Many musicians need to strengthen the scapulo-thoracic region of the back, this is the upper back like the area around your shoulder blades.  The reason for this is that our shoulder blades, or scapula, are amazingly mobile.  MANY muscle groups (many sources say 18) create the stability in shoulder blade movement and if these muscles are weak it can cause shoulder blade dysfunction.  Why does this matter to a musician?  Your shoulder blades are part of your arm and matter a great deal for everything that comes after them in the arm chain like the shoulder, elbow, wrist and fingers.

Proper shoulder blade posture for musicians, and people in general, is for the scapula to move down and together when lifting your arms.  This means that in all of the exercises that follow your goal is to have proper scapula engagement during the exercise so you are building strength in the entire area and not just strengthening muscles that are already over worked and strong.  If you are not consciously working on bringing your shoulder blades down and together it is very likely you will not benefit from these exercises.

It is also VERY important to note that your shoulder blades can only rotate down and back as far as the muscles on the other side, the chest, allow them!  Many people are extremely tight in their chest which makes engaging the shoulders correctly extremely difficult.  This happens for a few reasons: firstly, the chest is 30% stronger than the back region it is “balancing” so it is automatically going to pull more; second, most of our posture now days has us sitting with hunched shoulders (think of how you sit on the couch, in your desk chair or in your car, all of these push our shoulders forward) so the result is that these muscles shorten in length.  As a result if you are working on increasing the strength in your upper back and stabilizing your shoulders, it would be very wise to stretch out your chest and have flexibility training (stretching) aiding your strength training.

I’m a busy lady, I don’t have time to do three hours of working out a day, wouldn’t that be fabulous!  So the exercises in the following pages are selected to give me the most for my time.  I aim to do about 25 minutes of strength training and 20 minutes of stretching (this is my “long” program”) 3 days a week.  Then I also have a “short” program for the days that I just don’t have an hour where I do 10 minutes of strength and 10 minutes of stretching.  The important thing is to build strength slowly and with good posture!  I’ve divided the exercises into a few categories:

Using poor posture (specifically not properly engaging your shoulders and stabilizing your shoulder blades) when doing any weight bearing activity like exercising or lifting anything (like an instrument) can seriously harm you!