Friday, March 16, 2012

Ideas for a Healthy Shoulder, Part 1

Adam Wolfe recently asked
how I keep my shoulder "healthy, strong, and throwing far"
via my facebook page. I'm going to start off by saying pre-habilitation is much better than re-habilitation! Doing any number of these exercises in an effort to scare off shoulder problems before they start is something any kind of thrower won't regret! There are sort of two categories to my answer; exercises I've been told to do to maintain a healthy shoulder, and things I believe help my shoulder every day, even if I didn't know they would at first.

Most javelin throwers are (hopefully) familiar with basic Thera-band exercises designed to build strength in the shoulder. Watch this video to see flexion and abduction exercises demonstrated. I like that this guy emphasizes keeping the thumb up, as this is what people I trust have told me! Also try these at a 45-degree angle to your shoulder (if straight forward is 0 and straight out to the side is 90), again keeping the thumb up. This video demonstrates internal and external rotation exercises. It's really important to only use your shoulder to do these motions; keep your core strong. In the past, I have done these both as part of a workout and to warm up for throwing. The volume and resistance can be higher (as long as form is good) if you're doing them purely for strength, say at the end of a workout. I only do one set of 10 or so (quality!) repetitions each if I'm warming up to throw.

The resistance band exercises above are for shoulder stability, but shoulder mobility is important for staying healthy, too! Chris Garcia, one of the athletic trainers here at the center, has worked with me this year on some moves that I would never have thought of. They're designed for general upper back/shoulder flexibility and control.
1. Arm Slides: Lie on your back, with feet on the floor and knees up. Keeping your back pressed to the floor, place fingertips next to your ears, with elbows about 2-2.5 inches away from each other above your face. Slide your fingertips up, keeping your elbows the same distance away from each other the whole time. Return to start, and repeat 5-10 times. Only go as far up with your fingertips as your technique (elbow proximity) allows! The more mobility you get, the further away from your head your fingertips will get.
2. Reach, Roll and Lift: Sit on your knees on the floor, resting your butt on your flat feet. If this is already something you can't do, stretch your quads! Lean forward to rest your forehead on the floor and reach your arms long above your head, placing hands flat on the ground. Next, roll your outstretched hands so they're facing the ceiling and the backs of them are resting on the ground. Keeping your upper back flat, everything else motionless and your arms straight, lift one hand at a time straight up as far as you can. Do 5-10 repetitions for each arm.

We did a lot of gymnastics last year, and while I don't think the high bar did much for me because I was not good at any serious skills, I really felt the benefit of the rings, and am doing them again this block. The ring exercises we do are simply supporting body weight for 20 or more seconds, marching hands forward and backward (alternating) while supporting your weight, pumping hands in and out laterally, and doing small circles inward and outward. You can also do dips on the rings, short body swings back and forth, and muscle-ups if you're ready for that! This guy is really serious about ring strength, and he has a very messy room! I also really like skin-the-cats on the rings. Bonus: These work your core, too! Javelin throwers tend to have flexible shoulders, so it's kind of gross how extended you can get at the end of the movement! Photo below by Donald Miralle for ESPN the Magazine.

The most javelin-specific exercises that help my shoulders get strong are medicine ball throws. Heavy handheld ball throws are good too, but I don't want to recommend them because maintaining good technique is essential to getting the right benefit out of them (and that's true for everything, haha, but especially this). I have heavy and medium-heavy medicine ball throws this block, simply holding the ball with straight arms over my head, stepping into a block and throwing forward with both hands while maintaining a good, high chest position. These get more than just your shoulders ready for throwing, so they are awesome! There are variations to them too, like this (just keep your arms straighter and have a more solid block than that guy, please).

I'll be back tomorrow with some more notes on exercises that I didn't expect to help my shoulder, but really have! Everything I described in this post is what has been prescribed to me by coaches, athletic trainers and similar authority figures. Finding the right mix of techniques for keeping your shoulder healthy takes some trial and error, and doesn't have to be overwhelming. Pick and choose the exercises you like and think will work best for you!


  1. Once you have a good idea of the various features youe looking for in your ideal fitness machine and have a fixed budget in mind, buying an abdominal exercise machines shouldn't be too hard.

  2. haha thanks Jeanette! I tend to not show them off. :)