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Pole and Aerial Upper Back Imbalances

The most common complaint, chronic injury, and biggest body question I receive in pole and aerial arts: what is this pain and knot under my shoulder blade? First off, I am not a doctor, but from years in pole and aerial arts and working with massage therapists, physical therapists, chiropractors and being a trainer, I know that most of this time this wonderful knot is from muscle imbalance.

The primary movement patterns in aerial arts and pole involve inverting, doing controlled pull-ups and using certain muscle groups over and over. The lats and pecs are overused and the rhomboids, traps (low traps especially) and smaller shoulder girdle muscles are underused. When the lats and pecs get stronger, they also get tighter. The tightness of the lats and pecs will actually pull on the rhomboids, traps and even trigger the levator scapulae (this is the neck pain many of us have experienced). These smaller muscles are often underdeveloped and cannot keep up with the powerhouse muscles. Bigger muscles are always going to try to take over the workload and yes, bigger muscles are stronger. The body and mind often need to be trained to fire the smaller muscles in unison with the bigger muscle groups to help create balance. The entire musclar system works together, if one muscle group is not in balance it will likely affect other muscle groups. Overdeveloped muscles will get tight and strain underdeveloped, underdeveloped will stop firing or knot up or force another muscle to over work.

The Rhomboid Knot

The infamous knot under the shoulder blade is often from the tight lats pulling on the weak rhomboids and causing the shoulder blades to lock up. The range of motion in the shoulder blades often becomes limited. Learning correct engagement when performing upper body intense movement in aerial arts and pole can save hours of pain.

Scapular Retraction and Shoulder Depression

For any upper body movement there must be good form, aerialists and polers need to engage the upper back in scapular retraction and shoulder depression. Scapular retraction means shoulder blades squeeze inward activating the rhomboids, middle and lower traps with smaller shoulder girdle muscles. Shoulder depression means shoulders down and back, activating the lower traps and releasing the upper traps. This combination (scapular retraction and shoulder depression) is crucial for good form and injury prevention in pole and aerial arts. When the body has this combination activated it relieves the pecs and lats from full duty and helps stop overdevelopment in the pecs, lats and upper traps. It also develops the rhomboids, lower traps and shoulder muscles so they are not underdeveloped and more susceptible to injury and imbalance issues.

To Read more about tight pecs and lats

Scapular Retraction in Aerial Arts