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Develop Strong and Well-Balanced Shoulders Using Pilates Training Tips

May 10, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 204

Have you ever had a shoulder injury? Do you ever notice your shoulders wrapped up around your ears? Do you carry tension and stress in your neck that crawls down into your shoulders and upper back?

It's no surprise that an increasing number of people these days experience most of these shoulder issues. In order to maintain good posture we have two choices - Use good core support, or over work the arms and shoulders.

To put it in perspective: To support the body we either function like a circus tent with a tall pole up the center and the edges sloping down (core support & shoulders down) or like a coat hung up on a hook (shoulders hiked up in an attempt to hold us up!)

Coat-on-a-hook posture habits create neck and shoulder tension. This can lead to more headaches, and increase risk of shoulder injuries and Rotator cuff problems. However, with the right body awareness and training; It is never too late to improve one's posture.

Improved Core Strength Is Critically Important for Strong and Healthy Shoulders.

Having a well-developed core will help keep you sitting and standing with tall posture thus making your shoulders more relaxed. (Like the circus tent). But sometimes relaxing the shoulders isn't enough. In some cases you'll need actively work to pull down the shoulders down away from the ears.

A broad diamond-shaped upper back muscle called the Trapezius has fibers running in three different directions. The lower fibers draw the shoulder muscles down. Middle fibers aid in pulling the shoulder blades together, and the upper fibers elevate the shoulders.

In General, the downward action of the Trapezius is the weakest yet most important action for shoulder support and stability.

My personal favorite cue for waking up the lower Trapezius muscles is "Diamond Down." The "Diamond Down" cue and shoulder action is excellent when preparing to do any exercise that involves using the shoulders and arms.

How Can Diamond Down Aid in Developing the Lower Trapezius Muscles?

  • It increases the counter-leverage necessary to lengthen and open joint space for your upper thoracic spine, neck and head. This helps improve posture and upper spine mobility.
  • It positions the shoulder joint in a more optimal place for movement of the shoulder and arm during exercise. Refining one's movement technique improves overall strength, flexibility and reduces the danger of arm and shoulder injuries.

Practicing "Diamond Down" as a Shoulder Strengthening Exercise

  1. Stand with good posture and core support. The natural position of the upper spine should be slightly curved (flexed) so that the shoulder blades can lay flat on the back. Allow the arms to hang by your sides.
  2. Inhale filling the back, to lift the ribcage and lengthen the spine, Exhale and from the bottom tips of the shoulder blades and draw the "Diamond Down" gently bringing the shoulder blades down towards the back of your waist.
  3. Inhale to lift the spine tall and exhale to deepen the "Diamond Down Contraction, then release.

When To Practice the "Diamond Down" Action

  • Perform your "Diamond Down" exercise 3-5 times as a warm-up exercise before any other Pilates or gym exercises.
  • Start with the "Diamond Down" action to initiate any arm or shoulder movement (Up or Down).
  • You can also do this as a stand-alone exercise, anytime throughout the day to remind you to keep your shoulders away from your ears!

What to Watch For

  • Make sure the lower Abdominals are lifting for core support and remain lifted while you draw your "Diamond" down.
  • Keep the body still as you maintain good posture while the shoulder blades move.
  • Avoid pinching the shoulder blades together as they pull down. Make sure the blades stay flat on the ribcage.

Improve Core Strength for Healthy Shoulders

Consistently exercising with Pilates can improve whole-body health. If your core is weak, the shoulders will have the tendency to be hiked up around your ears. With a strong, well-supported center it's easier to improve shoulder movement, decrease joint pain, and enhance your Pilates training, or any workout activity.

The "Diamond Down" shoulder exercise is a great start to help develop strong, healthy shoulders and arms.

The Pilates Arc Barrel is a wonderful way to strengthen and reinforce proper shoulder movement to reduce neck & shoulder tension, and keep your arms & shoulders strong, fit, flexible, and injury-free.

If you're looking for more great shoulder and arm strengthening exercises to improve functional movement. Check out the benefits of using the Pilates Arc Barrel and the arm and shoulder exercises in the book "A Barrel of Fun" available at http://www.centerworks.com/store/a-barrel-of-fun/

Aliesa George is a Pilates, Foot Fitness, and Functional Movement expert. Founder of Centerworks, author of the books "A Barrel of Fun!" and "Fantastic Feet!" And creator of other wellness resources and workshops, she is committed to helping students & health professionals develop their belief in whole-body health, unlimited potential, and positive change.

To learn more about the Centerworks products, services and resources available to improve your whole-body health visit: http://www.Centerworks.com

Source: EzineArticles
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