“Shoulders Down”? is it good or bad cue?

Scapular movement in action with explanation


We always hear dance teachers shouting in class “Shoulders Down”.

However, is it a good cue for dance student?

What would student perceived when they hear shoulders down?

When students hear the cue: “shoulders down”, most of the student will over depress their shoulders.

When over depressing shoulders, the scapular will look like this:


Actually, the scapular will wing out. It looks bad and also it tightens up the shoulders and spine muscles. Making the whole complex very stiff.

image3 (1)latissimus-dorsi

(Anatomy picture source: https://thebalanceguru.wordpress.com/2012/04/16/latissimus-dorsi-muscle-of-the-monday/)

Because the Latissimus Dorsi is a shoulder depressing muscle. It starts from the low back and attached

up to the front part of the shoulder (just like the direction of the tap shown in the picture above).

Therefore, it will depress the shoulder and at the same time internal rotate the shoulder.

So over using this muscle lead to round shoulders, tight back and wong scapular.

Also the downward force will make the whole arm drop and therefore the elbow will drop too.

image1 (1)rhomboid

(Anatomy picture source: http://www.musclesused.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/rhomboid11.jpg)

And then the teacher may also cue by saying “Open the chest”.

Most of the students will then squeeze the mid back and pull the scapular to the spine.

However, this will over use the rhomboid muscles and stiffen up the upper back and also the shoulders has no freedom to move. The muscle attached from inner boarder of the scapular to the spine, and the muscle go upward, which means it will make your shoulder up!!

Again, it looks bad like the picture shown above.


Controlled Protraction of scapularserratus anterior

(Anatomy picture source: https://classconnection.s3.amazonaws.com/367/flashcards/5429367/jpg/serratus_anterior-148D97321BC76F259CD.jpg)

Instead, I will recommend dancers to try think about “elongating” their arms outward, away from the body and think about create space for the spine and shoulder joint. In another word, imagine you are distracting the ball and socket joint and create space.

In such manner, the serratus anterior muscle can stabilize the shoulder (Protracting in a controlled manner), it will not be drag up and the chest will look nice and broad.

The muscle run from the medial border of the scapular, underneath the scapular and attached on to the ribs.

It helps the stabilize the scapula and helps it lie flat on the rib cage.

It should be in a controlled manner.

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