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SHOULDERING THE LOAD: Staying Injury-Free Is A Stretch

By Nick Bohanan

Bowling does not cause as many shoulder injuries as sports in which the arm action is overhand (such as baseball, tennis, etc.), but your shoulder still endures a lot of strenuous repetitive action on the lanes. The shoulder is probably the most flexible joint in the body. Numerous muscles across your chest and back act on your shoulder joint, which allows it to complete all the motions.

We’ve worked on shoulder stabilization and flexibility, but to maintain that loose, smooth movement we use in bowling, it is important those muscles get stretched as often as possible. This is especially true when you’ve been doing exercises to strengthen your shoulders. The muscles tend to get pretty tight. We do a fair amount of testing at the International Training and Research Center, and in our functional movement screening we test for shoulder mobility. One of the most telling tests is one in which we ask athletes to reach up behind their back with one arm, then have them bend their other arm behind their head in an attempt to get the fingers of both hands to touch.

Because bowlers generally have a dominant arm, it’s often difficult to get your dominant arm up behind the back far enough to touch the fingers of the non-dominant arm. The dominant arm struggles because of muscle mass. Women tend to be more flexible in this exercise because they simply don’t have that muscle mass. Either way, the inability to touch fingers in this test signifies that we need to work on the internal rotation of the shoulder.

The stretch recommended for internal rotation is the Sleeper Stretch. In this stretch, lie on your side and extend your bottom arm straight out, then bend it at the elbow 90 degrees. Your fingers should be pointing to the ceiling. Place your opposite hand over your wrist and gently push your arm toward the floor, offering modest resistance. Maintain this stretch for 30 seconds.

A common, easy-to-do stretch is the Door Stretch, in which you stand in a doorway and reach for the door frame with one hand. Keeping your arm straight, take a step forward, feeling the stretch in the front of your shoulder. Repeat this stretch with the other arm.

Finally, stand with your feet about hip-width apart. Clasp your hands behind your back and stretch your arms out straight. Gently lift your hands up and away from your body, feeling the stretch in the front of your shoulders and chest.

These are easy-to-do exercises that will stretch all of the muscles that run along the front and back of your shoulder.

— Nick Bohanan is United States Bowling Congress Sports Performance Specialist.

Permission granted by USBC/Luby Publishing