This is my new, new favourite exercise. I use it for scapular stability and lower/mid trap activation, but it turns out it does so much more. You’ll notice that it looks a lot like an exercise many of us refer to as crocodile breathing. Except it’s even better because setting the shoulders before you breathe prevents you from breathing by elevating the shoulders. In fact those who typically do that will have a hard time breathing deeply with this exercise because the position prevents their normal breathing pattern. This should improve from doing this exercise.
I would like to give credit where credit is due. This exercise is very closely based on one that I learned from this fantastic blog post by Hans Lindgren. I found it by searching for scapular stability DNS, figuring that the Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization folk probably had some interesting thoughts on the subject. I was not disappointed:
“The stabilizers of the scapula, as well as all other muscles, need a fixed anchor point to pull towards. That anchor point in this case is the ribcage and the “core” all stabilized by the diaphragmatic contraction. The lower lateral ribcage acts as an anchor point for the serratus anterior muscle when providing scapular stabilization. Testing scapular stabilization prior to evaluating the diaphragm function would give a false positive result. “
Do yourself a favour and read the post. And then note how similar the exercise I demonstrate in the video above is to the one presented in Dr. Lindgren’s post. I point that out because I don’t want to take credit – I’m just adding the clock to the already great product.
The reason I had been looking for an exercise like this in the first place is that I have been really questioning a common approach to addressing scapular stability, which is to give the person some combination of open chain rotator cuff and serratus anterior activation exercises. The reason I’m not a fan is that I just don’t think they work. This thought process was heavily influenced by a great thread on strengthcoach.com a few months ago. The problem is that they are open chain. You have to have good scapular control to be able to do them. And of course if you have good scapular control, you probably don’t need them.
This lead me to do some reading which lead me to a great Mike Robertson article on the subject. The genius of this article is in this line:
“If your thoracic spine is in a poor resting alignment, your scapulae will never be in the right position.”
My reading and thinking also took me to various other sources and has lead to me putting together a 5 exercise protocol that I’ve been using with some of my clients. The exercise above is at the core of the protocol, but I think the others are relevant as well. I’ll post the full protocol next week as a part 2 to this article. You can hope to catch it, or sign up for my newsletter so you can be sure you see it (it only comes out about once a month, but it includes links to these posts).
Thoughts? Anyone question my comment above that the rotator cuff and serratus anterior activation stuff doesn’t work? I’m talking about Ys, Ts, Ws and Ls, as well as the push-up plus, or serratus push-up. The latter is closed chain, but I’m still doubting it’s efficacy.