LEVEL UP PART 4 | POSTERIOR SHOULDER CAPACITY
This simple test and conditioning drill can help highlight asymmetry and potentially reduce the risk of shoulder injuries across the spectrum of ages and abilities. This particular exercise takes its name from the famous female tennis player.
The Sharapova exercise can be used as a posterior shoulder capacity test,as well as an exercise. It is used to improve the coordination and the strength of the muscles of the back of the shoulder, in particular the external rotators of the deep shoulder muscles or ‘rotator cuff’. Muscle strengthening and coordination improves stability and the ability to produce force, which makes the shoulder joint and surrounding tissue more resistant to some types of injury. Testing one limb against the other can offer insight into asymmetry or highlight relative weakness which may contribute to current or future injuries and if addressed offer potential performance gains.
*note it is common for the dominant limb to be stronger than the non dominant.
In simple terms, this test offers an indication of the capacity of the muscles of the posterior shoulder, vital for all overhead movements and incredibly important in all sports and physical activities (think throwing, racket sports, swimming, climbing, gymnastics to name a few). Whilst an asymmetry doesn't mean there is a problem it may be useful to be aware of any difference in the presence of symptoms and potentially in both improving function and preventing injury. Exercises such as this one, when repeated consistently, can increase the ability of the body to cope with these forces.
Strength training improves the capacity and endurance of the muscle and tendons - in this case, the posterior shoulder musculature. Over time, with consistency and sufficient loading, training can affect the size and capacity of these muscles, including the fascicle size, their number and the overall muscle architecture. This enables greater force production and the ability to repeatedly produce this force. The Sharapova can be simply regressed by using a lower tension band or reducing the excursion of the arm and progressed by adding a higher tension band or increasing excursion. Adjusting other variables like speed and volume can also change the intensity of the exercise.
The Sharapova exercise is a simple test and conditioning drill for the shoulder. It works well with people of all ages and doesn't require any specialist equipment other than an activation band. We recommend the use of a metronome to move in time with, increasing reliability and repeatability of the test. How much and how often depends on a number of other factors (such as strength level, recovery status, other training load, prior history) but we suggest aiming for somewhere around 2-3x per week, completing 3-5 sets and working towards fatigue (2-3 reps in reserve). This can be incorporated into warm ups or key moments in your day like before your morning coffee! Of course, you can adjust the volume and intensity as necessary. It can be really useful to seek advice from a medical or health and fitness professional such as a Physiotherapist. We highly recommend this in the presence of injury.
It's important to note that injury, and injury prevention, are multifactorial and complex. Testing the posterior shoulder in this way can be useful as part of a broader assessment whilst also addressing other factors such as appropriate training, nutrition and recovery. This exercise could be used in conjunction with other strength and conditioning drills as part of a rehabilitation program or for maintenance of shoulder health.