Written By Erin Crawford, Personal Trainer @ O2 FalconBridge
My first internship in the world of strength and conditioning was the athletic weight room in Charleston. The first teams I worked with were baseball and volleyball. It was there I realized the epidemic of “winged shoulders” and techniques to correct this potentially dangerous muscle imbalance.
The “winged shoulder” appears in many athletes of sports that involve overhead hitting and throwing motions, but is not exclusively found in that population. The term is used for a shoulder blade that appears to be elevated and whose bottom tip looks to protrude posteriorly farther than the top giving the appearance of “wings” on a person’s back. This can happen for several different reasons, but down the line can cause a number of injuries to the shoulder joint.
In most people one of the main reasons for this anatomical display is the continuous use of the muscles in their upper back and neck whether it is to throw, hit, or constant tension held in their neck and shoulders from stress.
Follow These Steps to Correct a Winged Shoulder
- Practice better posture. Sit up straight. Relax your shoulders back and keep your head up. If sitting at a desk try and elevate your screen so that it is eye level rather than looking down. Also practice this when weight training in all your lifts from squatting to bench press and everything in between. Keep your chin up and maintain a “proud chest”. This means squeezing your shoulders back and making your chest as wide as you can and maintain it throughout the lift.
- Focus on relaxing your neck and engaging your middle back. If you feel tension in your neck you’re most likely raising your shoulders upward as well. Relax your neck and pull the tips of your shoulder blades down and together. Almost as if you’re squeezing a grape between the tips of your shoulder blades. Again, practice this posture in everyday activities and during your weight training and you should definitely feel the difference and even see it over time.
- Speak to a fitness professional on ways to strengthen your middle and lower back. This will help with the posture and muscle imbalance. Because most people have probably done the activities or movements that have led to this imbalance their whole life, it will need guidance and a well-planned routine to correct. The best and last tip will be PREVENTION! Start off with practicing good posture through the day and life! Young athletes and children should be taught preventative exercises and the correct way to lift and train from the start of their physical activity. That being said it is never too late to start practicing good habits. So start today!