Bizarre Exercises

February 16, 2021

By Tom Fontana, MSPT

In a psychology class in my junior year of college, we replicated a study that showed that using bizarre imagery helps memory retention (for instance, if you are asked to remember two words—Strawberry and Locomotive—and in your mind you conjure up a deranged strawberry speeding a locomotive to its full capacity, then you would remember the second word after being prompted with the first much better using imagery than without).

Similarly, there are many boring names for physical therapy exercises (too many to list here). In an attempt to help patients remember what they are, I often try to give a somewhat unusual name to exercises I give.

For many shoulder problems, controlling the position of the shoulder blade is pivotal to ensure good shoulder mechanics and I often give the High Row and the Low Row. Zzzzz, Bo-ring! After noticing that in the high row you bring your hands to your armpits, I coined that one “Mitts to Pits.” After noticing that during a low row, when you keep your shoulder blades back it feels like you have really short arms, I coined that one “Tyrannosaurus Rex Arms.”

Though the movement in both exercises is somewhat artificial, the aim is to keep your shoulder blades together and held down toward your waist while moving your arms, which demonstrates that you know how to control how your shoulder blades.

For “Mitts to Pits,” using a band anchored at eye level, reach forward and grab the band. Then, position your shoulder blades “back and down” and step back far enough so the tension in the band keeps your hands at shoulder level. Lastly, pull your hands straight back and down to your armpits—mitts to pits! Repeat by allowing your arms to move toward the door and back to your armpits while maintaining your shoulder blades back and down.

Mitts to Pits

For “Tyrannosaurus Rex Arms,” secure a band at waist level, position your shoulder blades “back and down” and then pull straight back, keeping your forearms parallel to the ground. As you let your arms move forward again, while keeping your shoulder blades back, you’ll realize your arms reach out much less far than you thought—like little Tyrannosaurus Rex arms! Repeat bringing your arms back and forth while your shoulder blades stay back and down.

Tyranosaurus Rex Arms

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