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Rapids News · Training Considerations for the Overhead High School Athlete – Presented by Bon Secours

An overhead athlete is anyone whose sport involves arm action over the athlete’s head. Baseball may come to mind initially, but overhead sports can include everything from swimming and volleyball to water polo and tennis. Athletes involved in all overhead sports need careful consideration and guidance when it comes to exercise prescription.

A few key items that need extra attention are:

  • Shoulder mobility
  • Shoulder stability
  • Exercise selection
  • Exercise design variables


Mobility has a place in any well-designed training program. Increased mobility helps enhance soft tissue health, as well as allowing an athlete to perform at his or her highest potential. Additionally, optimal joint mobility plays a key role in injury prevention. This is particularly true for the overhead athlete.

The position in which the overhead athlete must use their arm can put them at risk for shoulder injuries ranging from impingement to rotator cuff injuries. Good mobility in the shoulder and thoracic and cervical spine can have a positive impact on athletic performance and career longevity. Poor mobility in these areas can lead to compensatory patterns, may result in decreased performance and could put them at an increased risk for injury.


The shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint, which helps make it the most mobile joint in the body. But mobility is achieved at the expense of stability. Gray Cook, co-founder of Functional Movement Systems, defines stability as “structural integrity in the presence of full range of motion.” Simply put, the shoulder should be able to maintain stability throughout its entire range of motion.

Training stability of the shoulder improves shoulder health and scapular movement and helps promote balance in the musculature. Consider the stress a pitcher experiences. They throw baseballs at very high velocity hundreds of times each practice, resulting in a great deal of mechanical stress on the anterior shoulder. Thus, it would be wise for any pitcher to emphasize posterior shoulder work to help facilitate balance.


Most well-rounded programs for any athlete will include a resistance training component. Any good program will incorporate proper exercise selection to help improve stability, balance, symmetry, strength and power. Combining each of these characteristics can help improve athletic performance and help decrease injury risk.


Overhead athletes must devote special attention to exercise selection and volume, avoiding any exercises that may put the shoulder in a potentially risky situation. Overhead shoulder presses or overhead Olympic lifts are two examples of workouts that should be avoided.

Creating balance of anterior and posterior musculature is an important factor. Many overhead athletes tend to spend most of their time in a “rounded shoulder” position. A balanced program should include exercises that strengthen the imposing muscles to help maintain balance in the muscles in the upper body.

When participating in overhead sports, proper mobility training must be a priority. The demand of overhead sports places a tremendous amount of stress on the complex muscles of the shoulder.

The large range of motion of the shoulder makes it a joint of high injury risk. However, through careful exercise selection and implementation, a resistance training program for athletes can be safe and effective in increasing athletic performance and decreasing risk of injury.

Whether you’re recovering from an injury or interested in taking steps to prevent injury, you are in good hands with a physical therapist. Visit Bon Secours Orthopedics to learn more and schedule an appointment today.

By Corey Anderson, CSCS

Posted By VNN