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Muscles Never Push: Optimizing your Shoulder Stretches

They pull. On your bones. If a bone is moving, it is being pulled. If a bone is stationary, it is being pulled. While other soft tissues pull from other directions on that same bone, the overall result is a postural suspension up from your rooting in gravity... like this suspended bridge...

Why should you care about which muscles you stretch?

The stretching and rolling you do at home is a form of pulling. Your physical therapist pushes through certain tissues, but from a muscle's point of view, it is being pulled, as if under a rolling pin. If it's being pulled along the long length of it's fibres, it will lengthen.

This is important because you only want specific muscles elongated: the ones which are truly pulling short.

Which muscle is your practitioner lengthening? Which muscle are you stretching or rolling?

Look at your body in the mirror.

Close your eyes, forget how you think you should stand, settle. Now look.

If your shoulders are rounded forward, it's not because the muscles in between your shoulder blades are pushing them out, up and forward.

Muscles never push.

If your shoulders are forward, and the symptoms are between your shoulder blades (scapulae), do you stretch them forward, "abducting" your scapulae further?

Nope. "...Studies have shown that stretching the anterior chest muscles on [their] own ...can alter the position of the scapula at rest in individuals with abducted scapulae" [aka forward, protracted shoulder blades].

Related studies have "failed to detect a significant association between muscle strength and scapular position but found a significant relationship between muscle length and scapular position".


"So, stretching the protractor muscles on the front of the shoulders,

is more effective - even more so -

than strengthening work on the muscles

that are back between the shoulder blades."


But why is the shoulder blade area sore, knotty, crunchy,

if it's not the real problem?

Imagine a strappy little muscle between your shoulder blades is like a black plastic bag. You grasp both ends and stretch it.

Past a certain point, the plastic will become more and more translucent until it tears, under sustained load, or under an additional sudden force.

There was elastic give, but at a point of strain there were plastic changes.

Elongated, taut muscles beyond of their normal lengths ("tight" feeling, but not truly short), are vulnerable to microtears.

Under continued plastic strain, messy tangles of collagen form. This fibrosis feels like a "crunchy" knot.

These plastically weakened muscle fibres may have less elastic bounding strength. Trigger Points, can send painful messages while half-baked micro-contractions try to restore healthy length.

If you continue to lengthen the taut thinned muscles in between your shoulder blades, your good intentions may not have lasting effect.

"Muscles never push. Elongate the muscles that are truly short, the ones pulling your body out of optimal posture."

©️Lana Brown, written content. Photos from Wix or BigStock.

First Pub Apr22/17

Reference: (Hrysomallis, C. Effectiveness of strengthening and stretching exercises for the postural correction of abducted scapulae: a review. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins). Baltimore, Maryland, 24, 2, 567-574, Feb. 2010. ISSN: 1064-8011.)

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