posture

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robertscott
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posture

Post by robertscott » Wed Apr 30, 2008 2:36 pm

i have always had a winged scapula condition, though i have never had it officially diagnosed, a family member who is a doctor pointed it out to me. My shoulders also always seem to be rounded, making me look slightly hunched over.

i want to correct these problems but am not sure how, i have recently taken to stretching my chest by lying on my back with two light dumbells and letting them pull my arms back. I have noticed my ROM increasing but this does not seem to have had much effect on my posture.

I know building up my serratus can help my scapula, but should i train it as if i was trying to put on mass; that is with heavy weights, or train it with loads of light reps? The doctor family member believed that it was caused by a missing cosmetic muscle in my back, and scoffed recently when i said i believed it was due to a serratus weakness! Has anyone ever heard of winged scapula being caused by a missing muscle?

As for my shoulders being rounded, i think this is because for years i neglected developing my back, and now my bench press is massively stronger than my row, causing an imbalance. How should i correct this?

Thanks.


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Post by scs217 » Wed Apr 30, 2008 2:51 pm

Well I have a little bit of that condition myself. I am currently doing physical therapy for my shoulders and we are addressing that in the process. My (albeit little) knowledge is that you should strengthen the serratus anterior, trapezius, rotator cuff, rhomboids and teres minor muscles.

The regimen that I am on includes:
"full cans" shoulder flexion with your arm at about 45degrees out from straight in front of you, thumbs up, with 3lb dumbells
Empty cans, same thing except raise with thumbs down, 1lb dumbells
Hughston Exercises: all on a high table, face down
Transverse abduction, palms down, 3lb dumbells
Transverse abduction with your arm 45 degrees closer to your head, thumbs up, 3lb dumbells
Shoulder extensions with your arm straight along your body, palms up and palms down, 3lb dumbells
Internal and external rotation with strength tubing, but you can substitute dumbells.

http://www.exrx.net/Articulations/Shoulder.html For descriptions of what those movements are

That might not be tailored to your needs or strength levels with the weights, but the exercises should help. I'd recommend evaluation with a physical therapist though.

KPj
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Re: posture

Post by KPj » Thu May 01, 2008 4:50 am

robertscott wrote: i want to correct these problems but am not sure how, i have recently taken to stretching my chest by lying on my back with two light dumbells and letting them pull my arms back. I have noticed my ROM increasing but this does not seem to have had much effect on my posture.
Good, stretching is definitely required but is only one part of it. Also stretch your upper traps (prioritise this) as these muscles will have shortened, pulling your scapula upwards.
robertscott wrote: I know building up my serratus can help my scapula, but should i train it as if i was trying to put on mass; that is with heavy weights, or train it with loads of light reps?
Train it with high reps, but still train it intensely. By high reps I mean 12-15 per set, but don't be affraid to train them hard.
robertscott wrote: The doctor family member believed that it was caused by a missing cosmetic muscle in my back, and scoffed recently when i said i believed it was due to a serratus weakness! Has anyone ever heard of winged scapula being caused by a missing muscle?
Clearly, your doc is unaware of what the Serratus does, as much as I hate to put it like that as I do have a lot of respect for GP's. It disappoints me to hear this but at the same time, GP's aren't really the guys for the job but well done in recognising a crucial muscle that needs work. The serratus anterior actually pulls the scapulae towards the rib cage. I'm going to give you a link with info but look for 'scap push ups' in this respect.
robertscott wrote: As for my shoulders being rounded, i think this is because for years i neglected developing my back, and now my bench press is massively stronger than my row, causing an imbalance. How should i correct this?

Thanks.
Again, your spot on :-)

What's going on here is you have muscles that have been doing too much work, and muscles that have not been doing enough. The muscles doing too much become tight and shortened over time, and the muscles not doing enough work become very weak and dormant - they 'switch off'.

In the case of winged scapula, the overused muscles are the upper traps and internal rotators (of the rotator cuff and also pecs, especially pec minor). The weak muscles are mostly the middle and lower traps, rear delts and serratus anterior, and external rotators (in the rotator cuff). Basically your whole upper back needs strengthened.

The solution is to give the overused muscles a break but decreasing how much you train them (for now) and stretching them regularly (to restore their length). At the same time, you need to strengthen the weak muscles.

Just as important as the above is to make a conscious effort to correct your posture throughout the day. Make an effort to keep your shoulders down and back as much as you can. If you work at a desk, move around some more - stand up, reach for the sky etc every half hour or so. The best posture is a constantly moving one.

Here's a great article on strengthening the shoulder blades.

