That’s right I just said that, you need these two exercises in EVERY program! OK, maybe not every program, but I think there are two critical movements that should be included in almost everyone’s program – shoulder external rotation and hip external rotation.
Why do I think these two movements are so critical that you should include them in every program?
I have 2 main reasons for this:
- We are an extremely sagittal plane population – so much of what we do occurs right in front of us, which leads to weakness in the frontal and transverse planes. Unfortunately, weakness in in these other planes can cause injuries while performing sagittal plane activities. Basically we need to be stable in the frontal and transverse planes when performing sagittal plane movements. We’ve talked at length on how hip strength impacts patellofemoral pain and other injuries.
- I am a believe of “activating” muscle groups by working them, or “turning them on” prior to performing larger multi-joint movements. For this specific example, I would perform shoulder external rotation prior to upper body movements and hip external rotation prior to lower body movements.
Unfortunately, these types of exercises aren’t very sexy, they aren’t going to get you beach muscles, and they are kind of boring. But staying healthy and minimizing the chance of creating a problems is always a good thing.
There are many ways to skin a cat and to perform shoulder external rotation and hip external rotation, but below are the 2 exercises I recommend you start with – the Shoulder W External Rotation exercise and the Hip Clam Shell exercise
The W Shoulder External Rotation Exercise
If you’ve heard me speak any time in the last several years, I’ve been saying that the shoulder “W” exercise is my new favorite exercise. I’ve been saying that for a while now, so I guess it’s not new anymore, but it’s still a favorite of mine.
The exercise combines shoulder external rotation with scapular retraction and posterior tilt, definitely a great combo and advantageous for many people as it recruits the posterior rotator cuff (infraspinatus and teres minor) and the lower trapezius.
Plus, it’s performed bilaterally, which helps with posture and shoulder stability, and you can work both arms at the same time. So more bang for your buck.
UPDATE: I have posted another article and technique video with more detail on the shoulder W exercise.
Hip Clam Shells
Clam shells are a quick and easy way to strength the external rotators of the hip. It’s simple to perform with just a loop or similar resistance band but can be very effective. Plus, because the resistance band is around both knees, you are working both sides simultaneously, the bottom leg has to stabilize using the hip external rotators to perform the exercise.
Of course it’s all in the technique. As you can see below, I prefer to use my lower arm to keep my head aligned in neutral and the other hand placed on my hip. This helps me make sure I am not compensating with my lower back.
UPDATE: I have posted another article and technique video with more detail on the hip clamshell exercise
What do you think? Do you try to incorporate targeted exercises like this in your rehabilitation and training programs? What else do you consider essential? I’m am always trying to help facilitate functional movements and I really think that incorporating more shoulder external rotation and hip external rotation into all of our programs can really make a difference.
Of course, there are a ton of other exercises that you can perform to work on shoulder external rotation and hip external rotation, but I really like the the shoulder external rotation W exercise and hip clam shells for their simplicity and effectiveness.