Ballroom Dance > Let's talk about shoulders!

Discussion in 'Ballroom Dance' started by Chris Stratton, Mar 16, 2005.

  1. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    Ever notice all those oddly protruding shoulders on the comp floor? In your self? How does one go about learning to bring them under control - relaxed and aligned with the arm?

    I tend to walk around a lot with my arms really dead at my sides, letting their weight pull my shoulders down and creating an almost tingly feeling of stretch in a variety of places. Then add a feeling of central pickup from the spine to the sternum. I joke that what really did it though was carrying all the bags of drinks and ice in from the car for team socials...

    Any explanations or exercises that have worked for others?
  2. randomMysh

    randomMysh New Member

    I did rhythm, so it might be different from the standard technique, but I thought of two balloons under my shoulder blades, and i thought of squeezing the air out of them. I tried to visualize the lower edge of my blades compressing down on them, because I found that way I didn't tense up the muscles on top of my shoulders.
  3. Sagitta

    Sagitta Well-Known Member

    Working on them outside dance such as yoga and pilates helps...
  4. Laura

    Laura New Member

    I've been learning about my shoulders lately. I've been walking around for decades carrying my arms and shoulders too far back -- nearly behind me. Because I'm used to my arms being back there all the time, I can't tell when they're too far back when I dance. That's one of the things I noticed in my dance video -- the later in the day it got, the further back my shoulders were. They weren't spectacularly bad, but because I'd already been thinking about this I was really able to see it for myself.

    My Pilates teacher has been helping me with this. I wish I could explain some of the exercises but they involve weird things like sitting sideways on a sliding platform while bending sideways toward a bar and pushing my body away from the bar with my arms.

    But here's something simple: do a plank. That's when you just hold yourself in the "up" position of a push-up. To do it the best most supported and most organic way, your shoulder blades need to be really on your back, not behind like I tend to do. The shoulder joint itself needs to aligned as an extention of the back and collar bone. If you experiment a little you can find that there are times when you feel really strong and supported in the plank, like your entire core, back, and shoulders are working together. You'll also find there are times when you feel like you are hanging a bit -- that's when your shoulder blades are off your back or your shoulder joints have gone too far behind you.
  5. randomMysh

    randomMysh New Member

    Oh yes, keeping the center tucked in helps tremendously. :)
  6. spatten

    spatten Member

    One idea that has helped me is to find a tactile sensation of when my shoulders were actually down. Early on I always did the "roll my shoulders back" routine before inviting the lady - but this seemed to dissipate as I danced and tended to look bad.

    Now I check occasionaly to make sure that I have dimples (not exact anatomical term) in my shoulder line - and if I don't I know they are not correct. That takes care of the ugly shoulder line in the vertical direction, but not in the lateral.

    I have done exercises to isolate my lats and rhomboids. I like to keep these activated - but not tight - which helps me to keep my shoulders from rotating apart from the body.

  7. Egoist

    Egoist Member

    The muscles that raise your shoulders up are the trapezius. Strengthening those muscles, e.g. by lifting bags of drinks and ice, do not help you bring your shoulders down. Instead, you need to work out your lats which are the muscles that contract your back which in turn brings your shoulder blades down and in. I've heard "push your shoulders to the floor", but that is misleading since the lats are "pulling muscles" not "pushing muscles". You work them by doing exercises such as pull ups or pull downs.

    I believe Larinda described earlier that you should think of pulling your belly button to your shoulder blades. The lats and the stomach work for this (to work on the stomach muscles that help you there you do planks, like Laura suggested or the rolling thingies that were in every infomercial a while ago).
  8. Chris Stratton

    Chris Stratton New Member

    I wasn't lifting them with my shoulders, I was letting them hang (via my arms) from my shoulders and if anything stretch those muscles. I was "lifting" from the central column of my spine. Part of the goal was the stretch, but a more important part was the ioslation - up in the center, down and relaxed at the sides.
  9. Joe

    Joe Well-Known Member

    There is no such thing as a "pushing" muscle.
  10. Egoist

    Egoist Member

    I was characterizing the muscle by its resulting action not by the way it works.

