Functional Training Institute

Wednesday Wisdom: Movement Sins – Poor Pull Pattern

Poor Pull Pattern

We’re picking up where we left off – exploring the 7 common movement sins as covered in our Movement Restoration Coach course.

To summarise, in previous posts we’ve covered:

  1. Medial Knee
  2. Trendelenburg Sign
  3. Lumbar Hyperlordosis
  4. Excessive Posterior Pelvic Tilt
  5. Poor Push Pattern

If you missed those scroll on down or head to “photos” in this group to find the posts and check them out

We have 2 left to cover, so let’s crack into number 7…

Movement Sin:


This issue could be considered the twin of out 5th movement sin, Poor Push Pattern. Why? Because obviously they both are centred around the health of the scapulothoracic and glenohumeral joint, so if one pattern is out due to a muscle imbalance there’s a high chance the other movement pattern could be impacted too.

Remember, the glenohumeral joint is a complex one, requiring both mobility and stability to function optimally. The ability of the shoulder to move freely and move well relies on the scapulothoracic joint – if the scapulae don’t move effectively along the ribcage then the glenohumeral joint is forced to compensate. Overtime this compromises the balance and health of the shoulder.

There are two key ways the shoulder can move poorly in a pull pattern:

  1. Lurching.

You can spot this as the front of the shoulder rolls forward as you get to the end range of a row movement, and it happens as the scapula fails to retract effectively.

  1. Elevation.

You’ll see this as almost a shrug movement during a pull, so the shoulders will elevate up toward the ears the further you move through the concentric pull phase.

Due to the complexity of the shoulder there are numerous imbalances and muscle weaknesses to consider when working to eliminate these sins.

  1. Pec Minor dominating the Lower Trap

When the Pec Minor is hypertonic it pulls the scapular into an anterior tilt. This will put the shoulder the position to “lurch” as we move through the push (and pull) pattern.

  1. External Rotators (infrasprinatus, teres minor & posterior delta) dominating the Subscapularis.

This imbalance causes the humerus to sit high in it’s socket and reduces the space it has to freely move. As a result of this the shoulders can elevate to make up for the lack of space the humerus has to move in the joint.

  1. Levator Scapula dominating the Upper and Lower Trap

The Levator Scapula sits deep under the upper trap, and can wreak havoc when it becomes hypertonic, causing the trap to be inhibited and the scapular and shoulder to elevate.

So how can we improve our shoulder function and eliminate poor pull patterns:

  1. Release the dominant muscles – the pec minor, external rotators and levator scapula

– The massage ball, posture pro or a kettlebell handle are the best way to reach these small and specific muscles.

  1. Determine which muscles require strengthening and get to work.

– the trap, subscapularis and the serratus anterior are the key muscles to consider.

  1. Work to strengthen these muscles in isolation.
  2. Retrain your pull patterns with correct scapula movement before integrating heavier resistance and load.
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