Are you an overhead athlete looking for a shoulder injury prevention program? This article will highlight some of the exercises and programming from a 7-month, 3-phase overhead shoulder injury prevention program. This program was designed for in-season handball players, however, these principles will apply to any overhead athlete.


Preventing Overhead Athlete Injuries

We have collaborated with Dr. Alex Cascone from Tennis Prehab Lab to break down a study conducted in 2017 by Andersson et al. which examined the effects of a shoulder injury prevention program implemented 3x/week during a 7-month handball season. The study was a prospective cluster randomized control trial that included the participation of 45 teams equating to 660 players.

The program was developed to improve:
1. Shoulder internal rotation (IR)
2. Shoulder external rotation (ER)
3. Scapular muscle strength
4. Kinetic chain & Thoracic Spine mobility

5 exercises were selected & were employed as the teams’ warm-up &, and took approx. 10 mins. to perform. These 5 exercises were progressed in 3 phases.

Impairments are similar for most overhead athletes including – total shoulder rotation (ER>IR), ER weakness & scapula dyskinesis (faulty shoulder blade movement). This will cause anterior humeral head translation, posterior cuff tightness, and chronic capsular stress ultimately resulting in potential rotator cuff & labrum pathology. Results of this study demonstrated a 28% lower risk of shoulder problems & 22% lower risk of substantial shoulder problems in the intervention group compared with the control group who performed routine warm-ups.


shoulder instability the prehab guys overhead athlete injury prevention


Overhead Shoulder Injury Prevention Program: Phase 1 of 3

1. Push up plus w/ Trunk Rotation: 3 x 8-16 reps
a. Drive shoulder blades toward the floor & out
b. Maintain push-up plus position, and scapular stability during trunk rotation.

2. Standing Y with resistance band: 3 x 8-16 reps
a. Maintain neutral spine position
b. Do not shrug shoulders
c. ER shoulders (thumb pointed up) during arm elevation.

3. Quadruped trunk rotation w/ ball: 3 x 8-16 reps
a. Maintain neutral lumbar spine position
b. Maintain shoulder stability of grounded arm during rotation
c. Exhale as you rotate through the T/S

4. Sleeper Stretch: 3×30 second holds
a. Lie on side & ensure shoulder blade is blocked by ground
b. Gently press on hand to stretch the post cuff

5. Standing 90/90 ER: 3 x 10-20 reps
a. Maintain 90° at the shoulder and elbow
b. Maintain scapular stability (avoid shrugging shoulder)
c. Slowly lower the med ball down to the floor


Commit To Our Program Dedicated To Overhead Athletes!

overhead crossfit program the prehab guys

Are you an overhead athlete or someone who partakes in overhead exercises? If so, this is the perfect program for you! Overhead stability requires multiple moving body parts working together in synchrony. Without adequate motion, stability, strength, and power in the right places, you run the risk of exposing other body regions to excessive strain. As a result, you may be limiting yourself to reach your true performance potential as a fitness athlete. With that being said, addressing overhead stability requires a multi-dimensional approach, while taking out the guesswork and truly identifying your limiting factor to performance. We have blended science with our clinical expertise to provide you with the ultimate proven solution, we know it will help you too! Learn more HERE!


Overhead Shoulder Injury Prevention Program: Phase 2 of 3

1. Push up plus plank with Passing: 3 x 8-16 reps
a. Drive shoulder blades toward floor “push up plus position”
b. Maintain shoulder & pelvic stability

2. Standing Bow and Arrow: 3 x 8-16 reps
a. Pre-position shoulders by lifting chest & pulling shoulders down back
b. Follow through w/ arm & trunk rotation

3. Wall Slide: “Dynamic Latissimus dorsi stretch”: 3 x 8-16 reps
a. Slide arms upward
b. Maintain forearms neutral or slightly inward
c. Maintain neutral spine

4. Partner Cross body stretch: 3×30 seconds
a. Maintain shoulder at 90°
b. Partner blocks shoulder blade from moving and moves elbow across body
c. Stretch perceived in back of the shoulder

5. Drop and Catch: 3 x 10-20 reps
a. Keep elbow & Shoulder at 90°
b. Drop the ball and catch quickly
c. Return to start position
d. Small .5 kg med ball to start.


