The Second Pelvis
We may be bipedal now, but long ago we walked on all fours. Our quadruped history is visible in the structure of our shoulders, which mirrors the structure of our pelvis. The scapula and clavicle in particular, with their shape and their function have led Pilates experts to refer to the shoulder as a second pelvis.
The Second Powerhouse
In Pilates, the primary powerhouse is the core. Exercises begin by targeting the abdominals, building strength, stability, and control at the center of the body first. Once the core is stable and strong, exercises build in intensity, by increasing the threshold of the activity and adding longer levers. Once the arms get involved, our bodies rely on the second powerhouse of the shoulders to stabilize and control the upper body.
Stability or Mobility?
Gray Cook had a simple and revolutionary idea about the joints: that their primary job is to be stable or mobile. The ankle should be mobile, for walking, running, and changing direction. The next joint up the chain, the knees, should be relatively stable. The hip, then, should be mobile, allowing the legs to move in many different directions. It continues up the chain, alternating between stability and mobility.
We have a few joints in the shoulders, but the ones we’re focusing on here are the glenohumeral joint, where the upper arm bone (the humerus) meets the shoulder blade (the scapula), and the scapulothoracic joint, where the scapula meets the upper back (thoracic ribs). According to Gray Cook’s theory of stability and mobility in joints, the glenohumeral joint should be mobile, and indeed our arms have incredible range of motion. To promote this mobility, the scapulothoracic joint must be stable, as well as the joint at the elbow.
Breakdowns in the Chain
If a person suffers from a shoulder injury and their glenohumeral joint becomes less mobile, a common compensatory strategy is to become more mobile in the scapulothoracic joint. You may see this when someone is doing push-ups incorrectly and their shoulder blade retracts and protracts with each push-up, instead of remaining stable on the back.
We played with finding that stability by activating the muscles responsible for keeping the scapula steady: the rhomboids and serratus anterior.
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