Here’s some truth for you. The rotator cuff is made up of 4 muscles: the infranspinatus, supraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis and does more than externally or internally rotate the shoulder. In fact, their primary function is to stabilize the glenohumeral joint, especially during overhead movements such as throwing. To that end, just simply adding in a few band external/internal rotation exercises and calling it a rotator cuff strengthening program for high level baseball/softball players is not going to cut it.
We need to also develop rotator cuff stability and on of the best ways to do that is to use kettelbell overhead carry variations.
Assuming our softball/baseball players have a basic level of rotator cuff strength/stability (which is not always the case, even in HS kids), we usually start with a basic split kneeling bottoms up KB hold at 90 deg in the scapular plane. We do use all these progressions with both dominant and non-dominant arm.
Assuming the split kneeling progressions goes well, we’ll move the athlete to an actually bottoms up carry in this same position or at full shoulder flexion as is the case in this video.
For a lot of our baseball/softball players, those variations are challenging enough, but if we have very advanced athletes we’ll also perform a bottoms up KB Turkish get up with them. The Turkish get up in general is a great exercise for baseball/softball players when performed slowly and under control because of the total body benefits it provides it relation to the demands of throwing. If a baseball/softball player is able to perform multiple repetitions of a bottoms up KB Turkish get up with an appreciable amount of weight and feel it only in the areas they should feel it, then it’s safe to say they are well on their way to developing a strong and stable rotator cuff. Katrina will be heading to Elon to play softball and she’s an absolute stud on the field and in the weightroom and this is evidence why:
A couple key points when adding these variations:
- Athletes should not feel this in their anterior shoulder or bicep
- We try to keep our athletes in a neutral position vs allowing them to slip into an internally rotated position
- The bottoms up position will only be effective is a strong brace is maintained as well as neutral head. Avoid compensation movements such as low back extension or forward head position
- Start slow, quality over quantity