The importance of a SHOULDER ‘SHRUG’ and why “down and back” may not be the answer

Anyone who has experienced shoulder injury or pain will be aware of the importance of shoulder posture. Scapula (shoulder blade) positioning has a significant impact in reducing the risk of cervical (neck), thoracic and shoulder pain and in improving upper body posture in general.

The oh-so-common instruction to “stand up straight” may still be ringing in your ears from conscientious parental direction, but what does the instruction actually mean and how to know you’re doing it correctly?

In this short post we will cover how to position your shoulder blades correctly and how to strengthen the surrounding muscles, as the first step to achieving efficient upper body posture.

During your Pilates sessions you no doubt will have been cued to slide your shoulder blades “down and back” along the rib cage. The thing to be mindful of, however, is that forcin* your shoulder blades down (depression) can do more harm than good! Here’s why:

Anatomically, forcing downward rotation reduces the sub-acrominal space that the rotator cuff tendons pass through. This causes traction of the neuro-vascular bundle as these structures pass through the thoracic outlet.
The following picture shows the scapula in a ‘downward rotation’ position. Note the gap between the acromion process and the head of the humerus (upper arm bone) is reduced.

As a more sustainable alternative, follow these two shoulder blade movements for more freedom and ease in your shoulder movements

1. Upward rotation, and
2. Posterior tilt.

Ideally, these two movements happen naturally when you elevate your arm, but if they don’t, it can often lead to shoulder pain.

The picture below shows a larger gap between the acromion and the humeral head allowing more room for the rotator cuff tendons to pass through – more towards the ideal alignment that will reduce the chances of injury.

Upward Rotation instructions:

One of the most effective exercises is the simple shrug.
Starting position: Stand up tall with your arms by your side, thumbs pointing forwards or out to the sides.
Action: Lift the shoulder blade gently up and back on a diagonal. You should feel the muscle at the top of the shoulder, your upper trapezius activate.
• Add a small weight, start with 500g, this can be progressed up to 3 kg.
• Progress to holding the arm at 30 degrees out to the side and your palm facing forwards. This helps to isolate the upper trapezius due to the orientation of the muscle-fibres.
• Your upper trapezius muscle is an endurance muscle, so we want to use endurance reps, 3 x 12-15 reps is sufficient once- twice a day.
HOT TIP: As you perform a shrug, make sure your shoulder blade is moving diagonally back and not coming forwards. You can put your opposite hand fingertips directly onto the muscle, feeling the upper trapezius turn on between the base of the neck and the shoulder.

Posterior Tilt Instructions:
Starting position: In standing with the arm by your side.
Action: Think of an opening of the collar bone or a separation of the collar bone at the front. You should feel the shoulder blades sliding back against the rib cage, without drawing down.

These exercises are perfect for anyone who has rounded shoulders and shoulders that point downward, anyone who has one shoulder that sits lower than the other, or to generally improve shoulder function.

If you would like more information or to book a Physiotherapy consultation with Physiotherapist and Rehab Pilates Instructor at Balance & Control Pilates Studio Sam Ziman, call the Carlton Studio on 9347 9052.

Sam writes a regular blog – check it out for more information and ideas

Happy Shrugging


Prahran Summer Mat Pilates Challenge!

The Summer Mat Pilates Challenge is coming to

Balance & Control Prahran!



Are you looking for an all round workout?


To get fighting fit for summer?


To have fun while you’re at it with our amazing instructor Lauren?


Enter our Summer Mat Challenge for your chance to get into your best shape yet, and to win some amazing prizes!!

The prizes will go to those who attend the most mat classes during the month of October. We will have a leader board in the studio so you can track your progress.

To signup head to reception and put your name on the signup sheet, or ask Chloe or Lauren for more information.



1st Prize – 20 Pack of Mat Classes

2nd Prize- 10 Pack of Mat Classes

3rd Prize- 5 Free Mat Classes


Featured Team Member- Sally!


Give us a brief summary of your career to date – how did you get involved with Pilates?

Deciding on a career path in my teens was very difficult so I studied Arts/ Science to keep my options open.  From there I fell into Geology because I loved hiking, outdoors and field trips.  But I always had a yearning to pursue sports medicine and Physiotherapy seemed like the best fit.  I managed to study Physiotherapy at three universities in two cities for part of one semester until I eventually settled back to Melbourne to complete my degree at La Trobe University.  I discovered Pilates in my first year out of Uni after trying a few classes with Paul Cini, which led me to pursue Physio clinics that focused on Pilates rehabilitation.


What is your favourite thing about Pilates?

I love that Pilates makes us tune into our bodies – massively increasing our awareness.  This information allows us to move more efficiently, preventing injury and minimising pain.  Pilates continually challenges us to access muscles that we never knew existed, helping improve stability and posture.