Push ups, Face Pulls and Shrugs
http://www.t-nation.com/article/perform ... ceTraining

Also, as scs217 noted, you could always see a physiotherapist. That way, you should have all thinking done for you :-)

Otherwise, feel free to post your training program and i'll comment on things you should take out or add to it...


KPj

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Post by robertscott » Thu May 01, 2008 7:33 am

so you think i should stop bench pressing for a while? Man that sucks, i like bench pressing! But i guess if needs must then that's the way it has to be. To be honest for years i was just fixated on my bench and trained it way harder than anything (it's only in the last year or so that i've actually started aquatting heavier than i bench, and i still don't deadlift as heavy!).

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Post by KPj » Thu May 01, 2008 10:35 am

robertscott wrote:so you think i should stop bench pressing for a while? Man that sucks, i like bench pressing! But i guess if needs must then that's the way it has to be. To be honest for years i was just fixated on my bench and trained it way harder than anything (it's only in the last year or so that i've actually started aquatting heavier than i bench, and i still don't deadlift as heavy!).
It's a very common problem. One which I was guilty of myself, and quite an extreme example.

If benching doesn't cause any pain, then you could keep it. Depends how brutal you want to be in correcting this.

For the most extreme cases, normally when pain is present, the only pressing I would recommend is neutral grip DB Decline bench press, and push ups - lots of push ups, as well as push up holds.

What you want to aim for is at least a 2:1 ration between pushing exercises that require internal rotation (like benching) and pulling exercises that require external rotation. I would actually go for at least a 3:1 ratio if you have a desk job (which involves sitting in internal rotation most of the day).

So in a practical sense, if you do 3 sets of 10 bench press. Then you want at least 6 sets of 10 pulling. That could be 6 sets of 10 seated cable rows, or it could be 3 x 10 seated cable rows, plus 3 x 10 one arm DB rows.

In short, you'll do a tonne of rows. You can include pull ups, too. But not wide pronated grip. if your doing pronated (overhand), keep your hands around shoulder width as it reduces the degree of internal rotation. For a safe bet, rotate between all the grips. Neutral grip pull ups are usually a safe bet.

But yeah, rows and pull ups are the answer. Make sure your doing these exercises at least 2-3 times more than you are pressing. When i say 'more' i mean 'more reps' in whatever form - 3 x 10, 5 x 5, 8 x 3, 6 x 8 - just however you happen to be training.

Volume (total reps) is probably more important than the balance of weight lifted i.e. bent over row vs Bench press strength. Although both are important.

Also, learn the following exercises,

Face Pulls (using a hammer grip)
Prone Trap Raises
Straight Arm Lat Pull downs
External Rotations.

These exercises target middle & lower traps with the exception of external rotations which target your external rotators. Prioritise the shoulder blade stuff, though... Try and do 2-3 sets of 12-15 on each of them, once per week in whatever way possible. You can do them at the end of workouts and throw them into leg days between exercises, too, as they don't really effect anything.

If you do all this, as well as the stretching, and make a consious effort to fix your posture throughout the day, then you should notice a difference in a couple of months.

KPj


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Post by KPj » Thu May 01, 2008 10:42 am

One last thing...

Scap push ups (for serratus anterior)

Try doing these in your warm up. That's what I do anyway, every workout I do 15 scap push ups in my warm up.

I will also do either Behind the neck band pull downs or wall slides in my warm up. Same amount - 15 reps.

You can make these exercises as well, done towards the end of a work out or in between exercises during a leg day. Just as long as your doing direct middle & lower trap work, and direct serratus anterior work regularly. As well as loads of rows and pull ups.

These are the muscles that will pull your scapula towards your rib cage and pull them down too. As long as your also stretching the shortened muscles and making a conscious effort to fix it through out the day, too.

KPj

p.s Your squat sort of should be heavier than your bench.. Generally. And DL's are a great posture 'fixer'. They hammer the whole posterior chain (which you really need) as well as making your retract and depress your shoulder blades at lock out - perfect posture and all upper back muscles working together, as they should :-)

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Post by robertscott » Thu May 01, 2008 10:53 am

Cheers for the advice mate, that's some really useful stuff you've got there but i need you to elaborate on a couple of points:

Firstly you say keep doing bench if there's no pain? There isn't any pain while performing this exercise, i've also read a winged scapula can affect your shoulder press but this has never really been an issue for me either.

I hear what you're saying about the ratio of push/pull. My workout on push day consists of 3 sets 10 to 12 reps for my bench. What I'll do then is I'll keep that as my only chest exercise, and on pull day I'll do 3 sets 10 to 12 reps pendlay rows (an exercise I've just discovered, hard work but i think it'll be worth it!), the same sets/reps for reverse flyes (not sure if that's their proper name but you know the ones i mean; they strengthen rear delts, rhomboids etc) and 3 sets to failure face pulls. How does that sound?

