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Shoulder Stability in Pilates Exercises

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Updated September 10, 2008

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Intro to Shoulder Stability
shoulder stability

stable scapula

Photo © 2008, Marguerite Ogle

Shoulder stability is critical to doing Pilates exercises or any exercise safely and effectively. Beyond the studio or gym, once you train yourself to stabilize the shoulder area through well-aligned exercise, you take that knowledge into everyday movement, thereby protecting your back and neck, and increasing movement efficiency. Shoulder stability is one of the many functional fitness aspects of Pilates.

When we talk about shoulder stability, the term scapular stability is often used. Your scapula are the wing-like bones on your upper back, popularly known as shoulder blades. Their placement on the back is often a visual key as to how stable the whole shoulder area is. When our scapula ride up (along with the shoulders) or wing out to the sides, our shoulder area is less stable than if the scapula were settled on the back in a neutral position. Similarly, sometimes we draw the scapula together on the back and this too is a less stable position than when the scapula are flat on the back with the shoulders down. In honor of shoulder stability, you will hear: "settle your scapula on your back", "draw your shoulder blades down" and "relax your shoulders" (bring them down from around your ears) all the time in Pilates classes.

This demonstration of the exercise, arms reach and pull as seen from the back, gives you a visual on what the scapula look like when they are settled on the back, the stronger position; when they are moved away from midline (abducted), less stable; and when they are pulled in toward midline (adducted), also less stable.

We're not saying that the scapula can't move, they will, but increasing your awareness of the placement of your scapula will help you stabilize movement and promote balanced strength and support in the upper body.

In the image above, the scapula are settled on the back in a neutral and strong position.
Related Video
Pilates Scapular Stabilization Exercise

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