Upper trap dominance along with scapular dyskinesia is a common issue with clients performing repetitive overhead activities (throwing, swimming, tennis, lifting, etc). Poor mechanics may lead to rotator cuff strain and overuse. This exercise is intended to improve scapular positioning and promote better biomechanics.

    Grasp the handles (or straight bar) and position the arms so the shoulders are flexed to 90 degrees with the elbows straight. Stand in an athletic position with soft knees and a neutral spine. Next, engage the transverse abdominus and depress the shoulder blades. Be sure the head and neck are in proper alignment.

    Once the body is in proper position, pull the arms down to the hips. Pause one second at the bottom, and then slowly return to the start position. Focus on a slow ascent in order to maintain good alignment as the momentum of the weight may cause the body to move more upright or the shoulders to shrug. Perform 8-12 repetitions. Complete 2-3 sets.


    This exercise can be used for general posterior chain strengthening, but it also serves as a viable alternative to overhead pulling. Specifically, it allows for unilateral pulling while emphasizing scapular depression and dynamic stabilization of the shoulder. In addition, it promotes proper body alignment, facilitates core stability and strengthens the shoulder.

    Additional Notes:
    In the absence of a Free Motion machine or ability to use two independent handles, you can opt for tubing or use a straight bar attached to a traditional cable column. The focus should always be on form and quality of movement as opposed to simply increasing load.

    Brian Schiff, PT, OCS, CSCS, is a licensed physical therapist, respected author and fitness professional. Currently, he serves as the supervisor for EXOS API at Raleigh Orthopaedic. Brian conducts live continuing education webinars and presents nationally at professional conferences and seminars on injury prevention, rehab and sport-specific training. For more information on his products and services, visitwww.BrianSchiff.com.
    Related Resources

    Topic: Functionally Fit

    Magazine Archives:
    Functionally Fit: Tall kneeling kettlebell chest press
    Functionally Fit: Single leg stick
    Functionally Fit: Bowler squat
    Functionally Fit: Single leg ball squats
    Functionally Fit: Prayer stretch