Couple of Q’s

What should the scap position be on the Push-up position Plank with arms extended, retracted or protracted?

The position of the scaps is kind of neither, but it is closer to protraction. The scaps should be flattened and slightly protracted around the ribs. But they shouldn’t be all the way around like you are reaching out as far as you can. That is old school kinesiology and is neither contemporary nor accurate. The serratus can protract like that, but in the pushup plank, the serratus has a fixed points through the hand and/or elbow, and it’s action is to “staple” the scapulae to the ribs.
Almost think like wide lat spread on a bodybuilder without every muscle in your body cranked on.

One of the more fraudulent use of EMG literature in all the land.

For some time, the interpretation of the packed scapulae has been depressed and downwardly rotated.  I think this work highlighted by the RKC messages as well as a fix we often see following Shirley Sahrmann’s programming.
However, I think this is yet another trap laid out by the evil forces of traditional kinesiology.

It doesn't lie, but it doesn't always tell the whole story.

The direction of lower trap’s line of pull is down and back.  That is correct, and the lower trap is a major player in shoulder stability.  This is not novel information.  But if the dominant motion of the scapulae is down and back, in effect bringing the inferior angles of the scapulae towards each other, a couple ill things are happening…..
1) Conceptually, appropriate stiffness is altered because you typically want the GH joint and t-spine to move more than the scapulae.  Agreed that this may be a “pre-setting” motion to create a stable base, particularly in the bench press.  I’ve often rethought if that is the best idea, and I still think it is, but I think the movement should preceded by t-spine extension.  And if you don’t have t-spine extension with the “scap stability” attempt, you get…..
2) T-L Junction extension.  There is proprioception of down and back with T-L extension.  I’ve written about how this is a poor movement error, and quite often it comes from dumbass bodybuilding lore in “squeezing the shoulder blades together.”  And when you do that…….
3) You more than likely force the humerus into anterior glide.  That anterior tension tips the scapulae anterior and leads to a host of local shoulder issue.

Can we at least agree this is not scapular stability training?

If the lower trap had its own way, it’s pull would be down and back, but there are also the serratus that also packs the scap ventrally against a fixed point, and the upper trap, pec minor, levator scap, rhomboids, etc. that all equally contribute pulling the scap in all different directions so it has a net movement of very little.  This version of tug of war probably wins slightly towards down and back, but that is only elucidated when the shoulder is at the side.  When the arm is overhead, the DIRECTION is down and back, but the ultimate position is far more protracted than what indiscriminate maximal retraction yields.

Packed is a direction, not a position.

Something else you can do is round your shoulders and hold your hands together. Then pull your hands apart. Have someone take a picture – that is where the scaps are centrated.
The direction is down and back. The position is slightly protracted.  That, along with relative external rotation of the humerus, is the centrated position of the scapulae…….just like Kaz trying to bend a bar.

Be careful with kinesiology.

Strong humans do all the DNS stuff naturally. It's nothing new.

Can you explain why it is bad to do split squat type exercises if you have poor anterior hip mobility?  [A lot of people suggest 1-leg movements for individuals with back pain.]

The reason I cautious with the split squat for certain back pain folks is this……

If the individual has back pain, the SFMA is the initial approach to determining the best-practice approach.  In the case that Multi-Segmental Extension is dysfunctional non-painful, and the Breakouts reveal a loss of hip extension mobility (tested in single leg stance extension, prone passive extension, prone active extension) and/or a loss of ankle dorsiflexion, that tells me split squat may not be a good idea.
If you are 90/90 in the bottom or approaching the bottom of a split squat, that loss of mobility is expected to throw you forward somewhere.  That somewhere can be in your back in the form of excessive lordosis/anterior pelvic tilt, and you are feeding your back pain.  That tilt may amplify a disc in siting.
It may be the psoas cranking the low back into extension and compression.  RFESS would be even more of a disaster.

That's nice hip extension, and if he goes lower, I'm betting on lumbar extension. And that's not good.

This is just something that can happen.  It doesn’t always happen.  I am more cautious particularly with a painful Multi-Segmental Flexion or Rotation and a DN Extension.
In someone with a fair history of back pain, sometimes, concentrating on the toes and pressing into the fixed points using the tension from the floor can be enough to overcome some mild to mid-level mobility restrictions.  But if you have to brace so hard to fight against your own tensions, handing loads is going to be even “heavier.”

So I don’t think back pain automatically = go to single leg training.
I say back pain = figure out the back pain, and in fact if flexion-based big lifts caused your LBP, then it might not be the worst idea to dismiss big flexion-based lifts like squats and DLs in the short- and middle-term.  I don’t know that we have to dismiss them forever.  We just have to measure out the risk-reward, which is different for everybody.

And if we know the LBP is not extension-related, then the split techniques would be very warranted.

  • October 8, 2011

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Mark McGrath Reply

Thanks Charlie,
The other factor in scap stability from DNS is whether the individual can bring the chest position down and maintain the expiratory position. This means that the rib wall is available for scapular fixation. If the internal rotators of the shoulder are dominant from a stabilising/breathing perspective, this will be not be possible and is a causal factor in the T/L extension you mention.

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