Although most people are coping with the first flakes of snow and the holidays are just behind us, it is not too early to think about the onset of spring sports. Golfers might remember last spring's pain between the shoulder blades following that first bucket of balls. The young ball player or maybe his/ her dad may remember the soreness in the shoulder following that first game of catch. The tennis player may fondly miss the well honed serve from last season and wonder why the first tennis games of the season are followed by so much pain. Fear not, the problem is not serious, and in most cases preventable. The number one underlying cause of all these future sports problems is loss of core body strength. Someone might comment "but wait, I go to the gym every other day - I certainly am not prone to this loss of core body strength." Well, maybe yes maybe no. Many gym routines work on aerobics, and the "showy" muscles of the arms, chest and legs. These include such well known muscles such as biceps, triceps, pecs, hamstrings and quads. The core muscles many times are the forgotten muscles such as the erector spinae, the multifidus, and the rotators. For upper extremity sports, the forgotten muscles also include the trapezius, the rhomboids, the levator scapulae, and the serratus anterior.
Obviously, for a smooth transition to spring sports (aka pain-free) it is important to work on the core muscles. One should first work the core muscles by themselves and afterward work the core muscles in exercises more specific to the individuals sport. The focus of this week's article is exercising the core muscles in isolation. Next week article will emphasize exercises that are more sport specific.
The following is a list of exercises that concentrate on the core muscles. Try to perform 12 repetitions every other day to prevent some unwanted sports pain in the spring.
T's - Lying on a Flat Surface on Belly - Extend your arms out from your side to form the letter "T'. While keeping your arms straight, raise your arms off the floor and hold for a count of ten. Do not raise your arms high - just get them off the surface. Start with no weight in our hands. After 2 weeks, try the exercise with light weights such as 1, 2, or 3 pounds.
Y's - Lying as Above - Extend your arms up and out to form the letter Y. (Think of the song "Y-M-C-A"). While keeping your arms straight, raise your arms off the floor and hold for a count of ten. Do not raise your arms high - just get them off the surface. Start with no weight in our hands. After 2 weeks, try the exercise with light weights such as 1, 2, or 3 pounds.
Lats - Standing - Secure a piece of theraband to a door knob or heavy furniture. Maintain good posture and stand with your back to the wall. Your head, butt, and heals should be touching the wall. With straight arms, reach out and grab the theraband. With straight arms, pull the theraband back to the wall and hold for a count of ten.
Rows - As Above - Secure a piece of theraband to a door knob or heavy furniture. Maintain good posture and stand with your back to the wall. Your head, butt, and heals should be touching the wall. With arms bent at the elbow, reach out and grab the theraband. While keeping the arms bent at the elbow, pull the theraband back to the wall and hold for a count of ten.
Ceiling Punches - Lying on Back - on a flat surface (mat or floor). With two pound dumbbells in your hands raise your arms toward the ceiling. Cross your straight arms in front of you. Reach as far as you can toward the ceiling. Your shoulders should come off of the floor as you reach toward the ceiling.
As these exercises get easier with time, increase the resistance by increasing the resistance with thicker theraband or increased weight. To avoid injury, be mindful of form. Perfect form with minimal weight is always more important than too much weight with poor form.
Adherence to these exercises should result in much less pain in the coming spring sports season.
Gary E. Mattingly, PT, PhD is a professor at the University of Scranton, Dept of Physical Therapy and an associate specializing in the prevention and rehabilitation of shoulder injuries at Mackarey & Mackarey PT Consultants in Scranton, PA.
Model Credit: We would like to thank Ron Chiavacci for agreeing to be our model. Ron is a profession baseball pitcher having experience with the Tigers, Expos, Pirates, Phillys, and Astros. Ron is also the director of Pro Staff Boot Camp, an instructional clinic for aspiring pitchers.
Photo Credit: Jen Hnatko
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This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: firstname.lastname@example.org Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an affiliated faculty member at the University of Scranton, PT Dept.