Honest Blog

Why Should We Do It?: Lowering Our Shoulders and Pinching Our Shoulder Blades Together

“What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.” 

– Abraham Maslow

There you are waist deep into your circuit workout. You’re three stations in and you’ve begun your first round of bent over rows. You pull back with wild abandon. It doesn’t feel particularly difficult which is surprising because you are using heavier dumbbells than you did last week. Suddenly you are convinced that you’re master of all rows! Eye of the Tiger hums triumphantly in your head….rising up to the challenge of our riiiival! You are the strongest person alive!

Then you feel a gentle tap-tap on your shoulders. “Try relaxing your shoulders away from your ears and pinch your shoulder blades together,” your trainer lovingly reminds you. You press your shrugged shoulders down from your ears and pull your back out of its rounded hunch. You pinch your shoulder blades together and oooooh… 

Things just got real.

You can actually feel it working now. The muscles you were unintentionally avoiding are now engaged and your real workout can begin. Master of all rows you are not, but with trainers like these, one day you just might be.

The trainers at Honest are there for you like your very own fitness Jiminy Crickets. They will keep you on track and help you squeeze every last drop out of your workout. You will likely hear these loving reminders again…and again…and again. That’s how you become proficient. That’s how you train.

The example I’ve given is just one of many gems you will continue to hear from your trainers. This sort of guidance is one of the many reasons clients love to train at Honest. These gems are for your benefit, but do you ever wonder why they’re beneficial? Sure, you understand that it’s related to proper form and execution, but wouldn’t you like to delve a little deeper and look at what the actual benefits are?

Today is our first installment of Why Should We Do It?

Why should we relax our shoulders away from our ears and pinch our shoulder blades together?

If you aren’t putting focus into proper form it’s very easy to allow your body to hunch and tweak itself into unfavorable positions during the movement. When we are experiencing resistance or performing a challenging move, we can often fall into old habits of bad posture or unknowingly favor certain muscles over others. Don’t beat yourself up over it! Just think about how many years (or decades) you may have been repeating this improper form. It takes time, and lots of reminders to change those habits.

What happens when we don’t use proper form?

Our lovely Honest trainer Michelle Nixon demonstrating improper form.

  • When we raise our shoulders and hunch over we neglect to target the very muscles we are hoping to build.
  • We put serious tension on the neck and upper back which will over time create pain.
  • We greatly increase our risk of injury.
  • We waste valuable energy and additionally prevent surrounding areas from functioning correctly.
  • We don’t get the full benefit from our efforts.

What happens when we use proper form?

Michelle demonstration proper form with her shoulders relaxed away from her ears and her shoulder blades pinched together.

Michelle demonstrating proper form with her shoulders relaxed away from her ears and her shoulder blades pinched together.

  • We target and fully engaging the correct muscles.
  • We dramatically reduce our risk of injury (specifically the shoulder joint and rotator cuff).
  • We add stability and strength to our movements.
  • We get the most out of our efforts. More bang for our buck!

Now that you know why we should do it, let’s review how to do it.

To effectively relax your shoulders from your ears, you’ll need to focus on sliding your shoulder blades (scapula) down your back. As you do this you’ll notice that your collar bone (clavicle) will widen and your scapula will begin to slide toward one another or pinch together.

By doing this you are opening your chest and relaxing your shoulders and neck. This movement should feel very smooth and strong rather than gripped or tight. With time and practice you will master it.

Bonus tip:

As you become more aware of the position of your shoulders, you will also be able to detect when you are shrugging and hunching throughout your day. You’ll begin to notice that you shrug or hunch a lot….a whole lot. Practice relaxing your shoulders all the time. It can help to reduce pain and tension that you didn’t know you were carrying. Awareness is your friend!

Small changes like this will give you a more effective workout. More importantly it will help build the correct muscles and protect you from injury. Make sure to keep checking in with yourself (and your form) and listen to your trainers! Keep up the great work!

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