Mobility 2 - The Scapula
Today we are focusing specifically on the scapulae, which is basically the fancy name for the shoulder blades. What exactly is the scapula and what does it do? It is a complex network where 17 muscles attach, used in doing any upper body exercise such as the push up, pull up, overhead press. It is also greatly leaned on for all upper body daily movements - like reaching for something on a high shelf or grabbing the stability bars on the subway, or lifting groceries or your luggage into the overhead compartment of an airplane. The scapulae are meant to have a huge circular range of motion and travel fully around the upper ribcage. They slide together towards the spine, roll up towards the ears, forward stretching the upper back and down towards the ribcage. Without a fully mobile and strong scapular region, all the above mentioned activities become a burden, overall shoulder function is compromised and weakness in the arms can ensue.
Stand barefoot (unless out and about) with your feet flat on the ground, shoulder-width apart. Spread the floor with your feet and firmly contract all the muscles of your lower body. Keep your arms by your sides and straight. Make tight fists with your hands. Activating the non-working muscles - the muscles of the lower body, core and tightening of the fists send a strong neuromuscular signal to the muscles involved in the movement. This is called the principal of irradiation (AKA muscle cheering).
In your mind’s eye, envision the full circular range of motion the scapulae governs. With your head reaching up towards the sky and chin pulling back slightly towards the neck to lengthen, slide your shoulders forward as if trying to touch them in front of the body. With intent, begin drawing the biggest circle possible with your shoulders, moving up towards the ears and spreading the upper back. Slowly move the shoulders around towards the back, squeezing the shoulder blades together as if trying to touch them behind the body. Finish the movement by bringing the shoulder blades down towards the floor and back to starting position. As always, move with focus and intent, but not haste.
Do this 3x before repeating in the opposite direction (beginning by moving the shoulder blades towards the back, then up and around).
Pay attention to what you are feeling throughout the exercise. Strong tension is fine, but beware of any pinch points. Work around them.
Maintain posture throughout this exercise and move only through the shoulder girdle and upper back.
Next up: Shoulders, continued.