Lise Enochsson: The shoulder joints and their function are a fascinating and complex topic, deserving much more elaboration than we can go into in this article series. For the purposes of this series, I will suggest a handful of exercises focused on stabilising of the shoulder blades. Stabilising the scapula provides the foundation for controlled movements of the arm, and also ensures better joint mechanics betwen the scapula, humerus (upper arm bone) and muscles involved.
These exercises, like any of the previous exercises, are not intended to treat any ongoing issues. They are for reinforcing a healthy use of your body and preventing problems arising from playing your harp. If you are experiencing issues with your shoulders at the moment, do not do these exercises but go see a health professional first.
Should you choose to do only a few of the exercises below, then I suggest exercises 1 - 4. As before, go through the exercises once daily, or 5 times a week for a period of 6 - 8 weeks.
1. Shoulder blade squeeze
In standing or sitting, with good posture and relaxed shoulders, slowly bring your shoulder blades together as far as you can, as if squeezing an object between them. Hold for 5 seconds, relax. Repeat 10 times. Note: your arms / the front of your shoulders will move when doing this, but the movement itself comes from moving the shoulder blades. This exercise is low-intensity and can be done up to 3 times in a day.
Lying face down with your arms at your sides, palms either facing up or down. Slowly squeeze your shoulder blades together, lifting your arms and chest slightly off the ground. Keep your chin tucked in. Hold for 2 seconds, then come slowly down. Repeat 10 - 20 times. As with exercise 1, this exercise can be done up to 3 times daily.
3. Push-up with a plus
Do a push-up slowly standing against a wall, or against a table, or even on the floor. At the end of the push, bring your shoulder blades forward, as if lengthening your arms. Hold for 2 seconds, then come slowly back to starting position. Repeat 10 times. If done from a wall or a table, this exercise can be done up to 3 times daily or just once if done on the floor.
4. Prone rowing with weight
Lying face down on a bed or couch with one arm hanging over the edge, holding a weight of some sort, such as a water bottle. Slowly lift your elbow up as far as it will go, keeping your arm close to your body. Hold briefly, before coming slowly down. Repeat 10 times for each side.
5. Seated press-up
Sitting on a chair or on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you, place your hands on either side and press, lifting your body slightly. Come back down. Repeat 10 - 20 times. Take care to not tense up your neck when performing this exercise.
6. The Quadruped with an unstable surface
Standing on your hands and knees, with one hand on an unstable surface, such as gripping a tennis ball, or resting on a half-flat football. Slowly lift and straighten the other arm, stretching it forward and taking care to not let yourself sway in the arm you are resting on. Bring the lifted arm back down slowly. Repeat 10 times for both sides. Please note that if you are doing this exercise with your hand gripping a tennis ball, roll it forward slightly so as to keep your wrist and hand in a straighter line with each other; not doing so will put strain on your wrist.
We will have reason to return to the shoulders in a future article, but stabilising the shoulder blades is an important foundation to start with. The next article will cover some questions we have so far from the blog.