If you’ve been to any of my pregnancy exercise or mum + baby postnatal workout classes, you’ll hear me say something repeatedly throughout the hour you’re with me:

‘Relax your shoulders’

When you’re training with me during pregnancy, I try my very hardest to strengthen your arms and shoulders by doing lots of upper body exercises – in correct alignment – to prepare you for motherhood and beyond.

In my postnatal classes – the same rule applies, but unfortunately by the time you’ve got to me with your new baby – sometimes, lots and lots of bad habits have set in.

Take a look at this picture here

mum holding baby

(Aside from the fact that mum and baby are absolutely adorable!) – can you take your attention to mum’s right shoulder?

Can you see how it’s elevated up?

This is exactly the kind of thing you want to be AVOIDING.

Do me a favour and lift your left arm up over your head as high as you can go.

Now check to see if the shoulder joint itself went up with it by placing your right hand on the shoulder.  Did it?

To gain more range of movement, did your ribs also lift up too?  Ok – that’s a pretty common cheat too.

Ok, so do it again, but without letting the shoulder elevate nor the rib cage lift up and out in front of you this time.

How?  By thinking of drawing the shoulder blade down and keeping the ribs relaxed down towards the pelvis –  as you lift the arm up.

Can’t move the arm as high?

Well, that’s because you’ve got tight chest muscles and a heck of a lot of tension in the shoulder.

Have a think about how often your arms are positioned out in front of you?  Pretty much all day for most people.

This is the drawback of being a modern day human, I’m afraid.

In all of my Pilates classes this week, I did an exercise in standing where everyone was required to hold their arms up, hands behind the ears and move the spine laterally, back and forth, for a couple of minutes.

Everyone did the movement with the shoulders and ribs relaxed down – awesome.

But, what was surprising was how quickly everyone fatigued doing this.  The shoulders felt tired fast.

In an ideal situation, you should be able to hold your arms over your head for more than several minutes…

But seriously…how often do you lift your arms over your head throughout the day?

Maybe once or twice to reach for something on a high shelf?

Perhaps your job does require you to do this movement hundreds of times – who knows – but when you do it – do your shoulders and ribs lift up too?

Because they shouldn’t.

When you hold your baby, or lift an object or carry anything close to your person, you should NOT…I repeat…you should NOT need to lift your shoulders up to effectively perform this task.

Why?  Because your arms SHOULD move independently of your shoulder (and the ribs, if I’m being picky).

What does this mean?  Well, when you move your arms, your shoulder does not need to come WITH the arm.

You’re putting a tonne of stress on the shoulder and neck every time you do that.

Wonder why you’re getting neck or shoulder pain?  Well, I’ve just solved that mystery for you right here, right now.

For better, long-term shoulder health (and less neck tension) practise moving the arm, without allowing the shoulders or ribs to move WITH it.

Every single time, ok?

What’s up with your shoulders?

what's up with your shoulders?

Drinking or pouring yourself a cup of coffee?  What’s up with your shoulder?

Holding, winding or feeding your baby right now?  What’s up with your shoulder?

Cooking (or washing up afterwards)?  What’s up with your shoulders?

Typing or driving?  What’s up with your shoulders?

What should you use instead?

Simple: utilise your BICEP muscles (the main muscle in the upper arm) to hold, carry and pull things towards you.

NB – I’m on this journey of alignment with you too, so don’t beat yourself up if you found you elevate your shoulders with everything.

Pouring water from kettle to cup with my right shoulder down took me 3 months to re-program.

Drying my hair with a hairdryer without shoulder elevation?  Yep, another month of time investment.

Recent discovery: using a lemon squeezer, I now do this on the floor.

I physically can NOT get my shoulder down when I place the contraption on the kitchen bench so I go down to the device instead.

(And, I also get a squat in or two whilst I’m down there – bonus!)

So, for the sake and safety of your shoulders and neck – turn things round here.

It’s not: What’s UP with your shoulders, but…

What’s DOWN with your shoulders, ok?

Have fun!

Which shoulder bad habits are you going to start addressing first?

I’d love to hear what tasks and movements you’ve discovered that you lift your shoulders up with every single time, so comment below and let me know.

I cover the topic of shoulder stabilisation, neck and upper back pain, and so much more in my pregnancy Pilates and pregnancy fitness classes and Mummies and Buggies postnatal fitness sessions, so book your space to increase your knowledge…

…and improve your children’s chances of having a healthy upbringing too, because remember – if you conduct tasks in the correct way yourself, your children will follow.

Can’t make a class?

Don’t worry – book a 1-2-1 pregnancy personal training where I’ll run through this and MORE!

Or, if you’re a new mum, book a private postnatal session with me instead where I’ll set you an individualised program to get you on the road to recovery.