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Oblique Workout: Practice Healthy Shoulder Placement

Helen practicing healthy shoulder placement in corkscrew

Helen practicing healthy shoulder placement



“Come out with your hands up!.. um and shoulders down, of course)”, say the Shoulder Police. I know I’m the Shoulder Police in my classes, but I’m far from a scary authority figure at a whopping 5 feet tall, I hope. I have good reason for being this way. The shoulder girdle is an incredibly fine tuned, complex platform for hand and arm movement. When that stage is out of order there’s no show. In other words, unconscious abuse of the shoulder girdle has lead many to be in need of an operation that prevents people from even using a steering wheel for quite some time. In all workouts and in everyday life here’s a simple and essential way to think of healthy shoulder placement:

 “STABLE BUT NOT STIFF”. This tip is easy to remember because it’s just like life. We all want to be stable but don’t want to be viewed as stiffs, right?  This is a way to think of practicing dynamic stabilization in the shoulder girdle.

  •  STABLE in trying to prevent them from rising up to your ears, relaxing the top your shoulders and neck. Keep them there.
  •  NOT STIFF because forcing this too hard leads to very common compression injuries, inhibiting blood flow that heals.


Practicing healthy shoulder placement in this Pilates inspired oblique routine results in a strong, trim center and de-stressed necks and shoulders. These moves can be done WITH or WITHOUT THE BALL. The ball gives a great challenge in short time.


Tick-Tock with the ball

Tick Tock with the ball

  • Keep a nice long neck, chin towards the chest.
  • Anchor the shoulder girdle: STABLE keep the shoulder blades sliding down the back. NOT STIFF: Use energy to do this, but feel it through the shoulders without pressing the blades too hard in the mat. Picture breathing in between the shoulder blades, and around the collarbone. Allow for minimal fluid movement in the area. René’s Tip: Think of having a nice, relaxed casual relationship between the shoulders and the collarbone, in contrast to the tight, close, romantic relationship between the deep abdominals and the spine.
  • Put the ball just under the ankles, feet turned out, light energy in the ball to get thighs involved, relax joints
  • Balance on the right hip, anchoring the left shoulder
  • Hold for 10 slowww counts each side
  • Do both sides 4 times



Stable but not stiff shoulder girdle during Corkscrew

Stable but not stiff shoulder girdle during Corkscrew


  •  Draw a slow, fluid circle
  •  Picture twisting using the center vertabrae, maintain hip symmetry
  •  Alternate directions after each circle, getting the biggest range of motion possible for you, while maintaining stable shoulders and a relaxed neck
  • 2 slow counts of 8
  • Do with legs together, heels glued. Or with the ball
Corkscrew with the Ball

Use the Ball for a bigger challenge

You will need to bring your legs down to adjust in this routine, from time to time. Stop. Take a breath. Adjust and carry on to get healthy shoulder placement throughout as often as you need to. Let the obliques do the work. In time, you will do this with relaxed neck and shoulders with almost no conscious effort.

So The Shoulder Police are really just here to protect and serve, I hope you see. Healthy shoulder placement is for in and out of the gym. So I also hope you maintain healthy shoulders and a strong center practicing this!

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