Tag Archives: posture

Is your (lack of) scapular stability cheating your thoracic mobility?

I feel like a kid in a candy store at the moment as I’m working on what is looking more and more like a really great at hoome exercise program for improving scapular stability. Why do I feel a need to blog about it? Because I’m seriously jazzed. (do people say that anymore?). Here’s the cool confluence of events or moments from the past month that have led me here:

- I went to yoga with a good friend of mine one Sunday morning. It was a very relaxing, light stretching type of yoga, which was perfect for me as I’m very much a beginner in yoga, and I can definitely use more stretching. During one of the poses, I noticed my friend’s shoulder blade was winging like crazy – it was basically at a 90 degree angle to her back. She is experienced in yoga, and is able to do the move fully, although as I watched, I thought “hmm, is that really okay?”.

- She later noted that when she misses yoga for too long, she tends to get tightness in her neck. She feels that the spinal rotations she does in yoga is what keeps that in check. Hmmm…

- I started looking around the interwebs for material, and came across a great article by Mike Roberstson about scapular stability where he discusses the concept that scapular stabilization exercises maybe aren’t really the answer because the real problem may not be that the scapular stabilizers aren’t functioning, but rather that the thoracic spine posture is either too flexed or too straight, and that doesn’t allow the scapula to sit properly. He also discusses the involvement of the diaphragm and ribcage, and how proper breathing is necessary for there to be scapular stability (I’m paraphrasing).

- A client of mine is recovering from a shoulder separation from laying out in ultimate, and is doing some scapular stability exercises for it. He reminded me that his other shoulder isn’t great either and asked if we could do some scapular stabilizing exercises. I was a bit flustered by this request because, based on discussions I’ve had, a book I recently read by Evan Osar, articles like the one I note above, I don’t really believe traditional scapular stabilizing exercises are effective. But I didn’t feel comfortable enough with my approach to really provide a useful alternative. I certainly don’t want to be a naysayer: someone who says “nope, that doesn’t work”, without providing an alternative. So I said nothing but continued to think.

- This past Saturday I was supposed to play in an ultimate tournament, but I woke up with that sore throat/I’m getting a cold feeling. Given that I had been exposed to several sick people over the past week and that it was going to rain all day, I opted to bail on the tournament in favour of lounging on the couch. I’m so glad I did on two levels: the feeling passed without my getting sick (knock wood). I’m also glad I did, because I spent the day reading and thinking and experimenting, all of which lead me to come up with what I think is a really great scapular stability program. I’m testing it for 3 weeks on myself (I’m on day 3), the client with the shoulder issue (he’s starting day 1 this afternoon), and my yoga friend (she’s starting as soon as I get the relevant videos uploaded as she’ll do them without in-person coaching).

Look for results in just over 3 weeks! In the meantime, here’s a little teaser.

Ever tried the quadruped extension-rotation exercise? It’s one I use at Custom Strength often. Here’s an Eric Cressey video of it:


It’s a thoracic spine mobility exercise. Or is it?

This morning, as part of this whole scapular stability/thoracic mobility project I’m working on, I noticed something interesting: I’ve been cheating the quadruped rotation exercise. The picture on the left is of me at the top end of  my left side rotation range of motion, and the picture on the right is of me at the top end of my left side rotation range of motion after setting my scapulae.

tspine rom with unset scap

tspine rom with stable scap








Quite a difference! Which begs the question, where is that extra range of motion coming from on the left? If it was thoracic mobility, it would be there in the picture on the right too. Cheating time!

I can’t wait to see how this movement looks in another 3 weeks.


Elsbeth Vaino, CSCS, B.Sc., is a personal trainer in Ottawa, Canada, who gets easily excited about movement.


Better Back Pack Posture?

I had an idea while walking home from the grocery store with my backpack full of groceries. As I walked, I suddenly became aware of how heavy the pack was, and that it was causing me to lean forward at the hips (shortening my hip flexors) and to curl my shoulders forward (shortening my pectoral muscles). This is not great posture, especially for people who spend a lot of time sitting (with shortened hip flexors) at a computer (with forward shoulders).

For people who wear backpacks, even while walking upright, the natural tendency is toward this very same poor postural position. This “back pack posture” is very common in today’s society, and is often associated with low back and neck problems.
Continue reading Better Back Pack Posture?

It’s the small stuff

A good trainer will work to not only make you stronger, more fit, and less squishy, but also to help improve your overall movement and to contribute to healthy joints and tissues. We do this by working on symmetry, and focusing on stability and mobility in the right places. But typically, the time you spend working out is just not enough to counteract the habits we all have throughout the “other 23 hours of the day”.

What habits am I talking about? The way we stand, sit, walk, sleep, watch tv, and drive all impact our bodies. We all have habits that we do every day. Many of them seem to be so minute, and yet we do them so much that in fact we do them in huge volumes. That adds up and can have a big impact on our ability to move well. Do you know what yours are?
Continue reading It’s the small stuff