shoulder and upper back strengthening exercises.
I regularly use these three exercises on myself and clients that have soft tissue restrictions. Yesterday I had six volleyball players come to my volleyball specific strength training session that played five hours of volleyball earlier in the day. They were all very tight and sore in their shoulders, struggling to get their arm over-head. We spent 60 to 90 seconds on each of the three exercises below. They were all amazed at the immediate reduction in muscle tightness, the improved range of motion, and significant decrease in shoulder discomfort. I received a message from them today and they felt great during their morning volleyball practice. If they did not perform these three exercises they would have been labouring the entire morning session with shoulder pain and lack of mobility.
These three exercises came from a book called Becoming A Supple Leopard, By Dr. Kelley Starrett. It is an amazing book and I highly recommend it to all athletes and coaches that want to properly take care of their body.
When you are performing these soft tissue release exercises you will most likely find that it is a little painful/sore. This is normal. You need to understand the difference in feeling between good pain/soreness versus sharp damaging pain. Most athletes, even at a young age can easily discriminate between the two types of pain. If your muscles are healthy and supple you may notice that the exercises are not painful/uncomfortable, this means that you do not need to perform these exercises. However you may find a few days later these muscle groups have tightened up and they need to be released.
***An assessment by a physiotherapist/AT is always warranted before beginning any type of personal therapy in order to determine the presence of any contraindications or individual risks associated with the routine.
Exercise 1: Lacrosse Ball Smash and Rotator Cuff Release
Exercise 2: Lacrosse Ball Shoulder Rotator Smash and Floss
Exercise 3: Lacrosse Ball Pec Release and Internal Rotators
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