by Cuyler Hudson, DPT, PT, FAFS
Your scapulas (shoulder blades) are the anchors for your shoulders! If you can’t move them, or can’t stabilize them, your shoulder joint won’t be able to move or stabilize well either!
Here are three exercises to help you gain control and build strength in your shoulder blade muscles, setting your shoulders up for a lifetime of pain free football and frisbee tosses.
1. Standing scap retraction with rib depression: This can be used as an assessment as well as an exercise. The goal is to slide your arms up a wall into a “Y” position, breathe out and bring your ribs down and in so that your lower ribs are as close to your pelvis as possible. Now, keeping that rib position, pull your hands off the wall as far as your can, making sure to pull from your shoulder blade. Hold for another full breath, then place your hands back on the wall and slide down to start position. This is working on your ability to dissociate your shoulder blade from your rib cage to decrease compensatory rib/spine motion, and also should give you a good burn in the lower trap.
2. Quadruped T’s: Start this exercise in an all 4 position on an elevated surface. Push your sternum away from the ground to round your upper spine. From here, grab a small weight (a can of soup will do), and let your shoulder blade glide forward around your ribcage so your hand is as close to the floor as possible. Now, pull from your shoulder blade first, moving it towards your spine as you lift your arm. Remember to keep your palm facing downwards, and hold for 1 second at the top of the lift. You should get a good burn in the back of your shoulder and between your shoulder blade and spine.
3. Quadruped Y’s: Start in the same set up as the T’s. Lift your sternum away from the ground to round your upper back. Now, instead of lifting the weight to the side, think about pulling your shoulder blade down and back, and bring the weight diagonally into a Y position, with your thumb facing the ceiling. Hold at the top for one second. You should feel this a little lower down, in the space between your shoulder blade and spine.