    There is no such thing as an extending muscle since all muscles act by contracting. But the action of some muscles results in a push, e.g. triceps, chest and quads. To exercise these muscles you push/press. Other muscles act to pull, e.g. back, biceps and hamstrings.
  11. Egoist

    Egoist Member

    You won't have that weight to bring them down when you are dancing, which is why I would recommend you rather tone the muscles that bring them down so that you can do so on command. Also, I don't think the range of motion in that area will significantly increase by stretching. Bottom line, you can think of it as you like, e.g. pushing shoulders to the floor and raising your sternum, but you won't escape using those muscles.
  12. cl5814

    cl5814 New Member

    keep your shoulders down

    I have been hearing this sentence a lot from my instructor lately yet i am clueless on what i can do to improve it. Classic problem of tending to raise my shoulders when i rise (talking standard dancing here). I think i need some sort of weight on my shoulders to "disable" them but can't come up with a workable solution. I am sure i am not the only one with this problem. Any innovative ideas that i can use ?

    PS Just thinking about it is not cutting it, my brain gotta concentrate on other things.
  13. Another Elizabeth

    Another Elizabeth Active Member

    With shoulder problems on students, I've had good luck with using either a piece of adhesive tape and/or a loop of elastic. How you place it depends on the details of the problem, but the basic idea is that you put it in a place where you don't notice it in a good dance position, but it "pulls" when you start to slip out of line. (For example, for a guy who rolls his shoulders forward, I can put a piece of tape across his shoulder blades. When they start to move apart, he feels the pull of the tape.) You don't want it so tight that it's doing the work to put your body in the right position - just put it so that you notice the feel when you start to slip.
  14. Medira

    Medira New Member

    Another take on this that we used to use on synchronized swimmers when working on presentation and approaches on deck was to take a long scarf and tie it around the shoulders, across the back. Have the "victim" *grin* stand in the proper position, thake the scarf and drape it across the shoulders behind the neck. Loop the ends around under the armpits and tie them together between the shoulder blades. It shouldn't be tight, but there shouldn't be any noticeable slack either. This way, when the shoulders start to slip forward, you'll feel the material start to pull at the shoulders, triggering the thought to relax them and drop them back again.
  15. cornutt

    cornutt Well-Known Member

    I have trouble with this too. A few things I've learned (I can't say I always do them right!):

    • Maintain your frame by using your upper back muscles to pull your shoulder blades down. You can practice this by sitting in a hard-backed chair; if you do it right, you'll feel your shoulder blades rolling downward. This makes your back do a better job of supporting the weight of your arms, and that reduces the need to bring your shoulders up for arm support.
    • Concentrate on doing sways by pushing the side of your torso out, rather than using your shoulder to lift up that side (which doesn't really work anyway). I still have trouble with this particularly when I do heel turns.
    • Don't let your partner "bear down" on your frame. In smooth, I have to think about keeping my left elbow rolled inward and a bit upward, so that I'm supporting my own arm and not pulling my partner's arm downwards.

    One other thing, for ladies: Maintain some bend in your right elbow when you are in frame for smooth/standard. I know two lady dancers who have a habit of holding their right arms all the way out, with the elbow locked, when they do smooth. I think they do that for arm support, because they've been lectured about shoulders. It doesn't cause me any problem, but I'm always worried that some day, they are going to dance with a partner who "muscles up" on them, and they are going to wind up with an elbow or shoulder injury.
  16. wyllo

    wyllo New Member

    Medira and AE give some great advice on building awareness of the position of your shoulders, which is the first big hurdle to developing a dance frame.

    Beyond that, you might be dealing with a strength/muscle imbalance problem (I am all-too-familiar with this challenge!). You need strong and flexible muscles to keep your shoulders down in dance frame. Your muscles will get stronger with time through dance, but it also requires concentration to continuously correct your shoulder position. I've found a combination of yoga & pilates exercises that strengthen the shoulders are a tremendous help. It takes less concentration to hold a frame if your body isn't fighting you.
  17. cl5814

    cl5814 New Member

    thanks ladies, i'll try both approaches.
  18. Medira

    Medira New Member

    Good luck and let us know how it goes! :)
  19. Posture problems are really not that hard to fix unless is of a permanant nature. Hit the gym regularly and do the following exercises. Lat pull down, back presses, deltoid raises with two dumbells, push ups or bench press, shoulder shrugs with dumbelss, military press, crunches, and back extensions. I'd recomend using light weights and doing a lot of repetitions because you're more interested in building endurance of those muscles than you are in building strenght and muscle size.
  20. PasoDancer

    PasoDancer New Member

    My shoulders are always archy and tense. One teacher is always walking around behind me fixing it. I just can't help it- usually, I'm aware of it and take measures to fix it, but sometimes if I'm working on too many things at once, like lately, it is really obvious and bad.

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