The Importance of Shoulder Stability for the Tennis and Volleyball Player

by Lauren Freitas, DPT

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The shoulder is the most mobile joint in the body and therefore, it relies heavily on muscles to stabilize it. The muscles around the shoulder, specifically the rotator cuff, play a huge role in compressing the head of the humerus into the socket of the glenoid fossa to prevent dislocations. The repetitive nature of tennis puts a lot of strain on the rotator cuff muscles and tendons, and if these muscles are weak, they aren’t able to withstand the constant accelerations and decelerations of serving and ground strokes. In addition to the rotator cuff, the scapular muscles including lower trap, middle trap and serratus anterior are crucial for increasing the power and stability of the shoulder in the overhead position when serving. The shoulder blade makes up half of the shoulder joint, so including these muscles in your workout is critical!


One study looked at the effects of a shoulder injury prevention program for athletes which included improving rotator cuff and scapular muscle strength and increasing shoulder and thoracic mobility. They found that those who participated in an exercise program to address these impairments had a 28% LESS chance of having shoulder problems than those who did not!*


Try the following exercises for strengthening the shoulder and surrounding muscles, increasing the power of your serves and strokes and preventing shoulder injuries when playing!


Standing 90/90 External Rotation (2 sets x 15 reps each side)

Start in 90/90 position with palms facing down. Keeping the shoulders down and back and the elbows in line with shoulders, rotate externally.



90/90 Overhead Press (2 sets x 15 reps each side)

Start in 90/90 position with palms facing forward and dumbbell or weight in hand. Maintain the external rotation as you press the weight overhead.



External Rotation Reaches (2 sets x 5 reps each direction)



Prone Y’s, T’s, I’s (2 sets x 10 reps each)



Try these exercises out and if you have any questions or notice any pain or restrictions in your shoulder mobility or stability, please reach out for an appointment with a physical therapist.


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*Andersson, SH et al. “Preventing overuse shoulder injuries among throwing athletes: a cluster-randomised controlled trial in 660 elite handball players.” Br J Sports Med 51.14 (2017): 1073-1080.

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