Bulletproofing Coaches - Shoulders

July 28, 2019

A common misconception is that coaches and personal trainers live their lives without any musculoskeletal issues. Free from niggles or injuries and blissful in their pain-free existence! Watching a coach demonstrate a deep squat or a perfectly executed scapula push up gives the impression that they move so well that injuries must be uncommon for them. This, however, is not the case and coaches, given the nature of their active work, can present with frequent issues that require attention.


From working closely alongside the coaches at FFS, it has given me plenty of exposure to such issues. The third coach I would like to discuss in a series of monthly blogs post will be Brian.



Assessing Brian's Shoulder Issue


Brian is a Personal Trainer, Animal Flow instructor, and Digital Marketing whizz!  He tends to train in a variety of different ways – from strength training to cardio hits, animal flow to gymnastics. As a result, he probably moves as well as any other coach in the gym.


However, like all other coaches, he is not infallible and presented to me with:


  • Pain along the front of the shoulder

  • Pain with horizontal/vertical pressing (eg Bench Press)

  • Reported Lat and Pec muscles constantly felt tight

  • Reduced shoulder mobility typically in Animal Flow/Gymnastic movements



Palpating the Anterior Shoulder





Assessing Active Range of Motion (AROM) Shoulder Flexion





Assessing Scapulohumeral Rhythm/Asymmetry’s






 Assessing AROM Shoulder Internal Rotation





Testing End Range Shoulder External Rotation Strength 




Main Findings


The main findings were the following:


  • Tenderness palpating the front of the shoulder at the bicipital groove.

  • Reduced internal rotation compared to the opposite shoulder.

  • Tenderness palpating the Pectoralis major and Subscapularis.

  • Mild scapular dyskinesis noted (upwardly rotated shoulder blade in a rested position).



Exercise Programme




1. Sleeper Stretch


We are looking to increase internal rotation of the shoulder along with the flexibility of the posterior capsule.


3 sets x 30 sec hold.







2.Straight Arm Dumb Bell Retractions


Multiple exercises were prescribed to help Brian improve control of his scapula (shoulder blade). The numerous muscles that attach to the scapula are responsible for the complex motions of the scapula, and any deviation from the norm can lead to shoulder niggles or injury. I place my hand behind Brian’s scapula and ask him to retract his shoulder blade into my hand, providing tactile feedback.


3 sets x 10 reps with a 10kg dumbbell.








3. Serratus Mini Band Wall Slide


The aim here is to develop strength in the Serratus Anterior muscle which pulls the scapula forward around the rib cage and plays an important role in the upward rotation of the shoulder blade.


3 sets x 12 wall slides.






4. Shoulder Controlled Articular Rotations (CAR)


An exercise used to help Shoulder Range of Motion and specifically ease of movement towards End Range of Motion internal rotation.


Slow controlled movement for 10 repetitions.





Brian's Rehab Plan


It was important to discuss the volume of Brian’s training and potential aggravating factors. I asked him to avoid pressing movements for at least two weeks – and then grade it back into his programme depending on overall symptoms. As the symptoms started to improve and shoulder mobility matched that of the opposite shoulder, we added in progressive strengthening exercises


Please note:

The above exercises were prescribed following a detailed assessment of Brian's shoulder issue but can provide benefits to those as part of an active warm-up or training session. However, they are not the solution to all problems. If you think you have a problem with your shoulder, we advise you to see a Chartered Physiotherapist to get it checked out and given a tailored rehab programme for your specific issue.


Find Out More:


If you need advice, a physiotherapy assessment or feel your team/business could learn more about workplace ergonomics, contact Eric  at physio@ffs.ie or visit www.ffs.ie/physiotherapy.



About the Author:




Eric Cullinane is a Chartered Physiotherapist working with FFS Physiotherapy, a practice based on Leeson St Lower.


Chartered Physiotherapists have specialist knowledge in the field of work related injury management.


If you need advice, a physiotherapy assessment or feel your team/business could learn more about workplace ergonomics, contact Eric @ physio@ffs.ie or visit www.ffs.ie/physiotherapy.

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