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Brian Schiff’s Blog

Injury Prevention, Sports Rehab & Performance Training Expert

Tag: shoulder stability

This exercise is intended for advanced users who want or need to increase shoulder, core and hip stability, while also seeking to improve hip disassociation. The core must function in an anti-extension and anti-rotation fashion throughout which is a safe and effective way to target those muscles while also providing a demanding strengthening exercise for the upper body and hips.

With that said, sufficient upper body strength is a must for this exercise.  Clients with wrist pain/weakness or elbow and shoulder pathology should only perform this exercise provided they have are symptom free and have moved through the following progressions. In many cases, it is best to start with tall planking and leg lift progressions on the floor before trying this exercise.

The video below will review the exercise in one of my latest columns for PFP Magazine.

Many of my clients need to improve shoulder and pillar stability.  Combating poor glenohumeral and scapular stability and insufficient trunk stability is a must to reduce injury risk, resolve shoulder and back pain and eliminate compensatory motion with exercise, sport and life.

The following two exercises are “go to” ones I utilize to do just this.

Plank Push-ups

Stir the Pot

The links above are for two recent exercise columns I authored for PFP Magazine.  These exercises include load bearing using the client’s bodyweight and include progressions and regressions.

Increasing shoulder, torso and hip strength and stability is a common training goal for athletes involved in sport.  Facilitating hip disassociation and kinetic chain linking with exercise is always a plus.  I like to use a diagonal mountain climber with hip extension to accomplish these objectives. More specifically, I utilize this exercise with my overhead athletes and anyone involved in cutting, pivoting and rotational sports.

Begin in a tall plank position.  The hands should be beneath the shoulders with the feet on the floor and shoulder width apart.  Slowly bring the left knee/hip under the body and toward the right elbow.  Pause at the end point prior to losing form or control.

Next, return the left leg toward the start position and up into full hip extension in one continuous movement.  Pause at the top end of available hip extension and repeat the cycle for 10 repetitions or time on the same leg.  Alternate legs and perform 2-3 sets on each side.

Sufficient upper body strength and core/hip stability in a 3 point position is necessary to perform the exercise correctly.  At no time should the foot of the moving leg touch the floor or be used to balance the body.  As far as a pace, I feel using a 1/1/1/1 cadence works best.

This exercise is an excellent way to promote shoulder, core and hip stability while facilitating hip disassociation as well.  Driving the hip back up into extension will activate the gluteals and simultaneously force the stable (fixed) hip to stabilize the pelvis and counterbalance the movement pattern. In addition, the client will have to effectively activate the hip and abdominal musculature throughout to avoid unwanted pelvic tilt/rotation during the movement.

Click here to view the full video of this exercise I did for my ‘Functionally Fit’ column for PFP Magazine.

I readily admit I have had an aversion to abdominal exercises that involve straight leg lowering since my days in pee wee football where we were forced to do lifts and holds a few inches above the ground.  Some will relate to a modern day version of this exercise known as “six inches.”

As someone with tight hip flexors and who has personally suffered from sciatica in the past, I am NOT a fan of abdominal training that exposes the lumbar spine to large loads and undue risk related to exercises that involve long levers (e.g. throw downs, scissors, etc) and place high shear force on the spine.

I was reminded of why I feel this way in a fitness class this past week.  I take a cycle/core class at my local gym and have done a traditional spinning class twice per week for 3 years.  After 45 minutes of cycle, we move to a fitness room for core.  I have done this new format for three weeks. This week we were asked to do a series of exercises which included “banana rolls.” If you are unfamiliar with this move, check out You Tube for some video demos.

While this exercise may be effective for core strengthening, I can honestly say as one who has never done the move before that trying to execute it as part of a continuous sequence of movements without rest between the moves was very hard to do with proper form.   The fatigued state encouraged using momentum and straining to simply get the movement done (not to mention the fact my greater trochanter was sore from the rolling on the hard aerobic floor).

The next day I woke up with low back pain.  My back has not hurt like that in years.  In light of the role the iliopsoas plays by virtue of its attachment on the lumbar spine, we must consider the impact of reverse muscle action and how it creates shear on the lumbar spine during movements that rely on stabilization with the legs extended against gravity.  Additionally, for those clients like me with muscle tightness, increased lumbar lordosis and a history of low back disorders, health and fitness professionals must consistently evaluate safety and efficacy as well as trying to challenge clientele in a workout session.

For all of these reasons, I increasingly rely on neutral spine anti-extension and anti-rotation training exercises in my programming for athletes and clients of all ages and abilities.  That is not to say I never do rotational or active movements.  They are appropriate given the right order, progression and demands of the respective individual. I just think we must consider form and risk versus reward in exercise programming.

The exercise video below illustrates how to use sliders in a tall plank position to accomplish great core activation and hip/shoulder stability without stressing the lumbar spine with long lever movements. Keep in mind that quality should override quantity in terms of deciding repetition schemes. Do not let the desire to fatigue clients cause form to suffer as this may increase injury risk.

For more specifics on the execution and progression/regression of this particular exercise, click the link below to read my most recent exercise column for PFP Magazine.

Tall plank shoulder circles

Suffice it to say I will not be doing banana rolls again. While I am not completely discarding the exercise, I do think it should be done in a non-fatigued state and taught incrementally if done at all. Most importantly, we as fitness professionals must always remember to program exercises based on fatigue and skill level, while carefully weighing risk versus reward in group or individual sessions.

I work with several overhead athletes ranging from swimmers and tennis players to professional baseball pitchers.  One consistent issue I see is tightness in the anterior chest wall coupled with poor scapular activation and stability.  For that reason, I often turn to snow angel exercises.  I wanted to share two variations I have written on before.  The first version utilizes a foam roller.  The movement is performed throughout a full arc of movement upward and downward.

foam-roller-snow-angel-start

Top position

foam-roller-snow-angel-finish

Bottom position

Click here for more details on the execution of this exercise

This is an excellent exercise that can be integrated as part of a warm-up/movement prep session as well as used in recovery and the cool-down to address soft tissue tightness in the chest, facilitate proper posture and encourage scapular retraction and depression.

I often use this exercise in combination with pec minor myofascial release and thoracic spine extension mobilization on the roller.  It is a staple in all of my rehab and prehab programs with all of my overhead athletes.

The second version involves moving to an upright position and can prove more challenging.  The exercise is also designed to promote scapular stability.  When done properly, the client will demonstrate proper upward rotation (avoid tipping and winging of the scapula) on the ascent, and then emphasize recruitment of the rhomboids and lower trap to achieve proper downward rotation on the descent.

It can be a very fatiguing activity and somewhat frustrating for clients when starting out.  Be sure to cue them accordingly, and let them know it may not be easy to keep full contact.  It may also be necessary to utilize soft tissue mobilization for the pecs/lats as well as stretching beforehand to promote a more normal movement pattern.

Start position

Top position

Mid position

Mid position

Finish position

Bottom position

In this anti-gravity version fatigue becomes more of an issue, so emphasizing quality movement and using less repetitions may be indicated.  Do not push through any painful motion.

Click here for more details on the execution of this exercise

I always look for exercises that allow me to actively elongate traditionally short muscles while encouraging proper muscle activation of weak/poorly recruited muscles.  This exercise does just that.  If you are interested in the impact of pec minor tightness and shoulder impingement, check out the article from JOSPT below:

The effect of long versus short pectoralis minor resting length on scapular kinematics in healthy individuals