Do you have poor posture?
Pain in your shoulders and neck?
Trouble raising your arms straight overhead?
Well, then, have I got something for you!
Okay… enough infomercial talk.
Let’s get real, and let’s get to work on fixing your scapular mobility.
The video below will show you a simple stretch to will help you address the muscles surrounding your shoulder blades.
A word of warning, though: this ain’t gonna be easy.
(Simple? Yes. Easy? Not so much.)
Just like those “get rich quick” schemes you hear about on TV, “get fit quick” or “get flexible quick” schemes simply don’t work.
Make a real investment in your health and the payoff will be big – it’ll just take time and dedication.
But first, let’s talk about why this matters at all.
What’s so great about the shoulder blades?
The scapulae, or shoulder blades, are surrounded by 16 major muscles. These muscles are responsible for controlling the upper extremities, and even play a role in lower extremity stabilization and movement (by attaching the scapula to the pelvis).
In layman’s terms, the scapular muscles are the shiznit.
So what happens when they’re out of whack?
It’s very common for people to have malfunctioning scapular muscles, primarily due to sitting too much. Prolonged sitting (in front of a computer, for example) encourages thoracic flexion and scapular protraction.
Over time, the muscles become more and more dysfunctional, and movement in this area becomes limited.
When the shoulder blades and their surrounding muscles are limited or tight, it will negatively affect your posture, your level of pain, and your ability to perform many (if not most) exercises properly.
- When trying to do a pull up, you may not be able to achieve full flexion of the shoulder.
- Your limited mobility will make it difficult to perform a proper handstand.
- You may not be able to do many movements on the parallettes, as you won’t be able to fully depress your shoulders.
And outside of exercise-related limitations, you may experience the following:
- Difficulty reaching to get something off a high shelf.
- Pain when lifting heavy objects.
In other words, if your scapular mobility is limited, your whole life will probably be affected – and in a bad way.
So, let’s get down to business and fix up those muscles!
In this video, Ryan will show you three variations of a stretch that will work the entire chain of muscles surrounding the scapulae. Take a look, then scroll down for more details.
Shoulder Scapula Stretch Tutorial
How to Stretch for Scapular Mobility
This stretch targets those vital muscles surrounding the shoulder blades that allow for proper movement of the upper extremities when fully functional. Because this stretch is quite difficult for many people, Ryan has broken it down into three progressions.
Work on the first progression until you feel ready to move up to the next level, and so on.
- Start by lying down on your belly.
- Keeping your belly on the mat, come up on your elbows.
- Make sure your shoulders are directly above your elbows, keeping your elbows bent at 90 degrees.
- Push away from the ground with your elbows, rounding your back while keeping your head neutral. (Remember, keep your elbows at the same angle, and keep your belly on the mat.)
- Hold for 3-5 seconds, then relax down.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together, hold for 3-5 seconds, then relax.
- Repeat 5 times.
- Get down on your hands and knees, keeping your knees bent at a 90-degree angle and your shoulders directly above your wrists.
- Without moving the rest of your body, including your hips, push into the ground with your hands and round your back towards the ceiling.
- Focus on relaxing the lower back, and only rounding your upper back.
- Hold this rounded position for 5 seconds, focusing on opening up the back as much as possible.
- Relax, then drop your chest down to the floor, drawing your shoulder blades toward each other.
- Make sure to keep your stomach tight and neutral, keeping the movement at the chest and upper back.
- Keep your arms straight throughout the movement.
- Hold the arched position for about 5 seconds, and then relax.
- Repeat 5 times.
- Come into a plank position with your feet together.
- Lock out your knees, squeeze your butt, and pull your heels back.
- With your hips locked into place, push away from the floor with your hands, rounding your back. Keep your head neutral.
- Hold for 5 seconds, then relax your shoulders.
- Again, keeping your hips in place and your arms locked out, drop your chest towards the floor.
- Bring your shoulder blades towards each other, squeezing those muscles.
- Hold for 5 seconds, then relax.
- Repeat 5 times.
Get Those Shoulders Movin’!
You’ll notice these progressions look very similar to one another. That’s because they’re progressions.
It’s up to you to figure out what level you’re starting from, and which progression you are ready for. Of course, we’re always here to help out, but your success with this stretch, like everything else in fitness, comes down to feeling your own limitations, and figuring out what you need to work on.
With that said, as you move through these progressions, you will find that, over time, your mobility and posture will improve.
Your pain should decrease, and your ability to do all the exercises you want to do will drastically increase. So stick with this stretch, do it daily and as often as you feel you need to, and you’ll feel the positive effects in no time.
More than just about any other exercise, the handstand requires full range of motion in the shoulder, and it requires the muscles surrounding the shoulder to be as strong as possible.
The Ultimate Guide to Learning Handstands is a great introduction to everything you need to know about learning handstands.