Looking To Improve Your Overhead Mobility?


Overhead Shoulder Injury Prevention Program: Phase 3 of 3

decrease risk of shoulder injury in overhead lifters prehab guys


1. Push-up plus with backward slide: 3 x 8-16 reps
a. Drive shoulder blades toward the floor and out
b. Maintain neutral spine position and shoulder stability

2. D2 PNF Slow Arm Lowering: 3 x 8-16 reps
a. Preposition shoulder blades back and down
b. Rotate trunk with both arms to tension elastic band
c. Slowly lower band (eccentrically) across body engaging posterior shoulder musculature.

3. Wall Angels:  3 x 8-16 reps
a. Maintain forearms, head, sacrum, and heel against wall
b. Maintain neutral cervical & lumbar spine position

4. Partner Cross body stretch: 3 x 30 seconds
a. Maintain shoulder at 90 degrees
b. Partner blocks shoulder blade from moving and moves elbow across body
c. Stretch perceived in back of the shoulder

5. Reverse catch PNF D2 Diagonal Pattern: 3 x 10-20 reps
a. Pre-position shoulder blade back and down
b. Catch the ball with thumbs pointing behind you
c. Slowly lower ball across body with thumb down position.


Prehab Membership The Prehab Guys

The Prehab membership is the anti-barrier solution to keeping your body healthy. Access state-of-the-art physical therapy, fitness programs, and workouts online in the comforts of your own home or gym! Taking control of your health with exercise & education from the palm of your hand has never been easier. Get access to 50+ programs, 100+ unique workouts, and 3000+ exercises to build your own workout routines. Trial it for free, and learn how to get out of pain, avoid injury, and optimize your health with [P]rehab!


Closing Thoughts

Of note, this is not a steadfast shoulder injury prevention program. In other words, the exercise showcased is not the end all be all. Instead, this article highlights the importance of implementing a comprehensive shoulder prehabilitation program that addresses 1. Scapular muscle function and control 2. rotator cuff muscle function 3. common flexibility and mobility deficits of the overhead athlete (i.e. posterior cuff tightness). Lastly, once appropriate exercises are selected, it is imperative to adhere to the program for optimal adaptation. Also, this program is not designed to prevent all shoulder injuries (no program can 100% assure that), however, it has been shown to mitigate the risk of shoulder injuries. The current problem with traditional healthcare is we are not able to provide the care people like you need – when they need it. If you’re looking for a general shoulder program to help you out ASAP, you should check out our Shoulder [P]Rehab Program which is at your service anywhere and anytime that is convenient for you. No driving to appointments, taking off from working, or waiting. Join us in redefining 21st-century healthcare at your fingertips. Once purchased, you are given our guide to bulletproofing your shoulders for life!


Become A Better Overhead Athlete!

overhead crossfit program the prehab guys

The overhead strength demands in a CrossFit program will be sure to test your character. You are making the choice to respond vs react to the overhead challenges this sport creates by owning this movement pattern! First by gaining full access to overhead positions by using strengthen to lengthen concepts for those powerful Lats and Pecs. In the next 4 weeks, you also earn foundational core strength and start to access authentic overhead positions using bottom-up positions of the kettlebell.



  1. Andersson, Stig Haugsboe, 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


About The Author

Alex Cascone, Physical Therapist

alex cascone shouldeer injury prevention the prehab guys

Alex helps tennis athletes of all ages achieve optimal body mechanics to promote maximum performance and minimize injury risk. Individualized training programs and interventions are evidence-based and rooted in his advanced training in movement science, injury prevention,  rehabilitation, and sports physical therapy.


Disclaimer – The content here is designed for information & education purposes only and is not intended for medical advice.

About the author : [P]rehab

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