Rules of Engagement, Part IV — Shoulder Strengthening Exercises
Yes. We have bombarded you with shoulder EVERYTHING over the past month. And you know what? Not sorry, and not quite finished. Ha. Because keeping your shoulders healthy is crucial to pole longevity. Like I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, your scapulae (shoulder blades) aren’t connected to any bones at the bottom — only at the top. So keeping them “down and back” like you have heard from instructors becomes a function of being able to use your lats, rhomboids, and entire core to stabilize them and hold them in place. So this week, let’s talk about exercises that can help you become more aware of your shoulders, and help you strengthen your entire shoulder and core girdle at the same time. Even the most basic of shoulder strengthening exercises can have great benefits!
- The first one is a simple breathing exercise, but you can use it to train your lats and rhomboids to keep your shoulder blades down and flat to your back. First, while breathing in, raise your arms as far over your head as you possibly can. Get your diaphragm up, torso long, and feel your shoulders come all the way up to your ears. Now, breathe out, and as you do, work to get your shoulders as far away from your ears as they will go. I’m not talking about just lowering them, but about actively pressing your fingertips down toward the floor. Feel your lats and rhomboids working? You should. If not, try again. You will also feel this in your core, as it helps to stabilize you.
Next up, scapular pushups. For this one, get into a plank position on the floor. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and let the space between your shoulders sink down toward the floor, creating a dip between your shoulders. Now, press down into the floor with your hands and allow your shoulder blades to rotate to the sides of your body and allowing your spine to lengthen in between. Now you should have a big round upper back. Repeat, repeat, repeat! You can also do this one as a pulling motion rather than a pulling motion. Hold onto a doorframe, and allow your shoulders to move away from each other as your upper back rounds. Now, engage your rhomboids and lats to pull your shoulder blades back together. Image source: http://www.thechiropracticoffice.ca/ Last, the floor superman! Lie down on your stomach and extend your arms with palms down. Now, slowly lift your arms, upper torso, and legs from the floor by contracting your rhomboids, lats, and core, and hold for 3-5 seconds. Repeat. Note that on this exercise your hips and stomach should be on the floor at all times, and you’ll feel this one in the front of your core as well, because your entire core is responsible for achieving and maintaining this hold. Image source: fitstream.com Other great shoulder exercises include lat pull-downs, assisted or unassisted pullups (vary your hand position to work different muscle groups), rowing, reverse flys (make sure you are properly spotted when you begin and/or increase your weight!), weighted shrugs, lateral arm raises …. the list is endless. So get out there and strengthen those shoulders!