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Preventing Shoulder Injuries in Beach Volleyball

Be nice to your shoulders — they do a lot for you. They allow you to rotate your arms in all sorts of directions, or throw your hands up in the air and wave them like you just don’t care. Every day your shoulders are there for you, working hard. And your last kill—the one you slammed in front of the opponent’s 10-foot line? You can thank your shoulders for that, too.

Yes, the shoulders are stupendous sets of joints with countless useful characteristics. Unfortunately, invincibility isn’t one of them.

Volleyball players are especially susceptible to shoulder injuries because of the overhead motion involved in hitting and blocking. The repeated abduction and external rotation followed by extension and internal rotation often leads to injuries. The good news is that strengthening the muscles and tendons around the shoulder can help prevent injury by stabilizing the shoulder joint.

Exercises to Strengthen Your Shoulders

Use the exercises below to get started, but keep in mind that because stabilizers tend to be smaller muscles, the following are not meant to be done with heavy weight. Three sets of 12 to 15 repetitions should be sufficient for each exercise.

External/Internal Shoulder Rotations

This simple but effective shoulder exercise should be done lying down in order to target the rotator cuff muscles.

  1. Lay on your left side with your knees bent.
  2. Grab a light dumbbell with your right arm.
  3. Bend the elbow at a right angle, and then rotate the shoulder so the hand is pointing towards the sky.
  4. Return to the starting position, and then repeat with your left arm, laying on your right side.

Lateral Shoulder Raises

Using light weights (typically 5 to 10 lbs), perform his exercise standing up so that your body resembles a lower-case letter “t.”

  1. Begin in an athletic position with the knees slightly bent, core muscles tightened, and arms hanging to the side.
  2. Slowly raise your arms straight out to the side until they are shoulder height (this is when you should look like a “t”).
  3. Hold this position for a second and then slowly lower the arms back to the starting position.

Empty the Can

If you’ve ever emptied a can or bottle, then this exercise will be a breeze.

  1. Begin in an athletic position with the knees slightly bent, core muscles tightened, and arms hanging to the side.
  2. Pretend that your dumbbell is a can of soup. Then slowly raise your arms out in front of you until they are shoulder height (be careful not to spill the imaginary soup).
  3. Once the arms are at shoulder height, rotate the hands so the thumbs point down toward the ground. The imaginary can of soup should now be empty.
  4. Slowly lower the arms back to the starting position.

Touchdown Raise

Have you ever dreamed of officiating a football game? This exercise will help perfect your touchdown signal. More importantly, it will strengthen your rotator cuff ligaments, if your dreams aren’t filled with visions of the grid-iron.

  1. Begin in an athletic position with the knees slightly bent, core muscles tightened, and arms hanging to the side with light dumbbells.
  2. Bend the right elbow while simultaneously raising it to shoulder height (the forearm should be hanging with the fingers pointing towards the ground).
  3. Then begin to rotate the arm upwards so that the fingers point towards the sky.
  4. Hold the position for a half-second and then slowly rotate the arm back down. Repeat with both arms.

Draw the Sword (Diagonal Pattern)

After doing this exercise, your sword drawing skills may give Zorro a run for his money. At the very least, your rotator cuff will be stronger.

  1. Begin in an athletic position with the knees slightly bent, core muscles tightened, and one arm positioned across the body next to the opposite hip, holding a light dumbbell.
  2. While keeping the elbow locked, pull the arm up and across the body.
  3. Once the arm is fully extended, hold the position for a second, and then return to the starting posture and repeat.

It Will Only Make You Stronger

If the prospect of preventing injury doesn’t quite motivate you to start working those shoulder muscles, consider this: The stronger your shoulders are, the better your hitting will be. So add the exercises outlined above into your routine and you’ll be enjoying the benefits of your new-found shoulder strength in no time!

Playing beach volleyball can put quite a bit of strain of the shoulder muscles. That's why this guide is packed full of tips and exercises to help prevent injury.
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