This is the first of a series of articles I’m planning to write about exercises I come across on the ‘net and which Iâ€™d like to give my own versions for. Iâ€™m calling the series, “How to do exercises the Somatic Stretch way.” Iâ€™d love your feedback.
This morning I was watching a video about how to strengthen the rhomboid muscles. These are important muscles to strengthen because theyâ€™re largely responsible for straightening your back. When theyâ€™re relaxed, your back rounds out and your shoulders come forward, contracting the muscles in the top of your chest. This contraction sets up a reinforcing condition for the back to stay rounded, so in order to work your rhomboids effectively, you also need to stretch the pectoral and upper chest muscles.
The video Iâ€™m referring to showed an exercise called “angel wings,” in which the upper arms were held against the sides of the ribcage while the lower arms opened outward to both sides. This arm movement brings the shoulder blades toward each other and automatically contracts the rhomboids.
What Somatic Stretch would do beyond this increases the contraction of the rhomboids even more, so theyâ€™re not only strengthened more but so you can contract them in an isolated way. What this means is that you consciously USE those muscles to straighten your back instead of simply AFFECTING them with an arm movement.
To do this with the angel wing exercise, Somatic Stretch would open the lower arms backward more, while at the same time pressing the chest forward. This creates resistance for the rhomboids to work against, so they will work more strongly AND youâ€™ll FEEL them more. Now youâ€™re CONNECTING with those muscles on a conscious level. And now, as youâ€™re able to increase the feeling of connection more and more, youâ€™ll be able to use those muscles whenever you want without having to do an “exercise.”
Hereâ€™s a way you can get the same effect when sitting at your desk.
1.Place your lower arms on the desktop, elbows bent and shoulder width apart — or on both sides of your computer. Take a breath in.
2. As you breathe out, press your arms against the table and pull backward with your upper arms. At the same time, press your upper back and chest forward.
This contracts the rhomboids very strongly, brings the shoulders back and even elongates the pectorals.
As you become able to connect with these muscles, youâ€™ll find that when you consciously use them to contract your back muscles, your arms will press against the table and your shoulders will pull backward. This is the reverse of the above exercise and shows the difference between affecting your body, as in the angel wing exercise, and working your body on a conscious level.