I often talk about Shoulder stability for riders.
It provides two benefits.
- It provides stability to the torso as a whole-it’s part of what you’d think of as your core.
- It provides stability to your rein contact.
The problem is many of us spend our days hunched over either at a desk, driving or sweeping the yard. This leaves the muscles of the back and shoulders long and weak. This means when we want to use them on horse they aren’t strong enough to respond.
When I work with riders I will ask them to retract their shoulder blades and many of them have no idea how to do that without using the muscles of the neck or chest. This means they lift their shoulders and tense rather than activate the muscles of the shoulder girdle that provide the stability.
So before we can even think about training the shoulder girdle we have to gain some connection from the brain to the muscles to allow us to activate them without tensing.
I start with Shoulder retractions. To do well this exercise is actually quite tricky.
With your arms out in front of you, draw your shoulder blades back and together without moving your head, neck or chest. Your shoulders shouldn’t pop up at all and your arms stay straight and will just move back a few inches.
Once we have got that mind -muscle connection we can move on to control of the shoulders whilst moving the arms.
Do the same shoulder retraction, hold the shoulders down and together then bring the elbows back and then forward again without losing the shoulder connection. You can then add more movement to the arms, maybe elbows in and sending the hands out, then hands up and shoulders down.
If you then want to progress your shoulder strength and stability there are some great exercises you can do with very simple equipment.
Add a band to your retractions and other movements to add resistance.
Then you can make this a Bent Over Row using a weight or band and recruiting the legs and rest of the torso to test your shoulder control as part of a full body position.
Windmills are another great exercise for shoulder stability that can be done with a Dumbbell, Kettlebell or just a bottle of water.
There are loads of ways to make your shoulders stronger but whichever exercises you choose it’s super important that you can control the recruitment of the shoulder blades.