Yoga Tune Up® Blog

Don’t Let ‘Locked Long’ Rhomboids Drag You Down

Our world pulls us forward. It’s undeniable. The prevalence of desktop, laptop and handheld technology, coupled with the irrefutable demand of gravity, draws the posture of modern day man into a “locked long” position of the rhomboid muscles. When the rhomboids are long, the shoulders round and the chest collapses and, as a result, full steady breathing becomes limited, the natural upward energy of human beings is instead dragged down toward the earth and the vital connection to the core disappears as the pelvis is shoved forward flattening the lumbar curve. This full reversal of the natural state of the spinal column exhausts the entire body, physically and mentally.  Bringing these upper back muscles into a more engaged status is the solution and, with awareness, Yoga Tune Up® can get you there.

Get rhomboids working well for healthy shoulder placement.

The rhomboids are a pair of muscles that reside on each side of the spine.  These upper back muscles, named for the geometric shape they share with the rhombus, are deep to the trapezius muscle and connect the spine to the scapulae on both sides. Rhomboid minor, the smaller of the two, originates at the spinous processes of cervical vertebra seven (noted for its protrusion from the spine at the base of the neck) and thoracic vertebra one. It then stretches diagonally across the inner, upper back to insert at medial edge of each scapula. The larger half of the pair, rhomboid major, connects exclusively to the thoracic spine (thoracic vertebra two-five) and reaches in a diagonal direction across the upper back to insert at the lower medial edge of the each scapulae.

From this placement, it is no surprise that these muscles contribute significantly to the placement of the shoulder blades on the upper back. When they are “locked long”, the scapulae drape out to the side body, forcing the heads of the shoulders forward, and shorten the complementary muscle pair along the front body – the pectorals. This unfortunate placement translates into distinct weakness of both muscle pairs – the rhomboids and the pectorals. It makes breathing laborious and shallow, leaving the lower lobes of the lungs trapped under the descent of the ribcage.  In essence, it adds to the burden of the forward pull of our world and drags bodies down.

Yoga Tune Up® incorporates balance into all it offers and options for strengthening the rhomboids and opening their partner, the pectoral muscles, abound and focus on returning the spine to its natural curves and supporting movement.  The YTU action, Shoulder Circles can begin a journey of getting to know your rhomboids by taking the scapulae through their full range of motion. Here the rhomboids are required to engage and take on their responsibility of stabilizing, retracting and downwardly rotating the scapulae, in turn opening the chest and allowing the neck to balance the weight of the head evenly atop the spine. This action educates the body to recognize an engaged rhomboid and how toning the muscle can support the innate curves of the spine.

Discover solutions for shoulder pain.

Watch our shoulder videos.

Read “Strengthen Your Rhomboids To Rebalance Your Shoulders”


About This Author

From the start, the practice of yoga did it all for me – fitness, awareness, breath, alignment and clarity of mind. My YogaWorks 200 hour training, with the divine Natasha Rizopolous, provided an exceptional foundation of yogic knowledge from which to learn, teach and cast a wide net for continued study. Yoga Tune Up teacher training refined my lens of understanding to shine it upon the anatomical and corrective aspects for practice – helping students, alongside myself, identify and address postural habits that impair efficient, effective movement in the body. Smooth joints, lean muscles and boosted proprioception make each visit to the mat an individualized, satisfying and fun exploration of the human body in motion and stillness.

12 Responses to “Don’t Let ‘Locked Long’ Rhomboids Drag You Down”

  1. Maya Gil-Cantu says:

    Hey Kate! Thank you for the article. I work with a few Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fighter and their rhomboids are definitely “locked long” (a term which I love fyi). Shoulder Circles is a great suggestion to rewire their proprioception of their rhomboids, and start getting those suckers to work; eventually un-rounding and de-collapsing the chest. I will definitely try it next time!

  2. MaryBeth Frosco says:

    Hi Kate. Thanks for the blog. Working with lots of students with “shoulder issues”. They describe to me what they feel or don’t feel in this area – pain, numbness, stiffness, poor posture, difficulty sitting upright, limited mobility, etc. But often I can garner alot of additional information by watching them – when they come into the room, set up their mats, sit or stand talking to one another before (and after!) class. Your blog helps to shed some anatomical light on what I am witnessing. Really helpful. My goal is to begin to use our knowledge and understanding so that YTU and the tx balls are not only for healing/therapy, but as preventative medicine. I am seeking to understand the symptoms and deal with them before they develop into the reality of real, acute or chronic problems. Helping people to help themselves.

  3. Kate says:

    This article clearly explains the problem I might be having with my left shoulder. I have always thought my scapula was causing the pulling and the tightness, but it’s probably my locked Rhomboids. Hoping the appropriate yoga tune up work will help balance me out. I often wonder if this tight upper back/shoulder issue could be contributing to the hyper mobility in my pelvis. Thanks for bringing attention to this issue!

  4. Andrea Loper says:

    I’ve fought over tight pectoral muscles and a rounding in my upper back for years. This article highlighted for me that with a little dedication, I can adjust the imbalance myself without regular chiropractic visits or hours at the gym, but rather merely moving my shoulders through a full, healthy range of motion with yogatuneup shoulder circles. Thanks for this insight.

  5. John Greenhow says:

    I used Shoulder Circles after rolling on the T-spine with Alpha and then Plus balls in my class today at a CrossFit gym. The result was a lot of happy crossfitters with a dramatically improved overhead position. I love this simple movement for a dynamic warm up and to create a stable shoulder position.

  6. Gennifer Morris says:

    Practiced shoulder circles today in class, and why they seem like an easy move, it definitely made me aware of my head forward position. I felt a bit like a bobble head propriocepting where my head should be.

  7. Yvonne Duke says:

    Hi Kate,
    Enjoyed your article. I work a lot with athletes and they all have rounded backs with their shoulders rolling forward. The YTU balls are very painful for them. You are absolutely correct…they have no proprioception of their rhomboids at all. Once they roll for a while, through the tension, and we retest, they are always amazed at the results. I also like that you included a visual. This is one article I will print for my students to read.


  8. Nancy says:

    Hi Kate, Thanks for your insight. I have always wondered why my breathing may be labored at times. It sounds like strengthening my rhomboids and lengthening my pectorals muscles will be one place to start ! Cheers .Nancy Drope

  9. Helen McAvoy says:

    Kate, this article brought to the forefront some issues I have been having…and I think spending more and more time at the computer has created less awareness to my postural placement and the rhomboid/core connection. Thank you!! hope to see you this coming year!

  10. Congrats Kate! Great article. Love the connection you made from the Rhomboids to the Core.

  11. Geoff Brown says:

    I couldn’t agree more. Our day to day actions are leaving us stooped and hunched. My body thanks me every time my “locked long” rhomboid muscles and exhausted spine are challenged in the other direction! One of the things that I really enjoy about Yoga Tune Up® is that it incorporates pull focused movements for the shoulders creating a balanced practice.

  12. mimi martel says:

    thank you Kate for your post ! As having the shoulders internally rotating is becoming “normal ” in our society this little YTU move can bring great awareness to people proprioception. I also like the “pin the arms on the yogi ” pose that emphasise the external rotation of the shoulders and reposition the arms and shoulder to a optimal position to continue to work at the desk

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Jill Miller, Creator of Yoga Tune Up®

After studying yoga, movement, and the human body for over twenty years, I created Yoga Tune Up® as a simple way to restore my body and mind, keeping me balanced and free of pain. Using a specific and unique set of poses, movements and self massage tools, you too can LIVE BETTER IN YOUR BODY WITH YOGA TUNE UP®.


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