If you could go anywhere in the world right now where would it be? Why?

South America. This was on my wish list for our first year of marriage but we fell pregnant with Millie.  She was also a wish come true!


What food could you not live without?

Avocado – spread it, eat it whole, mix it or mash it.  I eat heaps of fruit and muesli too.


What piece of advice would you give to someone about to embark on their Pilates journey?

Be kind on yourself and listen to your body.  Pilates gets easier, but it will always present you with a new challenge.


What do you love about Balance & Control Pilates Studio?

BCPS is unique because it is a family and community all in one, while at the same time providing the best quality service.  BCPS is filled with genuine people who are passionate about Pilates.  Everyone is greeted with a smile and welcomed into the BCPS family with open arms.


Prahran Pilates Studio Relocation

So we have some exciting news for everyone .. Our Prahran Pilates Studio is moving to a bigger and better location! We thought you may have a few questions surrounding the move, so here are the FAQs. If you have any other questions please do not hesitate to ask!


When are you moving?
Our first day in the new location will be Monday 1st September 2014.

What is the new location?
Our new address is 91 High St Prahran. It’s a ground floor studio with large east facing windows. The windows have one-way coverings allowing the sunshine in while maintaining respectful privacy. We are right next to the renowned Brick Lane Café for your well-earned post-Pilates coffee.

Prahran Pilates

Prahran Pilates Studio

Contact details
Phone number: TBC

How far is it from the Grattan street studio?

Our new location is 400 meters from the Grattan St studio.

Is it bigger than the current studio?

Yes, it’s a much larger space with two treatment rooms and a group class area!

Is it close to public transport?

The studio is right opposite Prahran train station. Tram service number 6 to Glen Iris runs long High St and stop number 30 is just out the front.

Is it easy to park?

Ample 1, 2 and 4 hour parking is available in surrounding streets.

Will the schedule stay the same?

The majority of class will remain unchanged. Any changes to your regular time will be communicated to you with a minimum of 3 weeks’ notice.

Will there be additional classes?

Yes, there will be additional Studio and Rehab Pilates scheduled as well as morning and evening group Mat Classes!

Will there be any new services?

Yes! We will be offering hands-on Physiotherapy services to compliment your Pilates, as well as Myotherapy, with Elite Myotherapy.

Who is the manager of the new location?

Chloe is the studio manager at the new location. Chloe welcomes your feedback and is very happy to discuss any issues with you as they arise.

Will there be any new equipment?

Some new equipment will be coming soon…

Can I bring a friend to see the new studio?

Sure! You can bring your friend any time. We are having an Open Day for the new studio Saturday 6th September 9am – 1pm. Come along with your friends/family to our open day for:

  • Free 20 minute ‘taster’ Mat Classes 9am, 10am , 11am, 12pm
  • Free real time ultrsound assessments with Chloe
  • Pressed Juices amazing fresh juices
  • Free 5 minute shoulder treatments from Elite Myotherapy
  • Give aways
Chloe Prahran

Chloe, the new manager at our Prahran Pilates Studio

Featured Team Member- KIERA!


MEET KIERA- one of our our wonderful Rehab Pilates Instructors!

Give us a brief summary of your career to date – how did you get involved with Pilates?
I graduated from La Trobe University in 2010. Since then I have worked across a variety of settings including private practice, acute and rehabilitation hospitals and aged care. I have a particular interest in women’s health physiotherapy which initially drew me to Pilates. I also plan to complete a post grad certificate in women’s health physio in March 2014.

What is your favourite thing about Pilates?
Pilates is accessible to all ages, body types and levels of fitness. Pilates enables people to develop their strength and flexibility which leads to participation in everyday activities and recreational activities that may otherwise be difficult due to pain and dysfunction.

If you could go anywhere in the world right now where would it be? Why?
Brazil. The energy, beaches, sunshine and excitement.

What food could you not live without?
Sweets and Falafels!

What piece of advice would you give to someone about to embark on their Pilates journey?
Concentrate on one aspect of the exercise at a time, initially the mind is working very hard to re program the body and experience the new movements. Over the course of the 5-6 sessions it’ll get easier and the movements will become automatic.

What do you love about Balance & Control Pilates Studio?
The people of course! The team and all the clients are absolutely wonderful!


Meet more of our team at

Breathing in Pilates – Part One

We all know that breathing is important – without it, we wouldn’t be alive, correct breathing in Pilates is also extremely important. Breathing is the first thing we do when we enter this life, and our last act on leaving it. Breathing affects and is affected by our emotional state and posture. But what is all the fuss about breathing? After all, I can hear you saying, if I am sitting at my desk reading this post, rather than collapsed on the floor, I must be breathing fine. Right?

