Super Simple and Effective Way to Improve Shoulder Health and Internal Rotation

So, I’m guessing that most of you have seen this exercise.  It isn’t sexy or fancy, but it is effective for a few reasons that may be new for you.

1 – Having adequate internal rotation range of motion is important during the snatch and clean and jerk…
elbow high outsideSpecifically in the elbow high and outside portion of the lift.  If we’re lacking shoulder internal rotation then when we try to get into this position either:
  1. The bar comes away from the body, which is not ideal for performance
  2. The shoulder protracts – decreasing subacromial space and potentially aggravating structures that lie in the subacromial space (Supraspinatus, biceps tendon, bursa).  Too much of this may lead to our friend subacromial impingement syndrome
Fortunately for us, utilizing a full range of motion and stressing the eccentric (lowering) portion of the lift will help create additional shoulder mobility into internal rotation.  This will improve our snatch position and help decrease shoulder stress.  I even like to pause at the bottom of the lift and relax (exhaling) to create a bit more range of motion.
Having limited shoulder internal rotation may also be a sign of stiffness in the posterior shoulder.  This often occurs in throwers and is a researched phenomenon.  The thought is that decelerating the arm during the follow through of so many throws will tighten up the posterior shoulder (The posterior shoulder is responsible for the safe deceleration of the arm after the follow through of a pitch).
My own thoughts are that lowering barbells from overhead (specifically controlling a snatch from overhead to waist level) for multiple touch and go reps mimics a similar stress seen in pitchers.  We’re constantly decelerating barbells from overhead.  Now, this is from my own personal experience (not an evidence based phenomenon) but it does make sense that a lot of barbell work can tighten up our posterior shoulders.  This tightness in theory may alter the ball in socket mechanics (potentially pushing the ball forward in the socket) leading to additional impingement symptoms.   Seated dumbbell external rotation may help to combat this as part of a well rounded shoulder health program.
2 – This movement promotes stability in the shoulder for lowering barbells from overhead
As weightlifters, we’re constantly lowering barbells from overhead.  This holds especially true for touch and go reps.  In the snatch, when lowering the barbell from overhead to waist level the rotator cuff and posterior scapular musculature have to work very hard to control motion within the shoulder joint.  The same thing occurs when lowering the bar from the front rack to waist level in the clean.
This is similar to the rotator cuff and scapular musculature needing to stabilize the shoulder joint during the follow through of a pitch.
This exercise mimics the lowering position of the snatch from overhead thus promoting shoulder stability during the lift.  Because of this we’re making our shoulders more resilient to all of the lowering of barbells to waist level and subsequently to the floor.
Give these a try and let me know what you think.  If you know someone who could benefit from this exercise then give it a share.
Super Cuff,
Dan Pope DPT, CSCS via Fitness Pain Free


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