Preventing Injury in Overhead Athletes: Part 3

Pre-habilitation Exercises for Overhead Athletes

As a kettlebell coach whose number one goal is to keep her athletes healthy, I'm always looking to learn from other health and fitness experts that have ideas on the subject of injury prevention. Unfortunately, overuse injuries run rampant when people don't properly prepare their bodies for the volume-heavy work in Kettlebell Sport, from a mobility and/or stability standpoint.

This is the third in a series of posts where Doctor of Physical Therapy (and Team KOR kettlebell lifter!) Jordan Levine will share his favorite pre-habilitation exercises to build shoulder stability and avoid injury with overhead lifting. Whether you're a coach or an athlete that uses kettlebells, these are great exercises you can implement to prevent overuse injuries before they happen.

Serratus Anterior Wall Roll

  • Place foam roller horizontally against wall; slightly lower than shoulder height.
  • Weight bear wrists to mid forearms area against foam roller with body rigid and angled away from wall.
  • First engage abdominals; think about keeping ribcage down. Then protract scapulas (push blades apart), pushing elbows further into wall without straightening elbows.
  • Imagine you are pushing foam roller through the wall with elbows and then slowly roll upward while keeping that push through the wall. Stop when elbows reach about eye level or foam roller reaches elbows.
  • Keep that elbow push through the wall and roll foam roller back to start position with roller at wrist to mid forearm.
  • Repeat for high reps (20 or more) at slow pace.
  • You should feel the muscles in your armpit / rib area working as you push elbows upward.
  • The serratus anterior is a main contributor to outward scapula rotation along with upper and lower trap muscles. Outward rotation of the scapula must occur during overhead lifting to get full range of motion and to stabilize scapula so smaller muscles of shoulder do not get overworked (which can lead to injury over time).

Dr. Jordan Levine PT, DPT is a physical therapist at North County Water and Sports Therapy Center located in the Carmel Mountain Ranch area of San Diego. He specializes in orthopedics with a strong emphasis on manual therapy.

Click here to check out part 1 of the Preventing Injury in Overhead Athletes series.

Click here to check out part 2 of the Preventing Injury in Overhead Athletes series.