Shoulder Blade: How it impacts function

What do planks, handstands, throwing baseballs and placing dishes into cabinets have in common? Scapular (shoulder blade) rhythm, Upper Trapezius (UT) and Serratus Anterior (SA) activation. Scapular (Scapulothoracic) Rhythm is defined as the coordinated movement of the glenohumeral joint with scapulothoracic articulation. The scapula must be maintained in a stable position, yet still be mobile, for these movements to take place. The levator scapulae, trapezius, rhomboids, and serratus anterior are responsible for stabilization of the scapula. It becomes important to include exercises that engage these muscles and improve scapular rhythm.



Extending the shoulder (arm reaches forward) requires the scapula to move forward. The muscles pull the shoulder blade into a stabilized position. “Shoulder flexion is lifting the arms forward and raising them overhead,” explains Cody Braun, fitness specialist at Openfit. It is a movement that is performed throughout the day with little notice. Some  examples of shoulder flexion include lifting a child, hailing a cab, and reaching for a can on the top shelf of your pantry This movement is also integral to most sports that utilize the upper body strength and shoulder stabilization depend on this movement; every time a volleyball player bump passes, a gymnast presses into handstand or a power forward shoots a three-pointer, they’re employing shoulder flexion.

This scapular rhythm ensures smoothness of motion. The UT fibers are designed more for controlling and stabilizing the scapula than for producing power. The UT works in tandem with the low and middle trapezius’ and the serratus anterior in rotating the scapula. In addition to assisting with upward rotation of the scapula the UT also elevates the scapula at the top of the shoulder flexion/abduction movement. The stabilization of the scapula coupled with the coordination between the skeleton and muscular system allows the arm to go higher.

Scapula position and stability is critically dependent upon the UT. This influences the gleno-humeral joint in positions of shoulder elevation. Scapula mobility has been linked with shoulder range of movement(2,3). The scapula moves toward internal or external rotation, upward rotation, and posterior tilt when the arm is being elevated. These actions are influenced by the upper/middle/lower trapezius and the serratus anterior as a force couple. Inadequate rhythm leads to complications with basic shoulder movement and is linked to shoulder pain(5). Studies have identified an imbalance in activation between the UT and lower trapezius in patients with painful shoulders. Other factors such as capsule tightness in the shoulder, thoracic spine posture, and tightness in latissimus dorsi and pectoralis major/minor and may also influence scapula position.

Plank Opposite Arm Extended


I have included links for exercises the target levator scapulae, trapezius, rhomboids, and serratus anterior . . . i.e. help with improving scapular rhythm: scapular protraction Resistance Band Exercises: Best Exercises for Shoulder Rehab and Scapular Stabilzation. Lat pulldown scapular depression

Contact the trainers at Ab-Sutra Wellness and Fitness for programs the will help improve the posture, scapular mobility / stability.


REFERENCES  Anatomy, Back, Scapula

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