Well, yes, to an extent. But breathing is something that a lot of people especially those who experience emotional stress, neck, shoulder or back pain do not do correctly. People under stress or in pain will often hold their breath for short periods of time without even realizing it. And when they do breathe, they frequently have a very shallow, disordered breathing pattern. While this is probably an unconscious protective reaction to pain, it can actually increase the level of pain. Learning to breathe better will help you in your everyday life, sports, and Pilates.

When we breathe very short breaths we are not flushing all the carbon dioxide from our system. By breathing in this manner we increase stress to the tissues of our body.

In Pilates we focus on Lateral Breathing through the base of the rib cage. It could almost be described as a 3D breath- you are breathing to expand the rib cage out to the side and through the back- you want to get a sense of expanding your ribcage with the lower portions of your lungs. Through your Pilates practice you will learn that this type of breathing goes hand in hand with engaging your core.

Try to breathe low and wide into the base of your lungs. Breathing deeply and directing air into the bottom and sides of your ribcage will let your body absorb oxygen most efficiently. Breathing well has a huge impact on your energy levels, spinal mobility, and overall vitality.


Who would have thought breathing could be so complex hey? It does take some time to learn the lateral breath, and combining it with stabilization and movement takes some more time. But like anything in Pilates, once you begin to live your practice outside your session, it becomes second nature, and you will most definitely reap the benefits.


Are Your Breathing Properly?

To find out if you are breathing properly:

  • Lie flat on your back.
  • Place your hands on either side of your ribs just above your waist.
  • Breathe as you normally do.
  • Notice: Do your hands move when you breathe?
  • Now place one hand on your chest.
  • Does your upper chest rise when you breathe in? (You may even feel your shoulders rise slightly.)
  • If your lower ribcage expands, tummy rises slightly, and your chest stays relatively flat, you are breathing well.
  • If your lower ribcage and abdomen barely moves and your chest rises, you are not breathing properly and need to practice the breathing exercise below.

breathing in pilates

Tram Line Upgrade Victoria Street throughout January

Please be aware of the tram works on Victoria Street throughout January. We expect traffic in surrounding streets to be heavier than normal during the works from Wednesday 8th January to Thursday 23rd January. Parts of Victoria Street including the Victoria Street Bridge will be completely closed to traffic during this period. To make sure you don’t miss out on any of your Pilates you can easily access the studio via Leslie Street from Buckingham street. If you need to cross the Yarra River from Hawthorn/Kew we suggest using Bridge Road then coming along River Street or Burnley Street.

Full details from Yarra Trams below

Routes 24, 30, 31 and 109 – Track renewal and maintenance work – Wednesday 8 to Friday 24 January

As part of the modernisation of Melbourne’s tram network, Yarra Trams and Public Transport Victoria will be renewing the tram tracks on Victoria Street bridge, between River Boulevard and Findon Crescent in Richmond. This work is part of the Victoria Street bridge refurbishment. During this time, maintenance work will also take place between Burnley Street and Church Street. The major work on Victoria Street bridge will take place from approximately 1am on Wednesday 8 January and continue 24 hours a day until 5am on Friday 24 January 2014. This renewal work will take longer to complete than other track renewal projects due to the complexity of working on a bridge, as well as additional bridge strengthening works. Tram service changes – first tram Wednesday 8 January to last tram Thursday 23 January 2014 No trams will operate on Victoria Street between Stop 29 Barkers Road & High Street and Stop 18 Hoddle Street & Victoria Parade. Route 109 trams will divert via Route 48 along Bridge Road, between Stop 29 Barkers Road & High Street and Stop 8 Spring Street & Collins Street. Route 31 will operate normally with additional trams on Route 31a each day. These trams will operate approximately every 20 minutes from first to last tram, between Stop 12 St Vincent’s Plaza and Stop 18 Hoddle Street & Victoria Parade. Route 24 will not operate during the work. Passenger should consider taking Route 48, 75 or 109 trams during this time. Route 48 and 75 will operate as normal.


Preliminary work – 6am Thursday 2 January to 1am Wednesday 8 January 2014 Preliminary work to prepare the site for construction will begin at approximately 6am on Thursday 2 January and continue until the bridge track renewal work commences on Wednesday 8 January. This work significantly reduces the amount of time that the site needs to be closed to trams and traffic during the major work. The work will include the unloading and pre-welding of rail, and will take place as per the table below. Details of the times, locations, and effect on traffic of the project are as follows:

Preliminary Work

Location Date and time of work Effect on vehicle traffic
Victoria Street, between River Boulevard and Findon Crescent Thursday 2 to Wednesday 8 January, 6am to 10pm Partial road closures on Victoria Street.

