• Stretching Exercises to Maintain Shoulder Region Flexibility
    Baseball players' shoulders are at risk for injury if stretching is neglected. Learn some exercises to implement into a comprehensive strength and conditioning program. From the NSCA's Performance Training Journal.
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  • Stretching exer shoulder regionBaseball players risk injury to their shoulders when training or competing. The forces experienced in the shoulder during overhead throwing may contribute to acute muscular strains. Over time, the players throwing shoulder may experience impingement, rotator cuff degeneration, cartilage damage, and/or instability (1). To maintain shoulder health and optimize sports performance it is suggested that players participate in a comprehensive strength and conditioning program that includes strengthening exercises for the rotator cuff and scapular muscles, plyometric exercises, and flexibility exercises. The purpose of this article is to present a shoulder flexibility program for baseball players.

    Changes in Shoulder Mobility
    Sports medicine researchers have identified flexibility changes in baseball players, especially pitchers (1). Baseball pitchers usually demonstrate an increase in shoulder external rotation motion (motion similar to cocking motion during the pitching motion) and a decrease in shoulder internal rotation motion (a motion similar to that experienced during the terminal portion of the throwing motion) compared to their non-throwing shoulder.

    Both bony and soft tissue changes have been proposed as reasons why changes occur in the throwing (dominant) shoulder (1). These motion changes may contribute to an athlete experiencing a sports-related shoulder injury. Flexibility exercises may help to either decrease the motion changes frequently observed during a player’s career and/or may help to improve one’s flexibility (1).

    Stretching Exercises
    The stretching exercises presented in this report are “static” stretches. Static stretches are performed by placing the desired muscle or muscle group into the stretch position and maintaining that position for the desired period of time. Each static stretch should be held for 30 seconds. During the stretch, one may feel an increased tension in the muscle; however, the stretch should not be performed into a painful range. Static stretches should be performed at the end of practice or after competition. Static stretching that is performed daily may result in better flexibility outcomes than training programs that are only performed a couple days a week (2). 


    Stretch  How to Perform the Stretch  
    Cross-body stretch 

    Reach across the chest with one arm. The other arm/hand grasps at the elbow region to provide the force for the stretch (Figure 1). 

    Cross-body stretch
    (alternate position) 

    Some individuals are able to perform the cross-body stretch (Figure 1) without experiencing a stretching sensation.
    By using the wall to limit movement of the scapula (Figure 2), one may be able to achieve a stretch to the posterior shoulder.

    Sleeper Stretch 

    Assume a side-lying position as demonstrated in Figure 3.  The arm on top of the body applies the force to internally rotate the shoulder.
    Gently apply the stretching force. Aggressively internally rotating the shoulder in this position frequently causes discomfort or pain. 

    Doorway Stretch 

    Place forearms on each side of a door frame. The chest and anterior shoulder region should stretch when the body steps through the door frame. Lean through the door frame but only to a tolerable level of discomfort. 


    Table 1. A Baseball Player's Static Stretching Program for the Shoulder 


    Fig1 Cross Body Stretch  Fig 2 Cross Body Stretch  fig 3 Sleeper stretch 
    Figure 1. Cross-Body Stretch   Figure 2. Cross-Body
    (alternating position)
    Figure 3. Sleeper Stretch 
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    About the Author:

    Jason Brumitt, MSPT, SCS, ATC/R, CSCS,*D

    Jason Brumitt is an assistant professor of physical therapy at Pacific University (Oregon). He is currently a doctoral candidate with Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions.


    1. Borsa, PA, Laudner, KG, and Sauers, EL. Mobility and stability adaptations in the shoulder of the overhead athlete: A theoretical and evidence-based perspective. Sports Med 38(1): 17-36, 2008. 
    2. Woods, K, Bishop, P, and Jones, E. Warm-up and stretching in prevention of muscular injury. Sports Med 37(12): 1089-1099, 2007.

  • Disclaimer: The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) encourages the exchange of diverse opinions. The ideas, comments, and materials presented herein do not necessarily reflect the NSCA’s official position on an issue. The NSCA assumes no responsibility for any statements made by authors, whether as fact, opinion, or otherwise. 
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