Autor: markyoung

~ 04/06/10



Earlier this week I posted a link to some excellent videos by Joe Sansalone in Part 1 of this series.  In Part 2 I posted a discussion I had with Joe himself covering some of the questions that these videos generated for me.  Today, my hope is to wrap up with some final thoughts on these videos and how I intend to incorporate this information into my programming.


Perhaps the single most important thing I took from this series is that in our attempt to be efficient and do the whole YTWL series, we glaze over the fact that most people hardly have the required motor control to do any one of these movements on their own.  In doing so, we reinforce the poor motor patterns and let the scapula migrate upwards during the prone Y due to the upper traps instead of maintaining focus on scapular depression and upward rotation created by the lower traps.  Moreover, we make things worse by sometimes adding weight as soon as a person can hit the prescribed number of reps.


Being a former biomechanics geek, I feel that Joe has a good point about electrode placement affecting readings of muscle activation in any movement.  I also agree that individual performance of any movement will result in some variation in which muscles are recruited.  However, EMG can be a tremendously useful tool and discounting muscle activation studies based on these points might be a little neglectful.  After all, EMG is a huge component of Dr. Stuart McGill’s spine model and few people question this element of his research.  Granted, if you’ve seen the mathematics involved in this model you’d have to be Einstein just to make your argument anyway.




I still believe that performing a wall slide facing the wall will activate the serratus to a greater degree than the lower traps based on EMG and the angle of pull of both muscles.  Raising the arms from the wall at the top of the movement would certainly involve the lower traps if performed properly.   To me, this might be a great way to integrate both movements together to promote upward scapular rotation (a function of both muscles) in a very early progression.


So how would I program the prone Y?  Given what I’ve learned from Joe, I think that I’ll likely begin by performing the Y alone or in a pairing it with another movement promoting upward scapular rotation such as scap push ups or something similar.  Otherwise, I might perform it as part of an overall warm up circuit involving various other activation exercises and mobility drills.  Although I do tend to do some mobility/activation work between sets of exercises, I think that I’ll refrain from this with the prone Y (at least in the beginning) since people might be inclined to just hammer their way through it when their adrenaline is pumping instead of paying attention to the motor control element.  I’d also keep the reps low (between 5-8) to emphasize the importance of taking it slow and getting the movement right.


As far as progressions go, I figure that I’ll probably work from the Y through the rest of the YTWL (actually Nick Tuminello’s LYTP) series one by one before adding range of motion.  Only once this has been achieved would I consider stringing the movements together for strength endurance and finally adding weights.  Of course, some will move quickly through this progression and others will be slower, but that’s what I’m thinking right now.


What are your thoughts?  Would you do it differently?  If so, why?

Autor: markyoung

~ 01/06/09

Most people will recognize the serratus anterior as the really cool looking muscle that sits just over top of the ribs and is visible only on someone who is very lean.




As sexy as it is though, this muscle has a function that is more important than just grabbing attention at the beach.  If you have a shoulder blade that sticks out (otherwise known as a winging scapula) you probably need to strengthen this muscle.  The push up plus is a great exercise for this purpose.


However, this article isn’t about how to strengthen the serratus anterior.  Instead, I want to talk about what to do when you’ve tried all the standard exercises and you’ve still got dreadfully winging scapula.




If this sounds like you, then you could have a problem with the nerve that supplies your serratus called the long thoracic nerve.  This nerve comes out from the cervical vertebrae in your neck and winds its way down to the serratus anterior.  When this nerve becomes compressed at any point along its path the serratus won’t fire properly no matter how much activation work you do.


Fortunately, the most common restriction with this nerve happens in the neck as it passes through and around the middle scalene.  When this muscle becomes tight the nerve can be compressed and it won’t function properly.  Tests such as an EMG or a Nerve Conduction Test from your doctor can confirm this.




If this proves to be the case, this can usually be rectified with a couple visits to your local ART practitioner.  Often they can manually release the restriction and allow the nerve signals to travel to the muscle allowing it to contract properly.  If this fails (and it sometimes does), surgery is an option, but I’d suggest going the manual route first.


Usually, once the nerve is released a few weeks of doing some activation exercises for your serratus is all you should need and you’ll be as good as new.


However, I should note that once you’ve taken care of the initial problem, make sure not to carry bags of any sort on that shoulder (ladies, this means no purses) or you can cause the issue to come back.