Home Baseball Content Baseball Training: Are Shoulder Dislocates Appropriate?

Baseball Training: Are Shoulder Dislocates Appropriate?

Written on February 10, 2014 at 4:28 am, by Eric Cressey

I received the following email the other day, and thought my response would make for a good Q&A here:

Q: I recently heard a national level gymnastics coach speak on how he believed shoulder dislocates with a dowel rod (working up to weighted dislocates) are a panacea for shoulder health and strength. I was wondering if you use them with your clients/players, and why or why not?

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A: Thanks for your question.  In short, the answer would be NO, I would never do shoulder dislocates with a throwing athlete.  I discussed why in a previous video that goes into great detail, so rather than reinvent the wheel, here it is!   Effectively, shoulder dislocates replicate some of the movements that I outline as problems here.

As a general rule of thumb, as a thrower, it's always better to be too tight than it is to be too loose.  WIth that in mind, you always need to ask why you're stretching an area out.  If the front of the shoulder feels "tight," it may be from a number of different causes:

1. Protective tension of the biceps tendon (secondary to rotator cuff weakness) - just stretching it out would remove what little anterior stability remains.

2. An injury to the anterior capsule, latissimus dorsi (humeral attachment point), subscapularis, supraspinatus, or biceps tendon - just stretching these areas out will likely exacerbate the injury.

3. Irritate of the nerves that run anterior to the humeral head - nerves don't like to be stretched.

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4. True muscular shortness of pectoralis major or another structure - Effectively, in doing shoulder dislocates, you're throwing all your eggs in this basket.

The only problem?  Most throwers already have an insane amount of horizontal abduction and external rotation range-of-motion on their throwing shoulders.  They aren't even close to having legitimate tissue shortness that would benefit from stretching.  This is something we work hard to drill home in our Elite Baseball Mentorships as one of the most important takeaways from the events.

Now, if we're talking about a regular ol' desk jockey who doesn't throw a baseball (or other sporting implement), play tennis, or swim, then dislocates might have some merit.  These individuals likely have some muscle/tendon stiffness that can be stretched out before they get to a point where they might crank on their joint capsule or nerves.  I would never use it as a "blanket" recommendation for everyone, though.  The only way to know is assess the individual and then plan accordingly.

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  • Great stuff.

  • Great stuff Eric. Do you keep most stretching minimal for the anterior should due to possible protective mechanisms such as the protective tension on biceps?

  • Ari

    Wow what a contradiction on what I as an overhead throwing athlete am doing for over 10 years now (javelin). Could you please give some more information, or some better/improved ways of stretching/lengthening for the late cocking phase.

    Many thanks in reward!

  • Alex

    I understand the reasoning for avoiding this in the throwing population but does it have value in a general population or with non overhead athletes? Or does the risk still outweigh the reward?

  • Alex,

    There’s likely a small amount of benefit in people who are REALLY tight.  I wouldn’t recommend they go all the way around, though.

  • Eric,

    To be clear, we never stretch the front of a shoulder in a thrower.  Ever.

  • Jim Stone

    Eric,
    A bit off topic, but have you seen Dylan Bundy (Orioles) boxing workout? What does that do for a shoulder/elbow? Is it good or can the same thing be achieved via different modalities?

  • Jim,

    I’m not a fan of boxing for pitchers.  Much better ways to train power with lower risk of injury.  Loads of boxers have really messed up elbows and anterior shoulder discomfort, not to mention poor scapular control.  While it’s more a function of a) positioning and b) missed punches (elbow hyperextension), I do think it’s an important consideration.

  • Ari,

    Who says that you need to improve FLEXIBILITY into external rotation?  I’d argue that most throwers have plenty, and need to improve their stability (active ROM).

  • Alan

    I’m not really sure if they’re doing weighted shoulder dislocates to improve flexibility though.

    I’d argue it’s to improve strength at the end range of motion in external rotation. Basically turning the passive flexibility into usable active strength

  • Alan,

    If they are strengthening anything, it’s a faulty movement pattern. The humeral head glides forward from the get-go; it’s not “true’ external rotation.


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