I'm not clear on what prone trap raises are, or external rotations. I'm also not sure exactly how to stretch my upper traps.

I never even considered stretchng my upper traps, i didn't think it was an issue. As i mentioned before i've been stretching my chest but nothing else really.

thanks again for the advice, i definitely think i'm on the road to getting this sorted.

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Post by KPj » Fri May 02, 2008 4:10 am

robertscott wrote: Firstly you say keep doing bench if there's no pain? There isn't any pain while performing this exercise, i've also read a winged scapula can affect your shoulder press but this has never really been an issue for me either.
Yes, if there's not pain then you'll be OK if you keep benching. With winged scapula and internally rotated shoulders, normally the first thing to draw any symptoms out of you will be bench pressing so normally i say to drop it but if it doesn't hurt, it'll be fine. Same with shoulder pressing. I've had really beat up shoulders but shoulder pressing never bothered me.

You never mentioned any pain at all, otherwise I would advise it.
robertscott wrote: I hear what you're saying about the ratio of push/pull. My workout on push day consists of 3 sets 10 to 12 reps for my bench. What I'll do then is I'll keep that as my only chest exercise, and on pull day I'll do 3 sets 10 to 12 reps pendlay rows (an exercise I've just discovered, hard work but i think it'll be worth it!), the same sets/reps for reverse flyes (not sure if that's their proper name but you know the ones i mean; they strengthen rear delts, rhomboids etc) and 3 sets to failure face pulls. How does that sound?
Reverse flyes are good, the rear delts are typically weak, too. this sounds good. If your doing it right, you should feel like your doing far too much rowing, and not enough pressing - this is what you want :-)

robertscott wrote: I'm not clear on what prone trap raises are, or external rotations. I'm also not sure exactly how to stretch my upper traps.
External rotations (and face pulls) in the article below. You will also see 'scap wall slides' which are a great exercise which you may not be able to do at first. Great article aswell btw.

Heal that hunchback
http://www.t-nation.com/readArticle.do?id=459846

The one below has an upper trap stretch, towards the bottom. Another great article. You can do the stretch standing, too. same way with hand behind back most important thing is keeping the shoulder down (on the side your stretching obviously).

Hardcore Stretching
http://www.t-nation.com/readTopic.do?id=640906

Prone Trap Raises in this article, under the heading, "B: Lower trap raises, arms 10 and 2 o'clock"
http://www.t-nation.com/findArticle.do?article=215weak2


robertscott wrote: I never even considered stretchng my upper traps, i didn't think it was an issue.
Probably more of an issue than tight internal rotators although both are very important. Your upper traps when shortened pull your shoulder blades upwards, which then puts your shoulder joint in a position of internal rotation, which shortens the internal rotators, and the internal rotators adapt to being in a constantly shortened state by shortening in length. So you need to stretch both, but the upper traps are closer to the route cause of the problem.
robertscott wrote: thanks again for the advice, i definitely think i'm on the road to getting this sorted.
No probs and good luck. Just get something on paperm, follow it whilst making an effort to correct it throughout the day, and see how it goes. You need to be patient with correcting posture but if you don't 'feel' a difference in a couple of months, then you need to step up the ratio we mentioned - do even more rowing, pull ups, and direct middle lower trap work, rear delt work etc.

I've also found that doing the static stretches every day is the best way to lengthen a shortened muscle...

All those exercises mentioned are pretty low impact. You can do them anywhere in a routine, really - just get them in somewhere. Straight arm lat pull downs for example have a ROM of about 2-3 inches, so they don't exactly affect your work out or take much time.

Remember overhead pressing is part of pressing, too. It's a push exercise and it internally rotates your shoulders, so you need to balance this out as well.

Pull ups with a neutral grip are a favorite of mine for strengthening the whole upper back when you've got poor posture, as well as deadlifts and their variations.

KPj

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Post by robertscott » Fri May 02, 2008 12:34 pm

wicked my man you've been really helpful.

I'm so terribly impatient it's not going to be easy, but the prospect of changing the bad habit of a lifetime is actually quite exciting, i still wish there was a quick fix though... It's annoying to think that the last 3 years I've been training I've been doing it wrong.

You know that song that goes "I wish that i knew what i know now, when i was younger"? That guy must've had a winged scapula too.

Anyway thanks again, I've a pretty fair idea of what needs to be done now. My new workout's going to have about a 5:1 ratio rowing (or equivalent) to pressing, loads of stretching and a really hardcore effort with regards to my posture in everyday life.

Winged scapula? What winged scapula...


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