Your scapula (shoulder blade) play a very important role in maintaining proper upper body posture. Look at the picture above. In the first picture, I deliberately round my upper back (turtle back) and move my shoulders forward (what some ppl may call slouching). In the second pic, my scapula is in its proper alignment, as evident as the crown of my head is in line with the center line of the body, you will also notice that the rounding of the upper back disappear and my lower abdomen is “pull back” into place. I did not suck in any air or “brace” myself for the second pic, it all happen naturally when the scapula is simply in its proper alignment. Notice that I automatically become leaner, taller and more energetic at once.
Now, what you may ask, cause this kind of posture deficiency in the first pic on the left? Long hours on the desk, improper table height during typing, poor form used during exercises or simply poor postural habits reinforced over a long time. Overtime, this causes the scapula to become less and less mobile until the kind of “rounded shoulders” as described. I seem to find these more prevalent in women though (just my views), especially among the more sedentary group. that is not to say this problems can not be found among guys. Usually, these group of people would have underdeveloped musculature of the rear delts and the upper back or over developed musculature in the front (guys who only work on the “mirror” muscles like abs and chests in the gym).
Now the first thing to do is not to start blasting away at all the back excerises you can think of. Afterall, doing back excerises (pulling excerises) with scapula that has restricted mobility will just reinforce poor excerise habits and may even accentuate the problem. What we have to do first, is to improve the scapula mobility and at the same time, teach the scapula to contract properly while handling a load. To put it in simpler term, we need the get the scapula mobile and we need to get’em strong.
Thoracic “Circle Drawing” excerise
I usually use this excerise for warming up the upper body especially for the bench press. It help in improving the thoracic (the part of the spinal column that lines up the upper back) mobility and also at the same time warming up the whole shoulder. Take note that the whole half of the body is moving and not just the shoulder joint alone. Think of it as using the half side of ur body to draw a circle. always look at the palm when “drawing the circle”. 1 set of 6 to 10 repetition a side everyday would suffice.
Scapular protraction excerise
This excerise teaches the scapula to protract against a resistance (your body in this case) scapula protraction which in simple term means moving the shoulder forward, as in this case, we are trying to spread the shoulder blade away from one another under resistance and resisting retraction. Start from a neutral scapula position. Start by squeezeing your shoulders blade togather as you move your body down, do not merely just lower your body, this is in actuality an excerise for the scapula. At the bottom, begin to spread apart your boulder blade as you push yourself up. Your shoulder blade should be fully spread apart at the top of the movement. It is important to always lead with the shoulder blade. 1 set of 10 reps everyday would suffice.
Band pull apart
Now this excerise is the opposite of scapula protraction. It teaches the shoulder blade to retract while resisting protraction. In simple terms, it means “pulling back the shoulder blade” while under a resistance. for this excerise, you will need an excerise band, any cheap band will do (I got mine for free!), or you could get those LP bands from sports shop (I think it cost less than $20).
Again, always lead with the shoulder blade, pull the band apart as you squeeze your shoulder blade. It helps by imagining someone put a hand between your scapula and you are trying to squeeze it. Hold the position for a second (important! Thats the primary role of the scapula imo, to “hold” and to “support”). You can do this everyday too. A couple sets of 10 should do the job.
There you have it, 3 excerise for scapula mobility. Do them for 2 weeks (everyday) and see if there is an improvement in your posture!