Shoulder Centration: The Missing Piece In Shoulder Rehab

Successful shoulder rehab programs require that we address the root causes of shoulder pain. While traditional physical therapy programs can be of some help, the cookie cutter banded exercises often aren’t enough for adults who have been suffering from years of ‘on again, off again’ shoulder pain. For longer term results we need to look outside of the box.  For many of the adults I’ve worked with over my career, shoulder centration exercises are the missing piece to helping them ease shoulder pain so they can work, sleep, and exercise without shoulder pain.

 Shoulder Centration And Why It’s Important

To better understand the importance of shoulder centration you need to have a basic understanding of shoulder anatomy. In particular, where the upper arm bone attaches to the scapula. The best analogy I’ve heard for the shoulder joint is that it’s designed like a golf ball sitting on a golf tee. It is considered a ‘ball and socket joint‘. But unlike other ball and socket joints in our body, the ‘ball’ is much bigger than the ‘socket’. 

Muscle imbalances in our upper body cause the golf ball (head of the shoulder bone) to roll forward on the golf ‘tee’ (glenoid fossa). This compresses and strains certain structures of the shoulder and causes shoulder pain. Centering the humeral head over the glenoid fossa relieves strain on the muscles, tendons, and ligaments most commonly injured in the shoulder. This is why shoulder centration exercises should be part of any successful shoulder rehab program.

Unlike other ball and socket joints of the body, the shoulder joints ‘ball’ is much smaller than the ‘socket’. This can lead to an imbalance that puts more strain on the structures of the shoulder.

Shoulder Centration Exercises

Shoulder centration exercises don’t need to take up a huge part of your shoulder rehab program. Adding a few, highly targeted exercises is usually enough to keep your shoulder cenetered and take pressure off the structures of the shoulder. These progressively challenging exercises are a few of my favorites.

Bottom’s Up Kettlebell Hold

A great entry level centration exercise. This isometric hold gets all muscles surrounding your shoulder engaged to center your shoulder in the joint itself.

High Planks

Turn this core exercise into a shoulder centration exercises with a simple tweak. While in the high plank position, simply ‘screw’ your hands outward (they won’t move) to create tension/torque up at the shoulder joint. Hold for 10 seconds and release.

The Quadruped Hold

Similar to the High Plank, this traditional core exercise can be turned into a shoulder centration exercise by shifting our focus to screwing your hands outward. This engages the muscles surrounding the shoulder joint to center it over the joint itself.

Quaruped Shoulder Taps

A more advanced version of the Quadruped Hold. The goal is to maintain a flat back and avoid trunk rotation while tapping the opposite shoulder. No creating torque needed for this one.

Keeping your shoulder ‘centered’ is an important part of any successful shoulder rehab program. But it’s not the only part. To learn more exercises designed to help you work, sleep, and exercise with less shoulder pain, check out my free guide below.


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Ten Exercises For Pain Free Shoulders: How To Work, Sleep, And Exercise With Less Shoulder Pain

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