Ever feel like your shoulders have permanently taken up residence in by your ears?  If you’ve been in this position too long, you’re probably also feeling an annoying pinching sensation where your shoulders meet your neck.  These are signs that it’s time for Dumbwaiter, a movement that trains your body to draw your shoulder blades down your back and toward each other.  Dumbwaiter also gives you a dancer’s posture: an open chest with relaxed shoulders.






  • Begin this exercise either sitting or standing tall.
  • Glue your elbows to your ribcage and float your hands up as if you were balancing a martini on each palm.
  • Inhale as you draw your belly button in, squeeze your seat and lengthen your spine.


  • Exhale as you serve the martinis to people on either side of you. Keep your elbows glued to your ribcage; simply rotate your arms to the side.
  • As you move, keep your armpits sliding toward your hips.
  • Inhale as you bring your hands back to your starting position.
  • Use the 75% rule: 75% effort is plenty; over-efforting this movement can cause nerve pinching.
  • Repeat 5x.  It’s also fine to do this move several times a day.  There is no need to use additional weight or resistance.



  • Where do you feel this movement?  Some people feel a stretch in their chest, across the front of the shoulder, or along the back of the upper arm.  Others feel the muscles between their shoulder blades engaging.   Wherever you feel it most is the area that needs a little extra attention.  Listening to your body will mean fewer days with a pain in your neck.
  • How far can you move without shifting your elbows from your sides?  As your range of motionincreases and your posture improves, those pinching sensations will lessen.

Good to Know

Shoulder placement affects your comfort and strength in many areas: upper back, mid-back, neck, chest and wrists.   When a joint in your extremity – your neck, arm or leg – is bothering you, look to the joint closet to the center of your body for clues about resolving the issue.

Excerpted from Ageless Pilates ISBN 098231700X.

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