My mission in life is to get people to be more mindful of the way they move so they can move better.
One of the biggest issues I see in the people I work with is inefficient use of the upper/mid back muscles.
It shows up in many places — in Chaturanga in my yoga students, in pull-ups (or lack thereof) as well as rowing in my athletes, in poor upper body positioning in my runners, and in shoulder and neck pain in my corrective exercise clients.
The underlying problem is that many of us tend to overuse our upper back and neck muscles (specifically the upper traps and levator scapulae) and underutilize the mid back muscles (specifically rhomboids and middle and lower traps). And it’s not just about physical performance — this imbalance is a common cause of achiness in and around the shoulders and neck as well as poor posture and running form.
One of the most effective exercises that I’ve found to get people more connected to and aware of the function of the more underutilized back muscles is Resistance Band Pull-Aparts — these are a staple in all of my clients’ programs.
But there’s a problem: if you’re not careful you just end up doing the same thing in this move, reinforcing the bad habit of tightening up your neck and lifting your shoulder blades toward your ears. And that’s 👎🏼
In the past, when I’ve pointed this out to people, the response I get is “I can’t do the movement without lifting my shoulders and scrunching my neck.” 🤔
I assure you, with intentional practice, you can. You have muscles there in those spots that will do that action for you — they may be sleepy and you may have neglected them and disconnected from them, but they are most certainly back there … waiting for you to give them something to do so they can support you.
So, I’ve come up with a new way to work on this skill, a new and improved Resistance Band Pull Apart if you will, that’s designed to help you figure how to get all your upper back and shoulder blade stabilizers firing on all cylinders.
Check out the video demonstration here.
Here’s how you do it:
(1) Anchor a long, thin resistance band high so that it hangs to about chest height.
(2) Grab the resistance band with each hand at shoulders-width distance. The band should now be at chin or eye level. (Palms down as I’m showing here is fine but palms up is even better.)
(3) THIS IS IMPORTANT: Pull the band down to chest-level and maintain that position — do not let the band or your hands rise above the level of your chest until all reps are complete.
(4) Squeeze your shoulders blades together on your back to pull your hands away from each other and the sections of the band apart. Move slowly with out jerking or thrusting your chest or ribs around. Keep your core tight.
Give it a whirl and let me know what you think.