“Shoulders down and back” is a cue that is commonly used to correct one’s posture. However, as performance physical therapists we find this cue to be detrimental to how the shoulder complex is meant to function. In fact, correcting this belief has been one of the most helpful suggestions during our virtual physical therapy sessions and throughout the injury rehabilitation process.
Pulling the shoulder blades down and back opposes necessary shoulder blade during reaching activities. The shoulder blades are meant to elevate and abduct (move apart) as the arm is moved away from the body.
The motion of the shoulder blades moving away from the spine is called protraction. Protraction is required to properly perform pushups or reach in any direction.
This is of particular importance for active people that wish to lift weights or play a sport. Attempting to keep the shoulders “down and back” as the arms need to move away from the body will negatively impact the mechanics of the shoulder and possibly result in injury.
“Shoulders down and back” may work for drills such as deadlifts, rows, and farmers carries, however it is useful to forget this cue for other activities, such as posture correction!