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One of the most common precursors to injury of the neck, shoulders, chest or upper back are poor shoulder biomechanics during exercise. Biomechanics are related to structure and function; in other words, how the body moves. Therefore, the positioning of the shoulders is extremely important during upper body movements.

Additionally, how the upper body parts move during an exercise will also effect the overall health of that structure. Think of a sliding closet door that no longer moves freely on its tracks–it sticks. You’ll agree that opening and closing said door will be difficult, and ultimately it’ll break down. That’s exactly what happens to the shoulder joints when the biomechanics are altered in any way. But worse, because the neck and chest are so intimately tied to the shoulder girdle, they can also be affected by poor shoulder biomechanics, sometimes earlier than the actual shoulders.

There are two main causes of poor biomechanics: posture (and we’ll include any adapted dysfunction) and poor form. The former is often a result of the latter, and they consequently worsen concurrently over time. Primary proper shoulder positioning is in the retracted state–or pulled back onto the upper back. This position allows the shoulders to move freely in the socket–thus, resolving the stuck sliding door aspect that can occur when the shoulders are allowed to round forward in the protracted position.

Whether lifting weights or doing yoga, form is everything. Watch the video below to see how to maintain proper shoulder positioning during upper body exercises. Guaranteed you’ll preserve your shoulders that way, and you’ll likely prevent much neck and chest discomfort too. And frankly, you’ll look better, because you’ll develop the way you are supposed to. Give it a try.


The serratus anterior is an oft-neglected muscle of the shoulder girdle, simply because the average person doesn’t know about it.  As a result, it can get weak disrupting shoulder joint biomechanics.

The serratus anterior attaches to the shoulder blade (scapula) and the thoracic cage (essentially the upper and mid-back).  It’s main function is to act as a scapular stabilizer; in other words, when we do shoulder movements, particularly reaching over head, the scapula must get locked into place against the t-cage, allowing unimpeded movement.

When serratus anterior muscle gets weak, stabilization is lost, and it can lead to a number of dysfunctions, including shoulder impingement (very painful), and degeneration (even more painful).  The classic postural sign of a weak serratus anterior is the shoulder blade protruding at its medial border, or the edge closest to the spine.  ”Winging,” as it’s called, is not an uncommon sight among thin women (in fact, I observe it quite regularly here in Hollywood and Beverly Hills), but plenty of men have it too.

The answer to a weak serratus anterior is to strengthen it with an exercise called a press-through (aka push-up with a plus).  The actual movement is called protraction of the shoulders, which is the exact opposite of retraction (pulling the shoulders back).  I prefer the weight-bearing version for the use of gravity to help strengthen the muscle, but some people are not strong enough initially to do that.  For those that need to build up to the weight-bearing press-through, there are two alternate versions they can do.

And some people have difficulty just initiating the protraction movement altogether.  For these people, the neurological connection to the muscle and that movement has been disrupted.  The wall version of the press-through is what I recommend to re-establish this neurological connection.

Watch the video below to see a demonstration of the best serratus anterior exercise (weight-bearing press-through), as well as instruction on doing the two alternate versions.  Remember to build up to doing the weight bearing exercise, as this will ultimately give you the strength you need to maintain proper shoulder biomechanics.  As a plus, you’ll reduce winging, which will look better as well.

*Severe and one-sided winging should be checked by a doctor as it could signify a neurological lesion of the long thoracic nerve.


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