Written by Gina Tann I’m back with more (#anatomynerd alert) shoulder muscle goodies for you. Last week’s post covered the scapulae and why they’re so important to your shoulder stability. This week is all about your shoulder and back muscles, and why you should strive for balance between them for pole or aerial longevity. If you remember, last week I mentioned that your shoulder blades only have two points where they connect with bones – and that they’re both at the top. This means we have much more flexibility in our backs, but it also means that if our back muscles aren’t strong enough to help keep our shoulder blades in place, all that body weight and pressure gets shifted to the top. That means your arms and shoulders, which are small muscle groups by way of comparison, are either being overused or taxed as you “hang” rather than engage. Your rhomboids are responsible for pulling your shoulder blades together, and to a large extent your lats are responsible for pulling them down. Here are just a few exercises to help you become more aware of how you use different muscles to control what your shoulder blades are doing. 1) Have a seat and get comfortable. Beginning with relaxed shoulders, move your shoulders forward. Then relax them again. Now, move them backward toward each other. Not up. Just back! Relax again. 2) Repeat the exercise above with your arms held out in front of you. Being mindful of what your body does when your shoulder blades move toward and away from each other could make an immediate difference in your cat pose, or in how stable your shoulders feel in planks. 3) Raise your arms over your head as far as you can reach so your shoulders are by your ears, palms facing inward, and pull down on an imaginary pole. Do this exercise in two different ways: once without bringing the shoulder blades toward each other (mostly lats), and once pulling the shoulder blades in as you pull them down (mostly lats plus rhomboids) Check out Figures 1 and 2 in this article for illustrations (source unknown) on what muscles are working for you during various shoulder positions. After doing these exercises consistently you should have a much better idea of what your shoulder and back muscles are doing. Next week’s post covers a few exercises designed to improve your functional strength and stability. See you then!