Major work

Location Date and time of work Effect on vehicle traffic
Work zone 1Victoria Stree,t between Burnley Street and Findon Crescent 1am Wednesday 8 to 5am Friday 24 January Victoria Street bridge closed to all traffic. Full road closure on Victoria Street between River Boulevard and Findon Crescent. Partial road closures on Victoria St/Barkers Road between Burnley Street and High Street South.

Maintenance work

Location Date and time of work Effect on vehicle traffic
Work zone 2Victoria Street, between McKay Street and Burnley Street. 5am Saturday 11 to 5am Monday 13 January Full road closure on Victoria Street between McKay Street & Burnley Street. McKay St & Burnley St will remain open to traffic. Vehicles from Burnley Street will not be allowed to turn left onto Victoria Street.


Effect of major work on traffic Full and partial road closures will be in place on Victoria Street, and Victoria Street bridge will be closed to all vehicle traffic during the project. Please see the table on the previous page for details. Traffic will be diverted around the work zones during this time.




The renewal of more than 200 metres of tram track will improve safety for everyone, as well as deliver a better road surface for motorists and cyclists, a smoother ride for tram passengers, and less tram noise associated with potholes, broken rails and wheel squealing. Associated noise from machinery, vehicles and work crews will be unavoidable but Yarra Trams will do all it can to keep this to a minimum. The use of reverse beepers and flashing lights is a safety requirement and these devices cannot be switched off. We thank you for your patience and regret any inconvenience caused by this essential renewal and maintenance work. We advise that it is being performed in accordance with our obligations to Public Transport Victoria and is necessary to maintain a safe tram network as required by the Rail Safety Act 2006 (Vic). Accordingly Yarra Trams will not be compensating third parties for any losses incurred during the conduct of the work.

Flexibility and Pilates

We all know that being flexible is important for dancers and gymnasts, but what comes as a wake up call to many is that flexibility is one of the keys to decreasing the risk of injury, improving posture, lengthening your muscles for a longer, leaner look and making cardio workouts a lot lighter and easier, therefore it is no surprise that flexibility and Pilates go hand in hand. So it turns out flexibility is something that we should all be focusing on, and is inextricably linked to Pilates.

We can define flexibility as the ability of a joint to move freely through its natural range of movement. That range of movement should be primarily determined by the shapes of the bones of the joint, and the length of the ligaments surrounding the joint. Oftentimes, however, flexibility is limited by other factors, including: weakness of the stabilizing muscles around a joint, groups of muscles not working together as a well coordinated system, and shortened, tight muscles.

This last factor is the one we are most likely to focus on when we think about flexibility because it is generally accepted that if we can just keep stretching ‘those’ muscles then we can improve our flexibility! In many cases however is it because the stabilizing muscles of the joints are not functioning properly that affects the alignment of joints and therefore our flexibility.

Flexibility is one of the first things to disappear as we grow older, and therefore we need to make a conscientious effort to stretch and stabilize our muscles. As a runner from a young age, I hardly ever stretched before or after a run, and can now see the consequences of my actions: extremely tight ITBs (outer thigh area) causing knee pain and shin splints… What could have helped to prevent this would have been targeted stretching and strengthening of my inner thighs and hip muscles so that they could work to stabilise and support the load of my training. Flexibility has never seemed so important!

Alongside strengthening, one of the release techniques I have found hugely helpful in my Pilates sessions, is rolling the outside and front of my legs on a long round foam roller. Rolling techniques help loosen knots in the connective tissue of your body.

Foam rollers are affordable and easy to use on many areas of the body to improve flexibility and spinal mobililty.

Click here to visit our online store to purchase your foam roller


In your Pilates sessions, we not only focus on stretching, we also work on training the muscles that stabilize joints. This is working towards stabilizing the joints effectively, and this is the key to improving flexibility- flexibility, that is important for more reasons than being able to do the splits!

So, with this information, consider why you feel you need to be more flexible. Then ask your instructor what you need to do, for your body, as simply stretching alone may not be the best path to achieving your goals.





Share your Pilates successes

Let us know what Pilates success you’ve had recently… here’s an email that came in today……
“I have to share what Pilates has done for my body.

Pretty much pain free and the revelation is ……. now my core-to-ribcage connection is better.. and guess what….. the shoulders are released!! I reckon I just joined some dots for me and also my clients.

Also the left hip bursitis, medial knee ligament stuff and brain block on my left gluts has really improved. Now standing strong into the left leg, and actually lengthening the shortened waist on that side…… what Scoliosis?

I think I get this Pilates thing now!!”


November Newsletter

Read the Balance & Control Pilates November Newsletter here

Including the following news:

  • November Merchandise Special
  • New morning Allegro classes
  • Client Christmas party
  • Zac’s back
  • New team members
  • Tanya’s a Poster Girl!
  • Franklin Method Workshops
  • Christmas closure dates
  • Spring Wine Recommendation
  • Updated Website
  • Staff Christmas Party