Shoulder Engagement for Aerial Arts & Pole


Regardless if you do aerial arts, rock climbing, pull-ups, ice climbing or are commonly in foot chases through urban areas with roofs you must scale, good form and proper muscle engagement of the back will keep you in your sport for the long haul.

When we engage our back muscles correctly we take care of two issues; we lessen the load on dominant muscle groups and protect the smaller muscles around the shoulder joint from being strained. By actively engaging this means, scapular retraction and shoulder depression, think of holding a lemon between your shoulder blades and relaxing your shoulders down your back away from the ears. When we just jump up do a pull-up without thinking, the big muscles, latissimus dorsi and the pectorals will try to do all the work. It’s right to engage these muscles but if we don’t activate the scapula-area muscles correctly, this can lead to muscular imbalances, mainly overdeveloped lats and chest. The body is always looking for balance, when we overdevelop in one place we will compensate, maybe with tightness, knots, pain or straining in the working muscle or in other areas.

When we retract our shoulder blades we activate the trapezius and rhomboid muscles, which take some work off the big muscles. These upper back, scapula-surrounding muscles also help protect our shoulders. If we forget our scapular retraction, we put extra burden on the deltoids and connector muscles around the shoulder joints. We may even feel extra load in the arms and arm joints. If you experience any pain while doing a sport that involves pulling your body upward or holding your body off the ground, listen to your body and stop the movement and take care of yourself. It’s easy to over do it.

Here is Correct and Incorrect shoulder engagement.

Once you can identify the correct form and the incorrect form, you will be surprised how many people are not engaging correctly. You will also notice that many of the best climbers, aerial people, and gym rats have correct form.


Here is Correct and Incorrect form with a longer lever length.

If you are performing a move or lifting the body this lengthened arm position is sometimes used and many people release the shoulder muscles and actually dump weight into the joints. It’s actually really hard to lift from the incorrect position and it feels not so great. Alright, go forth into the world and use good shoulder form.


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