Stretching the Shoulders for a BIGGER Shot - Part I

In this monthly series of articles, Mike will discuss the science and practice of physical training for Water Polo.  Strength, flexibility, Water Polo science, rehab and other areas of interest with respect to the physical development of the Water Polo athlete will be covered.

INTRODUCTION

In Jim Solum's new book,"Science of Shooting", he writes about three arm positions of the dominant arm. The position that has the most power is what he calls the “long arm cock”. This arm position is essentially one that is high and far behind the head and body. This allows the athlete to have a larger arm motion on their shot which in turns creates a more powerful shot or more speed on the ball.

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Why a more powerful shot?

Because the ball will be in the athletes possession for a longer period and said athlete will have increased opportunity to transfer the power from their body to the ball. This is much like trying to run as fast as you can on a track.

If it takes you around 40m to get up to top speed, then that 40m of track is your “long arm cock” position. If you only had 20 meters of track, the maximum speed you would be able to attain would be much less.

In this two part article I will discuss safe and effective methods of improving your “long arm cock” position to help you achieve a better shot but also a healthier shoulder. If you don't have this “long arm cock” position then you will likely be throwing more like President Obama then a top level Water Polo player.

IT'S A COMPLEX

When most people talk about the shoulder they think of only the ball and socket portion of the joint which is called the Glenohumeral (GH) Joint.

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GH Joint is formed by the ball of the upper arm & the Glenoid cavity.

Although the GH joint is a ball and socket joint, it is more like a ball and saucer joint. This design makes it  the most mobile but also the least stable joint in the body. It is the most commonly dislocated joint in the body (1).

The shoulder joint is actually comprised of four different joints hence the name Shoulder Joint Complex but the GH joint has the most freedom of movement.

In order to get to that “long arm cock” position you need very good range of motion. But, if you try to improve this position by only working on the GH joint (remember this is the one that is dislocated the most in the body and most commonly injured in Water Polo) then you are probably going to end up somewhere you don't want to be.

So what do you do?

The short answer is work on all other joints that have a close relationship with the shoulder joint complex.

But, first try this little experiment.

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What this simple little test should demonstrate is how the thoracic spine (mid-back) can influence your shoulder range of motion. You dramatically improved your “long arm cock” position with out doing any thing to the actual shoulder and in the process sparring the GH joint from any abuse.

The neck is also a very important area of concern with regards to the shoulder. Considering that all the nerves that control the muscles of the shoulder, arm and hand come from the neck, it would be wise to take care of it. If nerves are impinged or compromised in someway they can then cause instantaneous muscle weakness. If this persists muscle loss can also occur. Both of these are obviously not good things with respect to athletic performance.

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As you can see in the above picture, the nerves that feed the shoulder and arm pass behind the clavicle (collar bone). When the thoracic spine and neck moves so does the clavicle. In extreme positions the space the nerves have to travel through can be greatly reduced causing problems.

Here is a short video on the Brachial Plexus which refers to this group of nerves:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dm6fW5zZDv0

As you can see, the Thoracic Spine (mid-back) and the neck both have a huge effect on what happens at the shoulder.

In part two of this article I will demonstrate several exercises and drills you can use right away on yourself or your athletes to safely and effectively improve their shoulder range of motion.

I will open a thread on the message board in the category “Physical Training with Mike Reid” with the title of this article. Please leave your comments, questions, suggestions, experiences, ... on the message board.

I can also be contacted through my website: www.waterpolotraining.net

REFERENCES

Dodson CC & Cordasco FA. Anterior Glenohumeral Joint Dislocations. Orhtopedic Clinics of North America, 39(4), 507-518, 2008

Kebaetse M, McClure P & Pratt NA. Thoracic Position Effect on Shoulder Range of Motion, Strength & Three-Dimensional Scapular Kinematics. Arch Phys Med Rehabil Vol 80, August 1999

Solum J. Science of Shooting: Water Polo Fundamentals. ISBN 978-0-557-34035-4, www.lulu.com. 2010

[Click Mike Reid's name at top of page to learn more about his
strength training & conditioning experiences and his web sites.]