16th September 2015

Correct muscle recruitment of the back muscles is important to prevent primary back, neck and shoulder injury and poor posture. Poor muscle activation in the back causes poor posture, poor movement and functional impairment, leading to muscle compensation and imbalance. This is where injury becomes a risk!

Common activation problems:

Upper trapezius hypertrophy

Levator scapulae hypertrophy

Lower trapezius atrophy

Rhomboid atrophy

Thoracic Tightness

In simple terms, poor muscle recruitment causes the muscles around the neck, shoulder and shoulder blade stop working as they should and all start compensating for one another by over working or becoming lazy. At this point the shoulder blade begins to do its own thing, which generally causes more compensatory change, especially when left untreated, which may lead to neck pain, back pain, shoulder pain, elbow pain and wrist/hand pain.

Activating the right muscles during any sort of arm movement is key, and sometimes the right muscles need to be reminded that they need to recruit automatically, at the right time. Therefore, retraining these muscles means that they are ‘on standby’ at all times!

Scapular setting exercises are what you need to include in your 15-20 minutes of stretching, mobility and activation prior to your training. My favourite basic scapular setting exercise may be found on my blog named: ‘Optimising Weight Lifting: 2 Exercises that will get your muscles working right’.

Further along rehabilitation for shoulder stability correct scapular activation through dynamic movement in and out of the gym is key. ‘Simple’ exercises like pull-ups and lat pull downs are often the ones were form is often forgotten. I use the words ‘pull your shoulder blades down and together’ and ‘relax your neck and shoulders’ so much with my patients. These are two phrases that need to be remembered when you are in the gym. Initiate all your pull movements by setting your shoulder blades (pulling them down and together, relaxing your shoulder and neck) – This will enhance correct form, eventually heighten strength and most importantly prevent injury.

If you have any questions about the exercises YOU should be doing to improve your general posture and/or training technique email me at

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