Shoulders. Exercises.
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Monday, January 5, 2009 09:30 AM
Exercises for the scapulas
  • Stand sideways to a mirror. Create an abdominal push. Make sure you have a good posture: pelvis and spine is in neutral, hip and knee joints are not locked. Slowly start moving your shoulders up (shrug with your shoulders), down, back and forward. Always return to the neutral position before moving into new direction. Watch in the mirror that relationship between your ribcage and pelvis does not change. Synchronize the movements with exhale. This will help you to prevent chain reactions in your body. Do not try to achieve maximum amplitude. Observe your movements.
    Notice that you can shrug with your shoulders in different ways. You can move your shoulders upward and backward or upward and forward.
    The backward movement can be done backward and upward or backward and downward. Play with variations and listen to your body.
    Movement of your shoulders forward does not have a lot of amplitude at all and actually feels kind of awkward. However, this is the most common one for rounded shoulders and slouching postures. And it triggers a strong reaction to round your upper back, chain reaction!
    You may find one shoulder is more mobile than other. Work with stiff shoulder longer, however, do not try to increase amplitude by forcing it. When you get a hang of it you can slowly draw circles with your shoulders. Remember to keep your spine steady and quiet.
  • Swinging your arms in circles is a good mobilization exercise. The only problem here is this exercise does not let you feel how your scapulas move because big movements of your arms get all the attention.
  • Stand on your knees and hands. Arms straight and vertical. Body and thighs make a straight line. Engage your core. Now, without bending your arms or your torso let your scapulas (shoulder blades) slide up and down (in relation to the ground because your body is somewhat horizontal). When scapulas go up they meet and touch, when they go down they move away from each other on either side of your ribcage. Repeat for 1 minute. This exercise is not easy to execute correctly. You feel awkward and elbows want to bend instead of shoulder blades slide. Do it slowly and if you feel tired stop. The next level of difficulty would be to stand on your hands and feet. And even more difficult variant is to put your sheens or feet on an exercise ball.
    This exercise does not just mobilize your scapulas it teaches you to control the movement which is the key to stabilizing.
  • Other exercises to stabilize your shoulder blades include Yoga's cobra, upward-facing dog and downward-facibg dog. These exercises require you to support your body with your arms which creates necessary muscles tone in the muscles around scapulas.
  • Hanging from a tourniquet has positive influences on the body: stretching of the spine and developing tone in the muscles of the shoulder girdle. When you hang do not sink down between your arms with complete relaxation. Hang for a very short period of time if it is all you can do properly.
  • You may find that you have some muscle imbalances. For example, if you physically cannot move your shoulder blades back without arching your back you may have short Pectoralis muscles that keep your shoulders drawn forward. To stretch those lay with your back on an exercise ball. Make sure the ball is under your upper back, neck and head. Spread your arms left and right and let them hang. The muscles will stretch from the weight of the arms suspended in the air.
  • If you have short or tight muscles on left and right side of your neck and shoulders you may want to sit on a table, put couple sturdy books left and right from you. Put your hands flat on the books and push down with your whole arms. Your body will first become lighter and then may rise off the table. You are doing double work: stretching upper trapezius muscles and exercising your Lats (Latissimus dorsi). Lower yourself down slowly and repeat a few times. Keep your body straight.
  • If you regularly work out on exercise equipment you can benefit more from it by paying attention how your scapulas work during arms movement and if there are chain reactions that induce arching or slouching in your back. Always engage your core when exercising!
  • This exercise is a modification of one from Feldenkrais method and a great way to create relaxation . Lay down on your back. Bend your knees and put your feet flat on the floor and slightly apart. Lift your buttocks in the air, not much just a few inches. Put your hands under your head with fingers interlocked. You must feel that your shoulder blades are flat on the ground. Start gently pushing into the floor with your feet. Your body will slide backwards. Now pull yourself forward with your legs without moving your feet. Your body will slide forward. Oscillate back and forth, gently, find your own rhythm. The sliding that you feel in your body happens between your scapulas and the ribcage. Your whole self slides back and forth on your shoulder blades that stay firmly on the floor. This exercise is amazing relaxation massage for your tired muscles. If you do it for a few minutes you will feel a wonderful warmth spreading around your shoulder blades and neck. You may find stiff spots that block your oscillations. Do not try to force the issue. Simply oscillate less until the block disappears. It may not happen in one session but for sure after a few times. This exercise is a great workout for your legs.
Next time I will explain how to stabilize your shoulder blades for riding and talk about tendencies of our arms you need to be aware when you are holding reins and working on contact.
Happy riding...
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