Today I bring you a post from Coach Nick Tuminello. He has written a whole series on the rhomboids, lower traps, and all those key areas that can be problem spots to musicians and desk jockeys alike.Â Whether you spend your day locked in a practice room or locked behind a desk and yearn to have strong shoulders and a pain free back, this article is for you.
I can’t highly recommend this series enough.Â The rhomboids are a muscle that has become chronically stretched and weakened in our “bent over” society: when one bends over a steering wheel, table, computer or music stand the arms pull forward stretching the upper back muscles (and the rhomboids) forward when their main job is to contract and pull the shoulder blades BACK.Â This can cause weakness, pain and ultimately lead to injury.
The YTWL is a warm-up that I have been seeing and using for quite a long time, sadly, I hardly ever see anyone in the weight room using these movements and if I do, they do them incorrectly.Â Read and learn and if you want more detailed information he has a whole series on his blog, but he sums it up pretty nicely here.
Love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below!
To conclude my whole TRUTH about the YTWL Shoulder series. I wanted to do a recap summary of everything that was covered in my recent posts. – If you have already read/watched each post. Its still a good idea to read this because Iâve thrown a few key points that have yet to be covered.Â If you have not seen any of the TRUTH about the YTWL posts. I highly suggest you take a close look at each of the videos. –
An Swift and Orderly Change
– First off, the YTWL Â is no longer Y-T-W-L Itâs now the L-Y-T-P – The Lâs are put first for the simple reason that they are the hardest / weakest movement.Â It only makes sense, if you place the weakest movement last, as in the traditional method, youâre more likely to have a harder time doing it correctly due to fatigue. – Iâve never understood why any one would put the weakest movement first. I guess we all just went in the order of the name YTWL. The L came last in the name so it came last in training. Well, no more! Itâs Lâs first from now on! –
Better Positioning = Better Results
Another issue that needed to be resolved is the traditional body positioning before performing the YTWL.Â Most folks are doing these from one of two positions – 1. Standing, bent over in a similar fashion to an RDL or how a Baseball short stop would stand. 2. Lying prone on the floor or on a bench. – Along with my good friend and colleague Mike Robertson,I really like the standing version! As Mike says âits a great way to integrate the torsoâ. How right he is! – Standing with the torso at a 45 degree angle is also a great way to change the force angle of the LYTP series.Â That said, I do have a problem with the prone version. – While doing the prone version from the floor or bench, there is nothing preventing you from extending your lumbar spine and reenforcing a compensatory/ dysfunctional pattern. – By using a stability ball and a bent knee position, you eliminate all possibility of the lumbar extension. – Plus, as Mike Robertson says âlying prone on a physioball so that they are forced to extend their t-spine actively versus passivelyâ. – Mike is one of the best in our field because he understands this stuff and I highly recommend reading his Blog and checking out Mikeâs products. –
Check out this video for more on how to use a swiss ball to improve your LYTP shoulder exercises.
A Quick Disclaimer
Before I move on to cover the rest of the letters (YTW), I wanted to make something very clear.Â My recommendations for each of these applications is very general and based on what I fell to be best for most healthy, uninjured people. – With these and any other exercise applications, there is never just one way to do things.Â Iâm most certainly not claiming that these techniques are the best and only right way to do your shoulder pre-hab training. – As a Strength Coach, itâs my job to find methods that maximize success and minimizes error. I will tell you with confidence that, each of these techniques has been well thought out and battle tested successful in my setting with 100â²s of clients and athletes of all levels. Now that Iâve gotten that out of the way, lets talk some more shop!
A New Angle on Yâs
The first thing I want to address here is hand position. – When your hand goes over head as they do when performing Yâs, the safest position for your shoulder to be in is the neutral position.Â This is with your thumbs point toward the sky, if youâre lying prone. – This is not a new concept and fairly understood among coaches and trainers.Â However, I have seem some coaches performing Yâs while holding a dowel rod. This is problem because holding the dowel takes you out of neutral and places your shoulders into some internal rotation.Â In doing so, there is NO added muscular benefit, only an increased risk or shoulder irritation and impingement issues. –
This is why I choose not to use a dowel rod or to keep the palms flat while doing Yâs.Â So, when doing Yâs, keep those thumbs pointed up, toward the sky! –
Why Donât Your Yâs Look Like Yâs?
The next mistake folks seem to be making, is the angle at which they are performing the Yâs.Â In many cases, people place their arms next to their ears (parallel to one another) as in a superman position. – First off, this arm position doesnât even make a Y, it makes an I. – Secondly, and more importantly, this is not the best strategy to maximize recruitment of the lower traps which is the intended goal of the exercise. – Hereâs a quick anatomy lesson. As you can clearly see in the picture, the lower trap muscle fibers run at a 45 degree angle.Â The best way to stimulate a muscle is to line up the force vector with the line of muscle (fibers) pull. – In other words, in order to perform Yâs effectively, the arms should be placed at 45 degree angle ( in the same line as the low trap fibers). – Some folks do Yâs with their arms at more of an angle. But, in most cases the angle is not as wide as it should be relative to the angle of the fibers in the low traps.
