When And Why Scapula AKA Shoulder Blade Position Matters With Exercise
In this episode, Craig breaks down everything you need to know about the scapula AKA shoulder blade position with common upper body exercises. This topic is often highly debated from one weight lifter or a physio or a trainer to another, and it's time to set the record straight! Let's start with sagittal plane/linear focused movements as they're the most common exercises you'll see performed in the gym.
Exercise #1 - Rows
Are you that person focused on keeping your shoulder blade squeezed back as you move your arm through a shorter range, or are you lowering and lifting that weight as far as your arm will go?! There is nothing necessarily wrong with either strategy as #1 focuses on working the scapular stabilizers more whereas strategy #2 is working all of the muscles through the full range of motion. However, what tends to be the case when lifting heavier weights is you will transition to strategy #2. Thus, if you want to maximize muscle hypertrophy and strength gains, let that shoulder blade move! Otherwise, if keeping your shoulder blade still feels better and is helping to work towards a specific goal (for instance in some rehab cases) then keep it still!
Exercises #2 - Overhead press
This one can easily fool you, but appreciate where Arash starts and finishes with the overhead shoulder press, but importantly how did he get to the starting position. The scapula AKA shoulder blade is going to elevate and upwardly rotate just to get the arm in the starting position for the shoulder press (where the arm is parallel to the ground). In the first round of demonstrated reps, Arash is focused on crushing his deltoids and stabilizing his shoulder blades as there is little movement appreciated. Then in the second round of demonstrated reps, Arash adds a shrug at the end, which may be needed with harder lifts and heavier weight as well as when fatigue sets in, meaning the shoulder blade is going to move! With open-chain exercises like the overhead press, we are totally fine with the shoulder blade moving more or moving less, again it depends on your goal! Below you will learn about scapulo-glenohumeral rhythm, which basically breaks down where and how much things move to position the arm overhead!
Exercise #3 - Landmine press
A unique horizontal/vertical hybrid push exercise, the landmine press is one of our go-to exercises for shoulder pain. That's because there is a ton of scapula movement here when performed correctly. The movement puts an emphasis on scapular protraction, which is a combination of elevation, upward rotation, and abduction. Allowing the shoulder blade to move and get into more optimal positions can work wonders with shoulder impingement like symptoms! If you're a weight lifting dealing with issues when it comes lifts like the overhead press or bench press, you have to give this one a shot!
Exercise #4 - Shoulder External Rotation
Now if we take a look at transverse plane isolated shoulder exercises, the rules are going to change a bit. We are going to advocate for the shoulder blade to stay still when performing isolated rotator cuff strengthening exercises, and here's why. The rotator cuff attaches to the scapula and the shoulder and if both regions are moving and not one of them is stabilized, then you're missing out on really working the rotator cuff. That is why you want to focus on limiting scapular winging or excessive scapular rotation with shoulder rotation exercises, so keep that shoulder blade still!
Exercise #5 - Deltoid Raises
The ultimate debate! To move or not to move the shoulder blade with deltoid raises! We first need to acknowledge what scapulo-glenohumeral rhythm is. To keep it simple - to make up 180 degrees of overhead shoulder motion - the shoulder contributes 120 degrees whereas the scapula AKA shoulder blade contributes 60 degrees. Just to get to 90 degrees (elbow to shoulder height) the scapula has to move 30 degrees! So shoulder blade movement and position with the deltoid raise depends on how high you're lifting your arms! If you stay at or below shoulder height, they will minimally move and we like to promote 'setting' the shoulder blades up and back. However, if you're lifting higher than shoulder height, the shoulder blade will and should move more, it actually helps to protect the shoulder letting it move!
We hoped you enjoyed this video, let us know what else you want us to cover!
Video Edited By Al: https://www.instagram.com/aesthetic_al/