Pilates Arm Reach and Pull for Scapular and Shoulder Stabilty

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Arm Reach and Pull Shoulder Stability Exercise

The starting position.
The starting position. Milena Boniek/Getty Images

Keeping the shoulders down and the scapulae (shoulder blades) settled on the back are instructions that accompany almost every Pilates exercise. The Arm Reach and Pull is a fundamental exercise that will help increase your awareness of how your scapulae move and how to find a settled, stable position for them.

Begin the Shoulder Stability Exercise - Set Up

1) Stand with excellent posture: your weight is balanced over your feet, your tailbone is dropped toward the floor, the top of your head reaches for the sky, and your shoulders are relaxed. Your arms are at your sides. We should be able to draw a straight line up the side of your body from the ankle, through the knee, hip, shoulder and ear.

2) Bring your arms up so that they are parallel to the floor and straight out from your shoulders, keeping your shoulders down as you do.*

Don't let this move affect the rest of your posture. Try to feel your scapula sliding down your back a little bit as you bring your arms up. Some people like the image of sliding the scapula into your back pockets.

*For a more detailed explanation of shoulder stability in exercise, along with close-up views of the movement of the scapula on the back, see: Shoulder Stability in Pilates Exercises

Next: Arms Reach Forward

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Arms Reach Forward

1) Inhale and reach your arms forward a few inches. This will open the shoulder blades away from each other.* As you do this move, keep your shoulders down.

2) Exhale and return your shoulders to the neutral position. Your arms are still extended.

This part of the exercise is often practiced lying on the mat as a warm-up.

*To see a detailed picture of the placement of the scapula in this move, go to Scapula Away from Midline.

Next: Arms Pull Back

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Arms Pull Back

1) Inhale and pull your arms back by pulling your scapula (shoulder blades) together.* Again, do not let this move affect the rest of your perfect posture -- your ribs are down, your shoulders are down, and your neck is long.

2) Exhale and return your shoulders to neutral.

Repeat this exercise 3-5 times. You want to get a good inner sense of what each position feels like. This will enable you to make quick corrections and increase your shoulder stability as you exercise.

*To see a detailed picture of the placement of the scapula in this move, see Scapula Toward Midline

Scapular stabilization exercises have an important role in daily life, beyond using them for your Pilates form. They can help alleviate neck tension and improve posture. As we are addicted to checking our mobile phone or tablet, there is an epidemic of neck tension and poor posture. This scapular stabilization exercise can the antidote you use throughout the day, even while at your desk.

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