The Shoulders – Get Plugged In

In Pilates we talk a lot about length and “reaching into length.” In fact, length is touted as one of the MAJOR BENEFITS to a regular Pilates routine. So, is there a place for plugging in and staying put?


I’d argue that “plugging in” is key for one joint in particular: the shoulder. We want the shoulders, no matter the body’s set up, to be plugged in. For exercises when the body is lying in supine, shoulders down and shoulder blades hugging towards the midline offer stability to and length through the spine. For exercises lying in prone, same thing – shoulder heads rolled down and back, shoulder blades hugging towards the midline. Weight-bearing exercises? You guessed it, shoulders square, engaging through the shoulder and across the shoulder blades to reduce winging and create a stable place for the arms to bear the weight. Arms in straps? – good luck trying to get that right if you’re not “plugged in.”

So what does “plugged in” mean, muscularly? I like to tell my clients to use their armpit muscles. Sometimes I poke them just under the armpit at the ribs to help them find their latissimus dorsi or teres major. The pectoral muscles are also involved. But let’s simplify the cueing for today and see if we can get our clients to “plug in” to their shoulders like a plug into an electrical socket, instead of dangling off of them.

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