It's a new day and age in the world of high-level athletic performance and development. Over the last decade, athletes in nearly every sport have become exponentially bigger, faster, and more explosive.Through early sport specializations, enhanced functional training methodologies and advanced sport specific coaching, the athlete of the 21st century is now more physically impressive than ever before.

The strength and conditioning community should be reveling in their abilities as an industry to raise the physical bar of athletes far and wide, but this is far from the case.This insanely high level of current day athletic performance is instead quickly dismissed due to an equally high and increasing rate of widespread injuries. Has the requisite need to stay healthy and functioning during athletic participation been blurred by our society's unwavering goal of producing the ultimate athletic performance at all costs?


There may not be a more injury susceptible sporting demographic than overhead athletes. It has been a rising topic of heated debate throughout youth baseball, and is now making it into the likes of women's volleyball and tennis; how do we keep our youth athletes from being put under the knife before they hit high school?

In a society poisoned with delusional thoughts of making every elite 12-year-old baseball star playing in the Little League World Series out to be the next Mike Trout, children are becoming overworked, over-trained and put behind the 8-ball of orthopedic dysfunction at younger and younger ages.

Due to the nature of overhead throwing biomechanics, the passive tissues consisting of ligaments, fascia and tendon-bone insertion points of overworked musculature are placed in a precarious position for injury, especially as frequencies and training loads are increased. This, in combination with year round specialty sport training, causes a cascade of hazardous chronic inflammation and mechanical breakdown of tissues, especially those still developing in younger athletes.

Over training isn't something surgery can fix. It is something that needs to be monitored and nipped in the bud before it ever puts athletes at increased risk under the watch of coaches, trainers or therapists.


The shoulder girdle is one of the most anatomically complex and biomechanically advanced regions of the human body. The synergistic movement, rhythm and stabilization of multiple joints in unison are needed to maintain a high level of performance while also decreasing unwanted stress when it comes to throwing and hitting from an arm overhead position.

One of the most effective and efficient ways to bulletproof the shoulder girdle and elbow against chronic and acute sport specific injuries is through the implementation of dynamic warm-up routines [for shoulder mobility] preceding any training or competition. Intelligently designed progressive dynamic activations and warm-up routines are essentially foreign throughout many high-level athletics. Old habits and routines are sometimes the hardest to break, but yield the greatest results when achieved.

Today, current warm-up routines for overhead athletes largely consist of modified sport specific skills such as throwing. If throwing to warm-up for throwing sounds like a sound progression to decrease injury rates, you are sorely mistaken! Just as you wouldn't setup for a max effort barbell lift without first prepping and lubricating joints, increasing tissue temperature and activating active musculature, an athlete should not move into sport specific movement without taking care of the protective preparatory work first.


Arm care and preparation for the overhead athlete is an absolutely pivotal aspect of both performance and health, especially under heavy and frequent training schedules.Turning on the right muscles at advantageous times, while positioning the active joints to function at their highest possible levels are necessary for long term function and success.

An often-overlooked aspect of a dynamic warm-up is the neurological training adaptations that it produces. Without primed neurological conduction capabilities, complex motor tasks become less precise, thus increasing the risk for unwanted stress and forces through joints and soft tissues.

Enhancing neuromuscular recruitment can be achieved through activating reflex stabilization properties of active joints and positioning those same joints in a spiral loaded and centrated position.


The true shoulder joint, also known as the gleno-humeral joint, is comprised of a ball and socket surrounded by both active and passive stabilizers. Arguably the most important gleno-humeral stabilizers is the rotator cuff complex. This group of four intricate shoulder stabilizers enhances both the position and function of the entire upper extremity. functioning ideally, these muscles can create an incredible amount of stabilization through the shoulder joint by sensing both position and mechanical pressure of the joint itself. This phenomenon is known as reflex stabilization. Reflex stabilization provides the most precise real time adjustment of bodily position and secondary muscle recruitment patterns.


The shoulder works best when the ball and socket of the humorous (upper arm bone) and scapula (shoulder blade) are centered and balanced. The optimal joint position with maximal surface area contact between the humeral head (ball) and gleaned fossa of the scapula (socket) is referred to as “absolute joint centration".

Centrating the joint before activity can also enhance blood flow and neurological conduction of the muscles of the upper extremity, shoulder and shoulder blade. With as many moving parts working as ideally as possible, the enhanced rhythm, recruitment and muscular motions will safe guard the more susceptible soft tissues from injury secondary to sport specific training.


In order to rise above the injury rates, pre-habilitation must be practiced and mastered on a daily basis. Using the three unconventional, yet highly effective dynamic warm-up exercises below, your body will be prepped for performance and long-term health.

If you want to perform at your highest possible level while staying healthy in the process, here's your ticket to success. If not, keep doing what you're doing, the injury bug is crawling around from field to field looking for it's next victim!


Using the unique dynamically loaded and internally shifting weight of the RMT Club, this old school warm-up exercise can be taken to an entirely new level. The goal is to activate your rotator cuff while positioning your shoulder in the most advantageous position to fire these muscles and create maximal reflexive stability.

Start slow with small circles and work your way up by increasing both the velocity of the movement along with the size of the circles. Progress slowly; the centripetal force of the RMT CLUB is going to be unlike anything you have ever felt.


By creating a passive distraction force through the wrist, elbow and shoulder joints, the bio-properties of reflex stabilization are going to kick in, turning on all available joint stabilizers in the upper extremity kinetic chain!

Once you feel enough tension through the band to illicit the reflex we are looking for, proceed to rotating your shoulder joint through cyclical motion.This movement will warm up the joint, lubricating it in the process for decreased wear and tear.


The Y-T-W complex, once the cornerstone of shoulder rehabilitation and training, takes on a whole new look and feel with the utilization of the RMT Club.

Again using the internally shifting weight of the club, speed bumps are going to be placed into each of the three shoulder specific movement.These speed bumps ensure maximal muscular stability recruitment and clean up weak spots in the kinetic chain important for long-term shoulder health.



-2 x 10 circles (per arm)


-2 x 20 circles (per arm)


-2 x 6 (each movement per arm)

About the Author: Dr. John Rusin is a Strength and Conditioning Coach and Sports Performance Physical Therapist specializing in all encompassing programming design for athletes and clients alike. John's single-minded goal is to bridge the ever-growing gap between high performance Strength and Conditioning and cutting edge rehabilitation programming for the elite strength athlete. From NFL and MLB athletes to competitive powerlifters and bodybuilders, John has developed recovery, regeneration, and prehab-rehab programs for some of the world's best power athletes both in person, and from an online platform. John is the owner of JR Fitness Systems, located in Madison, Wisconsin. For more information about Hands-On Self Myofascial Release Techniques, or about Dr. John, email him directly at , or visit these pages: Website | Facebook: John Rusin Fitness Systems |Twitter @johnrusin

If you liked this article, check these ones out next...

5 Knee Strengthening Exercises to Reduce Injury

3 Carpal Tunnel Exercises for Wrist Pain Relief