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Is there a difference in shoulder exercises for female athletes?

 Is there a difference in shoulder exercises for female athletes?


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SHOULDER EXERCISES AND THE FEMALE ATHLETE: IS THERE A DIFFERENCE?


I was asked recently (and this isn’t the first time!) about shoulder exercises and strengthening for the female overhead athlete and if they should be different than males. Great question. Our anatomy is the same (well, except for that one part!) and the muscles work the same, but are there differences and other things we should consider? The answer in my opinion is yes and no.


First of all, for all females out there who are paranoid to do any strength training because it will make them look too big and “muscley” – it’s not going to happen. We’re trying to train small muscle groups so they can do their jobs. You only get that “muscley” look with heavy strength training or lots and lots of sets with fairly heavy weights to get that look. It’s an unfortunate misconception that has resulted in females, particularly young girls, to shy away from doing some of these exercises.


Many of the exercises that have been posted (and will continue to be posted) are great for everyone – male, female, young or old. The sets and repetition schemes are relatively the same too. That is where there isn’t much difference. Where there is a difference is twofold in my opinion. First of all, females tend to be “looser” than males are and more flexible. Previous studies have shown that males have “stiffer” hamstrings compared to females when it comes to ACL injuries in the knee. What that all means is that females may be more susceptible to shoulder instabilities. Additionally, because of the hormonal differences between males and females, females are more susceptible to ligament and joint capsule increases in extensibility with repeated movements. What that means is that females may need a little more emphasis on stabilization exercises. They should be done with the arm fixed on a surface as well as with the arm free to move in space. It’s best to get a PT or licensed athletic trainer (ATC/LAT) to help you with this.


I also would not do a lot of stretching in females for this very reason. Males sometimes tend to need more stretching, particularly in the front of the shoulder, because of the overemphasis on bench pressing and chest muscle development which leads to rounded, tight shoulders.


One more point about females: they really need lots of work on the gluteals for overall injury prevention. Remember, the extremities attach to the pelvis. If you have a strong base from which the extremities can act, the extremity will be that much more stable too. More on this to come later, but hopefully you see the point.

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