You can watch the video below to see the angle I recommend.
No More Iâs
Certain folks are actually doing Iâs (arms parallel) along with the rest of the letters.Â I recommend against this because there is no added muscular Â benefit, only more room for error and compensation. –
How to get Maximal Lower Trap Recruitment
I could make this part a long and complicated discussion. But, its not my style. So, Iâm going to hit the ground running.
If your arms are at the correct 45 degree angle, as I described above, there is no need to consciously pull your shoulder blades back and down as most coaches recommend. – In fact, doing so will more than likely cause you to compensate and use your lats as the primary muscle. This is also described in the below video. –
A great way to prevent compensation and maximally stimulate the lower traps, is to use a technique I learned from world renowned physical therapist Mark Comerford.– Once your ams are fully lifted into the Y position, attempt to reach outward away from your body. In other words, try to make your arms longer.Â If your arms are at the correct angle, you will NOT shrug your shoulders and compensate by using levator scap. – Due to the fact that lower trap is primarily a low load, local stabilizer muscle, this reaching out of the arms action will cause lower trap to activate to create scapular stability. –
Its also important to note, that due to fact that lower trap is primarily a low load stabilizer, it should be trained in a different load/ rep range than the rhomboids.Â Meaning, you will use a different rep range doing Yâs than you would doing doing Tâs. – When doing Yâs, I recommend performing 5-10, 3-5 second isometric reps. I would also keep the weight low.Â
(as a side note, you can see my other blog post about recruiting the lower traps)
See this video for more on Yâs
A Small Twist for Big Results on Tâs
The goal of Tâs is to hit primarily the rhomboids and mid traps.Â In order to do this, two adjustments from the traditional method need to be made. – First, when doing Tâs its not necessary to external rotate your shoulders (keep your thumbs up). This has been recommended to add the additional stimulation of the external rotator muscles. – The problem with this is that most people donât have weak external rotators as we once thought. Instead, we tend to have overused external shoulder external rotators. See the TRUTH about Wâs video below for more on that. – Hard training on already overworked and irritated tissue is never a good idea. So, again, no need for that added external rotation.
If in the case you do actually have weak external rotators (which should be determined by a qualified physical therapist â not a trainer/coach who just attended a weekend assessment course), this weakness can cause them to struggle while doing Tâs and interfere with the quality of the movement. – It can also distract them from the primary goal of this exercsie, which as Iâve said is to strengthen rhomboids and mid traps.Â As they say, if you chase two rabbits, youâll never catch either. – In short, Lâs are designed to strengthen your external rotators and therfore are better suited for that purpose. –
How to Maximally Recruit Your Rhombiods
While doing Tâs, keep your shoulders and hands neutral (palms down while prone). – As you raise your arms to the side, pull your arms toward the mid-line of your body. – Donât think of retracting you shoulder blades back and down. – Your rhomboids are responsible for scapular retraction and elevation. So, if your pull your shoulder blades down, you decrease rhomboid activation. – Plus , if you just think of puling your shoulder blades downward, you end up using your lats instead of rhomboids.
To reduce any chance of mistakes/compensation and maximize rhomboid recruitment, attempt to shorten your arms as if some one were trying to pull them out of the sockets. – Yes I know, this is the complete opposite of what I recommended earlier for performing Yâs. – Itâs different for good reason!
Your Rhomboids are primarily mobility muscles. Where as you low traps are primarily stability muscles. – Put simply, muscles with different functional roles require different training protocols. – Unlike the low traps, the rhomboids are Â high load dominat, mobilizers muscles. Therefore , we take a more traditional approach to training them by using heavier loads, with normal tempos for 8-12 reps. –
See this video for more on Tâsâ¦
Out with Wâs, In with Pâs
Iâve already given you more than enough smarter strategies for shoulder training to make your head explode. So,to keep you from having a brain overload, Iâm going to keep this one short and to the point. – The W is the most useless of all the letters in the YTWL shoulder circuit. I explain exactly why in the video below. – I have replaced the Wâs with Pâs. The P stands for Pivot Prones, which are demonstrated in the below video as well. –
If you are wondering where the idea for the pivot prone comes from, the name originates from a neural developmental position we all learn before we start to crawl, while lying prone (on our belly) as infants.Â
âAt approx 5 months of age the child develops an interesting skill that contributes to their pelvic and scapular mobility.ââDuring the Pivot Prone posture or pattern, the upper extremities assume the high guard position with the scapulas adducted by the rhomboid muscles. The upper limbs are horizontally abducted at the shoulders and flexed at the elbows. This retraction of the shoulder girdle and posturing of the upper extremities enhances trunk extension. To assume the pivot prone posture, the anterior muscles must elongate.â Pediatric Physical Therapy, By Jan Stephen Tecklin, pg.34,Â Publisher:Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; Fourth Edition edition (October 1, 2007)
Now, that you understand the origin of this movement pattern, you can better appreciate the important role that pivot prones can play in regaining and maintaining a fundamental movement pattern that we all should posses. _ – Well, there you have it!Â Iâve given you the knowledge and the tools to improve your shoulder strength, stability and overall health. –