In the previous column, I spoke about increasing lateral pillar strength and posterior rotator cuff strength. This exercise expands on the concept of targeting pillar strength and functional shoulder strength. Overhead athletes tend to exhibit less than ideal posterior shoulder strength. This combined with overuse patterns can lead to shoulder pain and dysfunction. Working on integrated shoulder/torso/hip strength and stability will help prevent injuries and improve performance.
Execution: Begin standing in a split squat position with the left foot in front. Anchor one end of the elastic band beneath the left foot. Grasp the other end of the band with the right hand so that there is tension on the band when the right forearm is resting lightly against the outside of the left thigh.
Keeping the torso erect and core actively engaged, slowly externally rotate the right shoulder and lift it diagonally overhead. It will be necessary to adjust tension on the band to ensure it is not too slack or too tight. The trunk may shift with excessive tension or if fatigue sets in. Avoid hyperextension in the lumbar spine, as well as torso rotation throughout the exercise.
Perform 10 repetitions and then switch the lead leg and lift the opposite shoulder. Repeat for 2-3 sets. It may be necessary to regress the exercise by using a lighter band, choosing a dumbbell, or even using no weight at all at first. Increase the resistance and/or repetitions to make the exercise more challenging.
Application: This exercise will improve shoulder and lower extremity strength, while facilitating integrated stability throughout the entire kinetic chain. It is effective for all overhead athletes as it will aid in injury prevention and help eliminate imbalances or asymmetries that exist. The split squat position will challenge and promote hip and lower extremity stability. It will be helpful to provide tactile cues to avoid valgus collapse at the knee or unwanted movement in the thoracic and lumbar spine.