Michael Reid
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My Top 5 Shoulder Exercises for Water Polo


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.

Some of you may be very surprised by what I have on this list and what is left off of it. The exercises I choose are very shoulder friendly while at the same time very accessible to many if not most Water Polo athletes. The majority of them do not require any equipment with some of them having the benefit of being very easy to coach.

All the exercises have one thing in common and that is they all use the entire body in the movement. No isolation or single joint movements.

1. Crawling

So simple, many variations and a great conditioning tool if used appropriately. It has been shown that closed chain exercises do a very good job of activating the shoulder muscular stabilizers. Since you are generally alternating your hands there is a nice sequence of off/on activation of the shoulder stabilizers. Below are some examples of some crawling patterns which can be anything where you are walking on your hands.

Wheel Barrow Walk

Crab Walk

Bear Crawl

2. Push Ups

I have written about push ups before (Used and Abused: Push Ups). Great pushing exercise to use instead of your traditional bench press. Something that can be added is the use of some kind of instability to the hands. This can easily be accomplished by placing your hands on a exercise ball or anything that moves (could be a Water Polo ball).

3. Turkish Get Up (TGU)

Moving gracefully under load while at the same time mobilizing the hips and thoracic spine with concurrent stabilization of the shoulder joint. This is the TGU, an old time strong man conditioning exercise and a feat of strength.

Something unique about the TGU is that both shoulders are being worked but in two different ways. One shoulder will be trained via closed chain stimulation while the other is in open chain. It has been shown that closed chain exercises do a very good job of activating the shoulder muscular stabilizers.

Kettlebell TGU

Going with relatively heavy weights is great with the TGU but not on the first day doing them. It is very wise to first spend a few weeks doing only the “naked” TGU.

Naked Get Up

4. Farmers Walk

So simple, so sinister. Pick up some heavy weights in your hands and go for a walk. Excellend for trunk stabilization, grip strength (a strong grip = strong shoulders) and upper back development.

If grip strength is more of a focus then do shorter walks (25m) with a relatively heavy weight with 2-3 minutes rest. Could be performed in a relay fashion with a small group of athletes. For strength endurance, try walking around 400m with a slightly lighter weight. If you never have to put them down then it’s not heavy enough.

5. Brachiation &/or Pull Ups

bra·chi·a·tion (brey-kee-ey-shuhn)

  • locomotion accomplished by swinging by the arms from one hold to another.

Source: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/brachiation

Swing like a monkey. Anything like climbing ropes, monkey bars and even pull ups or chin ups can develop great shoulder strength and health. Just imagine for a minute what your body has to resist to hang from a bar. Gravity is trying to pull your shoulders out of their sockets. Of course this will not happen and all of your shoulder musculature, including the rotator cuff muscles will be working extremely hard to prevent this. In addition grip strength is also trained.

If you do not have access to monkey bars, you can still get benefit from this stimulation by doing pull up variations. One way to do this is by hanging from one hand between each rep or do more of a power pull up by momentarily letting go of the bar at the top position and re-grabbing it. Both of these techniques can help simulate the positive affects of swinging from hand to hand.

Below is a nice demonstration of clapping pull ups which is an advanced form of a plyo pull up.

Try these exercises out and please let me know how it goes. A simple way of implementing these into your training is to pick 1 or 2 of them and do them as your dryland program for that day. Pick another 1 or 2 exercises for another day of the week.

All these exercises are extremely safe and very good for general athletic development. From young children all the way up to master level athletes can be playing (training) around with these movements.

Have Fun!