This story originally appeared in the October/November 2015 issue of Pointe.
When you begin your first plié combination of the day, you're likely feeling refreshed and ready to go—not to mention standing tall with good posture. But as class goes on, and the mind fatigues, bad habits can creep in. By center, your upper back may be slumping forward, and your posture less than perfect.
Julie O'Connell, director of performing arts medicine at Athletico Physical Therapy in Chicago, says she often sees dancers standing with their shoulder blades too far forward and the chest caved in. She suggests this exercise to help correct this postural problem. Though the motion is minimal, it can have a big impact on your overall épaulement. If you feel your upper back rounding during class, you can even do a few reps in between combos, to remind your body of the proper alignment.
1. Stand straight against a wall, using it as a contact point for your shoulder blades.
2. Lift both arms in front of you to a 90-degree angle. The wrists should be in line with the shoulders and the elbows should be extended.
3. Using the serratus anterior muscles (which wrap from the upper ribs around the scapulas), slowly reach both arms forward in a punching motion, feeling your shoulder blades move away from each other as they glide along your rib cage.
4. Return to the starting position, so your shoulder blades are resting alongside the spine. This is correct, engaged alignment. Do 2 sets of 10 repetitions.
To challenge yourself. wrap a resistance band around your back and arms, holding each end with your hands.
Then punch forward, working against the resistance.
Or, lie on your back and perform the exercise while holding a light weight in each hand.