Often when we look at shoulder stability, we focus on the scapulae retractors, the postural muscles that pull and squeeze the shoulder blades together, for greater stability during pushing and pulling movements. However, an often neglected aspect of scapulothoracic and glenohumeral rhythm involves the scapulae depressors as well. Not only is it important to squeeze and retract the shoulder blades together, but in order to create more space at the glenohumeral joint, thus decreasing impingement pathologies, the shoulder blades must rotate down and depress as well. Often these muscles are weak and or long, due to over active upper traps, and or overly kyphotic thoracic spines (poor posture). To improve both the length/tension relationship of your lower traps, and their strength, try a few of the following soft tissue, activation and strengthening exercises. You ll notice both increased strength in movements such as pull ups and the bench press, and you ll decrease your risk of achy or injured shoulders.
Begin with some soft tissue work at the thoracic spine. Lie on a foam roller. With your hands clasped behind your head or hugging opposing shoulders, gentle roll the upper 2/3 of your back. This exercise is great for loosening up the fascia around the thoracic spine (mid back), thus allowing for better mobility at the shoulder blade which should sit flush on your back, but is often protracted and rounded out, due to poor, kyphotic posture.
From there, foam roll your lats. Immediately after your SMR work, perform several reps of your favorite thoracic mobility drill, followed by an activation exercise like the one performed with a band in the video or the wall angels in the next video.
Wall Angels can be done against a wall or lying on the floor. Pulling your shoulder blades down and together, slowly flex your arms straight overhead, maintaining contact with the wall or floor throughout the movement. Focus on pulling the shoulder blades down and together as you lower your arms.
After your done a few minutes of soft tissue and activation work. Perform a low trap exercise like the one below. If you aren't strong enough to do them from a pull up bar, begin with a lat pull down machine, progressing the load to body weight. Make sure you are able to get a good symmetrical squeeze as you pull your shoulders down and away from your ears. Notice in this example as my client begins to fatigue, an asymmetry on his right side is more pronounced and uneven.