The Best Shoulder Exercises – video’s

This final part of the Shoulder Series will look at videos which demonstrate the best exercises and drills that you can do in order to improve performance and decrease the chances of injury.

I have broken shoulder care down into four main categories

  1. Rotator Cuff Strength
  2. Reflexive Rotator Cuff Conditioning
  3. Scapular Stability
  4. Thoracic Spine Mobility

Rotator Cuff Strength

The importance here is that we ensure that each of the individual rotator cuff muscles is strong enough independently so that they can help contribute to shoulder health.  Every baseball player already does a version of the following so it shouldn’t be hard to make the adjustment to doing the best ones.  And please take your time and do them properly – the times that I have seen these exercises being performed poorly highly out numbers the times that I have seen them done properly.

Side Lying External Rotation

The goal here is to simply strengthen the infraspinatus and teres minor.  Try to perform this with a weight rather than a band when possible.

Full Can Exercise

Everytime you perform an exercise you must look at the risks versus the rewards.  The full can offers all of the rewards with none of the risks that accompany the empty can drill so the choice is simple.  The goal is to strengthen the supraspinatus.


This is a great exercise that you will see in the scapular stability section as well.  It strengthens the infraspinatus and teres minor while working on scapular stability – namely lower trap activation.

You can obviously do this one standing up and I recommend that you stand touching the corner of a wall to help you get the feeling of squeezing your shoulder blades together.

Internal Rotation at Zero Degrees

High subscauplaris recruitment but be sure not to turn on the powerful pecs and lats by using perfect form as always.

Reflexive Rotator Cuff Conditioning

I am a Strength & Conditioning coach and I consider the conditioning part of my job to help prepare the athlete for the demands of their sport.  In the case of an overhead athlete it is important to condition the rotator cuff for the act of throwing.  Its role during this activity is to dynamically stabilize the head of the humerus within the glenoid fossa – keep the ball inside the socket.

Here are a couple of videos that demonstrate some drills that force the rotator cuff group to perform its role to dynamically stabilize.

Screw Drivers

This one is being performed with a kettlebell bottoms up which I love – this unstable load forces the muscles of your rotator cuff to fire in order to keep the load from falling.  You can substitute a med ball balancing on your palm.


These kinds of exercises are great but require a training partner.  The training partner provides resistance in multiple directions in an unpredictable manner so that you are forced to reflexively stabilize which again is the goal here.  Ensure that this does not become a game with a winner and loser – the push should be subtle, no slapping noises, and hold the force for a couple of seconds.

Scapular Stability

The scapulothoracic joint should be stable and provide our GH joint with a solid base from which it can generate and transfer extreme levels of power and velocity.  The majority of this stability falls onto the hands of the musculature which must work to keep the scapula in its most optimal position on the thorax.    We are going to target the serratus anterior and lower traps in particular.

Here are some of my favorite exercises to accomplish this goal.

No Money

This exercise makes the list again in another category which means that it must a really good exercise since you’re killing two birds with one stone – scapular stability and rotator cuff strengthening.

See previous No Money Video above

Hand Walk Outs

Anytime you walk on your hands you force the muscles that stabilize your scapula to contract plus you will recruit the “core” to stabilize your trunk which is obviously important to throwing a baseball as hard as you can.

Face Pulls

In this video Strength and Conditioning guru Charles Poliquin discuss a great exercise that he uses to balance out the strength of his athletes.  Most people are too weak in the upper back and the face pull is a great exercise to gain this needed strength.

Standing Cable Row

This is another great exercise to increase rowing strength and the one arm standing version enhances the scapula stability demands of this already great exercise.

Wall Slides

One of my favorites and in my opinion everyone can stand to benefit from.  Make sure that you do this one throughout the day and please do it the right way.  Great tip from my friend Dr. Jeff Cubos is to focus on proper breathing when you reach the end of your range of motion.

Y’s and T’s

This is a great exercise that can be done before any throwing or lifting session.  If you want to do it at the yard please ensure that you perform it with a nice flat back.

Pushup plus

To get a bit more benefit from this exercise try putting your feet up on a bench – this has been shown to increase the recruitment of the serratus anterior.

Thoracic Mobility

The thoracic mobility is an untapped source of potential velocity that many players miss out on because they sit in a hunched over position the majority of the day.  So sit up straight or even better get up and move around a little bit – the best posture is the one that is always changing.  The lack of thoracic mobility can also put you at a higher risk of sustaining an injury to your shoulder.

Thoracic Extension

We sit in thoracic flexion all day so it only makes sense to get into extension.  This low cost piece of equipment – two tennis balls and hockey tape – will pay off big time.

Wall Slides

This exercise is another that falls under multiple catagories so be sure to add it into your daily routine as often as you can.

Thoracic Extension & Rotation

The next piece of the puzzle is to add rotation since you will require this to launch that 5oz baseball over 90+mph.  Below are some of my favorites.

Club/Bat Swinging

Club swinging is making a resurgence back into the strength and conditioning world – I say resurgence because this type of exercise has been around for centuries but some of the smartest people in the exercise community are rediscovering this great form of exercise which really helps improve shoulder function by promoting optimal thoracic mobility.

I don’t own clubs but I have been playing around with small baseball bats and they work really well.  I will be posting more club swinging in the future.  I am really excited to learn about club swinging since I see some huge potential.

This video demonstrates some movements that you can try with small bats or by choking up on normal sized bat.  Do not try to go heavy with this by adding a weighted doughnut onto the bat – more is not better.  Become fluid with these movements and even start by doing one side at a time to make sure you can do both sides properly. You might want to wear a helmet the first couple of times you try as well.

Bottom Line

Try playing around with all of these exercises whenever you can – there is a lot of down time before and after practices.  You can find some time to squeeze in some of these exercises on a regular basis.  Don’t overlook the importance of breathing as well which was mentioned in the previous post.

I hope that you have enjoyed the “Shoulder Series”.  There will be more info on the shoulder to come but for now this is a great start.

Graeme Lehman.


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