If you're older than ten years old, you have probably heard or remembered your parents at some point telling you to sit up straight or stop slouching. Or perhaps you have been to a manual medicine practitioner (chiropractor, massage therapist, physiotherapist) and they have drilled into you the "shoulders back and down" cue with everything that you do. Although that can be good advice if given at the right time for the right person, it may not be the best.
Going into the details and dynamics of the scapula, neck, shoulder joint and thoracic spine is beyond the scope of this article. But just understand that the scapula (shoulder blade) needs to be able to move freely amongst its articulation with the thoracic spine and shoulder. If it wasn't we would all be moving with our shoulders pinned back and down and anytime that you would need to reach for something, lift something or scratch your head, that glued down scapula would be preventing you from doing it. Thus, causing compensatory movement elsewhere in the body to get the job done. The body is an amazing thing. Just ask any human over time. If you tell them to do something , they will figure out a way to do it, even if it is not optimal.
Going back to the posture thing. If we tell someone to always pin their shoulders back and down, eventually the body learns from that. The cells will start to lay down more tissue in the lines of tension you create, locking down the scapula over time. So if you never actually explore a range of motion outside of that, the body and nervous system will not give you that range. The nervous system will determine which movements are needed for YOUR specific needs and will eliminate the remaining, unless you constantly explore those end ranges.
Enter the banded tempo scapular adduction/abduction control exercise. This exercise is demonstrated in the coronal plane. Ensure that you try to slow the movements down, which requires you to control it. The more you can control, the more you own it. The more you own it, the more degrees of freedom you can possess. This exercise is great for the person who is bound to their desk or sitting constantly. You can also work the movement in various shoulder ranges (not shown in the video). If you can breathe and talk during the movement and don't feel a sense of "juddering" in your shoulder blade, you can safely progress to higher rep ranges. If not, that signifies brute effort and reps and sets are recommended to be in the 3-5 range.
Thank you and happy moving.
The Achieve Movement Team,
Dr. Steve Martinow and Drew Martinow D.C(c)