Are You Moving Your Shoulder Girdle?

Scapulohumeral Rhythm… Say what?!


Move your shoulders.

Well done.


Now move your shoulder girdle…

Exactly. I’m also confused.


If you lifted your shoulders towards your ears then you would have moved your shoulder girdle, so that was a bit of trick question. My point here is that most people don’t realise that their ‘shoulder’ is actually comprised of their Shoulder blades (the Scapular), the top of their arm (the humerus), and even the collar bones (the clavicle) plus all of the muscles around these bones that hold them in place and to allow them to move.

Scapulohumeral rhythm is a term used to describe the way this girdle moves.

Scapular (shoulder blades), humerus (top of the arm).

Because modern day life has us leaning over keyboards and steering wheels we have developed a tendency to protract our shoulders and create ridged, slightly hunched backs and shoulders. It is really important to make sure that we undo this and keep our shoulders moving correctly.. aka.. Check your Scapulohumeral rhythm!

The simplest way to do this is with a Pilates exercise called ‘Arm Raises’.

Arm Raises

Stand correctly with your feet hip distance apart and parallel. Make sure your ribs are stacked on top of your pelvis, and your shoulders are in line with your ribs too. Length the back of your neck and keep your gaze forward (This, is your neutral spine.. More on that later too).

Pull your navel gently into your spine for some core stability.

Good. Now keep the torso nice and strong throughout this exercise. It will not move! (Watch you don’t flare your ribs)

Take a deep breath. As you breathe out float your right arm up towards the ceiling, breath out to lower, continue with this breathing pattern alternating your arms. Repeat x5 times on each side and then repeat x10 with floating the arms together. This isn’t a fast movement, move in time with your breath.

Things to watch out for here are that you don’t flare your ribs by bending your back (keep your core stable, the spine does not move in this exercise).

Secondly, make sure your arm stays in your peripheral vision.

Finally, make sure your shoulder girdle (Now you know what this is 😉 ) rises gently and is not pinned down, you should feel the shoulder blades slide across the back of your rib cage and the collar bones rise gently too. This is your scapulohumeral rhythm!

If you find this hard because your shoulders are stiff or pinching then the best advice I can give you is to see an Osteopath or get a deep tissue massage.

From years of ballet and practicing to keep my shoulders pinned down and back it took me a long time to re-train my body to allow my shoulders to rise naturally without forcing them. I also needed some serious deep tissue work from a good masseuse. It’s been hugely worth it, I am pain free now.

This exercise will massage the muscles too, so keep practicing and enjoy!


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