The ‘shoulder girdle’ is made up of the two scapulae (shoulder blades) and the two clavicles (collarbones) and each have articulation points which form joints. The shoulder girdle forms a connection between the arms and the spine.
This joint is a ball and socket joint which is relatively shallow, allowing a greater range of movement than the hip joint.
In Pilates we aim to maintain scapular ‘stabilisation’ whether we’re lying on our backs, flexing the spine forward or moving the arms, which is why I often mention keeping the shoulders back and down even when our arm is in the air (for example, when side bending).
How do I stabilise my scapulae?
· Inhale and shrug your shoulders towards your ears
· Exhale and gently slide the shoulder blades down the back and in towards the spine in a ‘V’ shape. The shoulder blades should not be squeezing together (pinching)
· A sense of width should be felt across the front and the back of the shoulder girdle.
It can help to imagine that you are drawing your shoulder blades down into your back pockets.
We are aiming for a ‘neutral’ position, without rounding the shoulders forward or squeezing them together too much. Stability is different from rigidity, which we also want to avoid. The scapulae should lie flat on the ribcage and glide across it without coming away from it.
What are the benefits?
The shoulder joint has more mobility and less stability than other joints, which increases the risk of injury. Stabilising your shoulders for each exercise is just as important as stabilising the abdominals. Otherwise, there can be tendency to overwork the muscles of the neck and shoulders.
How Pilates can help
Pilates improves posture and reduces muscle imbalances, strengthening the rotator cuff muscles which help to protect the shoulder and prevent injury. It can also help to maintain correct neck alignment and avoid ‘poking’ the chin or head forwards.
See if you can focus on stabilising your shoulders today!