A recent study from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research asked, “What causes shoulder instability? What can be done to avoid it? Can anything be done to prevent it?” The study examined 123 participants who trained recreationally about three times per week. The average participant had about nine years of weight training experience and was about 28 years old.

The study identified two movements in particular that accompany shoulder instability: military press and behind the neck pulldowns. The frequent use of both movements together was also particularly correlated with instability. But the study also found some good news. Strengthening the external rotators of the shoulder makes the shoulder more stable and can help prevent the above problems.
To get some practical advice from these findings, I reached out to Dr. Ryan Davis, a doctor of chiropractic and a rock star manual therapist. Dr. Davis says, “Too often rehab professionals confuse strength and stability. Strength is simply one component of stability. Just as important for stability are timing and neuromuscular control.” He goes on to describe how rhythmic stabilization drills, such as the one in the video below from Eric Cressey, can aid someone recovering from shoulder pain. For advanced patients he prescribes functional movements that can strengthen the external rotators such as Turkish get ups, pull ups, and deadlifts.

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