The scapular shrugs are going to be your new friend.
Have you tried how well you can move and control your shoulder blades, lately? It is very possible that you may have very little mobility there. Or maybe ZERO mobility. It is very common. The older you are and the more you have neglected your shoulder blades, the more restricted the movement will be.
The following exercise, the scapular shrugs, are an excellent exercise for strengthening and loosening up the muscles around the upper back. Did you know that there are 18 muscles connected to the shoulder blades? Yet, you may not be able to use them. What a shame 🙂
Let’s correct that. These muscles are important for tennis players or all other athletes and non-athletes in the prevention of shoulder injuries. The shoulders are the most mobile joints in the body—or they should be—and the scapula moves through many different angles. Scapular shrugs are excellent at targeting the serratus anterior muscle, which is very important for transfering force from the arm into the upper body. If the muscles around the shoulder blades are not strong, often the smaller muscles (rotator cuff) can get overused and injured.
The serratus anterior is also one of the muscles responsible for protracting the shoulder blades and keeping them stable overhead. Most adults don’t pay attention to the serratus and the muscle is almost non-existent and the shoulder mobility is poor. We do many overhead movements in sports and life, and if we don’t have the stability, other muscle groups will compensate, and we get injured over time.
Scapular Shrugs in Action
- Kneel or position yourself into a plank.
- Make sure that you always keep your elbows straight.
- The movement is only happening between your shoulder blades.
- Pinch the scapulae strongly together on the bottom of the movement and hold for 1 second. This is called retraction.
- Push the scapulae and spread them apart fully on the top of the movement. Hold 1 second. This is called protraction.
You can perform the scapular shrugs on all fours or in the plank position. If both these versions are too hard for you right now, feel free to start standing and leaning against the wall. Start with 4 sets of 10 receptions, and as you grow yourself stronger, do 20 repetitions per set.