Shoulder stabilization exercises

The American Medical Association guides note that a normal shoulder accounts for 60 percent of upper-extremity function. Modern orthopedic texts list 16 different shoulder movements and the scapula is involved in 14 of them.

The obvious importance of this area cannot be overstated. At least 17 different muscles have attachments to the scapula, as well as many others that affect either scapular movement or stability.

What are we saying here? In short, the scapula is important! It's important to stabilize the scapula to ensure joint integrity. We use the subtitle "Tornado-proof arm movement" to help you conceptualize the powerful movements that roll through the landscape of your shoulder girdle. The amount of activity, instability, and raw force that travels through this region can match the intensity of any Wizard of Oz tornado.

Following these exercises will help establish a basement-like foundation when the rotation begins.

Perform a three set, 12-, 10-, and 8-rep scheme, increasing the weight with each successive set. Each exercise should be performed in a superset manner, coupled with an opposing muscle group exercise.


The pullover is one of our personal favorites. There are many options to choose from when performing this exercise. One of the more popular ways is shown in Figure 1, with one dumbbell in both hands while lying on a bench; the hands are cupped under one end of the dumbbell and held over the chest for the starting point.

Figure 1: Pullovers

Slowly lower the dumbbell behind your head toward the floor while keeping the arms slightly bent at the elbows. Lower your arms until they are level with your ears and then return to the starting point smoothly and under control. Remember to keep your hips up and pull your belly button in; don't arch your back or let it sag.

If you've never performed this exercise, begin by lying on your back on the floor and hold a dumbbell in each hand. Execute the movement the same way you would from the bench. This option is a good one because the floor offers feedback as to how far you should lower the weight, and having a dumbbell in each hand requires a bit more activation from the stabilizers and neutralizers of the shoulder.


The V-pull is another excellent choice to help stabilize the scapula and incorporate shoulder/back movement. Begin in the middle of a cable machine that has pulleys on each side; kneel down while grasping the handles on each side. Pull the elbows down toward the small of your back while keeping your palms facing forward, and return to start position.

Figure 2: V-pulls

Be sure to squeeze your shoulder blades together as your elbows near the small of the back. Don't let your forearms collapse forward while you're pulling down. As always, pull your abs in and keep a neutral spine.

Seated rotational row

Similar to the conventional seated row, pull handle toward upper chest while raising (shrugging) the shoulders. Rotate your shoulders back and down keeping the handle close to your body as you lower and return to the start position.

Figure 3: Seated rotational row

Rotating while performing this exercise is a great way to engage the upper and middle back, which houses the all-important musculature that helps stabilize the scapula.

All exercises shown in this article can be found in the DVD: The Next Level, Strength Training for Endurance Athletes. For more information, visit

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