If you’re one of those people that is continuously rotating the shoulder after every set of push-ups, bench presses, or overhead press variation, then there’s a good chance, for a lack of a better phrase, your shoulders are pretty jacked up! And not in a good way. Part of the reason is most people don’t work the antagonist (opposite) muscle group for the above movements; rhomboids, trapezius (mainly lower), posterior deltoid, seratus posterior, and lattissimus dorsi. These muscles are activated by doing exercises such as rows, pull-downs, and extension exercises.
Now, although these exercises could help with the muscular imbalance you’ve created, chances are you’re doing them improperly. I’ve seldom met a person who performs these exercises correctly unless they were an advanced trainee or were involved in the health and fitness field, and even most of them do it wrong! For the majority of the population, when doing any type of pulling exercises, it is important to start with the scapula, or shoulder blades, slightly protracted (pushed forward) and then retract (pull) the scapula, gliding them against the posterior ribcage. This will better activate the antagonist muscles mentioned above. In this movement they would be labeled the agonist muscle group.
1. Shoulders down and back
- some people may have difficulty with this, but just the cue will help you activate the correct muscle groups to perform the motion
2. Elbows even with the back,
- elbows jetting passed the posterior ribs is a sign of hyperextension of the humerus in the glenohumeral joint. This is just making the problem worse!
3. Ribs down
- not allowing the ribs to flare up during the lift is essential in making sure the movement is being performed with the muscles surrounding the scapula, and not cheating it with the muscles of the lower back
Below are pictures representing the correct vs incorrect posture for the two most common pulling variations
1. Horizontal Row (Incorrect)
- Notice the forward head, upward rotating scapula (high shoulders), and elbows jetting out the back? Kind of looks like the posture I already see in most people. This will not make the problem any better.
1A. Horizontal Row (Correct)
- Shoulder blades retracted, elbows even with the back, ribs down.
2. Supinated Pull-Down (Incorrect)
- Notice the forward head, upward rotating scapula (high shoulders), and elbows in front of the body
2A. Supinated Pull-Down (Correct)
- Shoulders down and back (think into the hips), elbows even with the ribs, head back/chin tucked, and ribs down
If you have trouble activating those shoulder blades properly, drop the weight, and pull better! Your shoulders, lower back, and posture will thank you for it!