Once I first began lifting at 16, my exercise consisted of three workouts: bench press, standing barbell curls, and mendacity tricep extensions, often known as the French press. This routine helped me obtain my measurable aim of constructing some muscle, in addition to my final aim of garnering extra favorable consideration from the alternative intercourse. But, whereas trying again over 20 years price of coaching, it’s comical how imbalanced and incomplete my routine was.
I had no thought the right way to arrange a balanced program, what periodization was, the right way to heat up correctly, or actually do anything that’s pretty frequent information to the widely extra educated lifting inhabitants lately—however the one factor I did get proper was consistency.
If I’d recognized then what I do know now, this data plus the consistency I had in place would’ve resulted in rather more fast progress. I may’ve mitigated lots of the accidents and dysfunctions I’ve since needed to take care of only a bit extra of the information I’ve now.
One idea I now implement into my applications is to focus on the scapular (shoulder blade) muscle groups, which get a lot much less consideration than they deserve. That is probably as a result of they’re on the backs of our our bodies and aren’t as common to coach as pumping up the pecs or biceps.
To coach the actions of the scapulae correctly, let’s first speak some primary anatomy and biomechanics, dive into some frequent issues, then study 4 superior workouts to construct scapular energy.
Primary Scapular Anatomy
The scapula is a triangle formed bone that floats excessive of our ribcage. It’s distinctive as a result of it’s the solely bone in our physique that’s “suspended” because it’s connected to the physique by way of muscle groups solely whereas all different joints have ligaments for added stability. This muscular-only attachment of the scapula to the physique offers for nice mobility, however any dysfunctions in scapular muscles can result in poor positioning or stability of the scapula that may result in ache and harm.
On the lateral-most facet of the scapula is the glenoid cavity, which types the socket the place the top of the humerus (higher arm bone) strikes round. Because the arm strikes, the scapula should transfer as nicely so the glenoid cavity offers an optimum interface for the top of the humerus to maneuver with out impinging on any buildings.
Actions of the Scapula
When most individuals consider shoulder stability, they consider scapular retraction–pinching your shoulder blades collectively. This is sensible. For many of us, this seems like a really secure and strong place. However the actuality is that your shoulder is a extremely cell joint that enables for a variety of actions.
True stability is setting the scapula in the perfect place and keeping it solid for whatever movement you’re doing–whether or not it’s a one-arm push-up, urgent a barbell overhead, or throwing a fastball. There are six primary actions of the scapulae as described beneath.
- Retraction – Pinching your shoulder blades collectively like on the finish of the concentric portion of a seated row is scapular retraction. It’s some of the frequent teaching cues in health, nevertheless it’s typically advisable inappropriately which might result in shoulder issues (we’ll focus on these issues later). The rhomboids and center trapezius are the first retractors of the scapulae.
- Protraction – The favored push-up plus train trains protraction of the scapulae, the place the scapulae transfer away from one another and wrap across the ribcage towards the entrance of the physique. The serratus anterior muscle is primarily accountable for scapular protraction.
- Elevation – In scapular elevation, your scapula strikes up towards your ears like in barbell shrugs, which is carried out primarily by the higher trapezius and levator scapulae muscle groups.
- Melancholy – The alternative of elevation, the scapulae slide inferiorly (down towards the butt) after they’re depressed. Muscle groups accountable for scapular melancholy embody the decrease trapezius and latissimus dorsi. Similar to the pelvis, the scapulae can tilt anteriorly and posteriorly. These actions are lesser recognized however extraordinarily necessary in case your aim is to raise onerous and heavy with out harm.
- Anterior Tilt – Think about that the scapulae are cups of water, so dumping the water out the entrance of your physique can be an anterior tilt. The pectoralis minor, levator scapulae, and brief head of the biceps are the first muscle groups that trigger anterior tilt.
- Posterior Tilt – Conversely, posterior tilt can be dumping the water behind you. This motion is due primarily to contraction of the serratus anterior, with assist from the decrease traps
Now that you just perceive the essential actions of the scapulae, let’s discuss a time period you may’ve heard earlier than referred to as scapulohumeral rhythm.
Scapulohumeral Rhythm: It’s Not Simply “Down and Again”
Everytime you transfer your arms, the scapula should additionally transfer so the glenoid cavity and head of the humerus are in optimum alignment. That is referred to as scapulohumeral rhythm. The motion mostly related to the time period scapulohumeral rhythm is upward rotation throughout full shoulder flexion or abduction, which entails the scapula rotating up because the arm strikes overhead.
With out scapular upward rotation, impingement of the humerus on the subacromial bursa (padding between bones) or rotator cuff tendon can happen, leading to harm, ache, irritation and if repeated with sufficient frequency and pressure, tearing.
The muscle groups accountable for upward rotation of the scapula are the serratus anterior, higher, and decrease trapezius. It’s incorrect to suppose the remainder of the scapular muscle groups aren’t working as a result of each time the scapulae transfer, the entire scapular and rotator cuff muscle groups should be lively to a point to make sure the top of the humerus stays centered within the glenoid cavity.
Whereas upward rotation is usually related to scapulohumeral rhythm, the opposite major motion is retraction/protraction of the scapula with horizontal pulling/pushing actions, respectively. This pure rhythm offers the best vary of movement and optimum alignment of the shoulder joint.
Let’s undergo a real-world instance.
Say you’ve been taught to all the time hold your scapulae “down and again” once you’re within the health club. This can be a teaching tip that’s sadly frequent lately and is utilized to all kinds of workouts from chin-ups to push-ups to overhead presses.
And let’s say you practice MMA and boxing–two sports activities whose athletes I’ve had many experiences working with. Everytime you throw a punch, you’ve skilled your self to maintain your scapulae retracted, so this sample may carry over to your sport. However with out full scapular protraction, you possibly can lose as much as round Four-5” of attain out of your punch. This may be the distinction between touchdown the blow or lacking (and your opponent efficiently countering your assault).
You possibly can go forward and check this out for your self proper now. Make a fist and put your left arm straight out in entrance of you whilst you cycle between full retraction and protraction of the scapula and spot the distinction in attain between the 2. In the event you’ve by no means carried out this earlier than, the vary may be fairly shocking.
Now, whereas we’ve talked about scapulohumeral rhythm in vertical and horizontal push/pull actions, the truth is that there’s a correct rhythm of motion of the scapula and humerus each time the arms are transferring in any airplane of movement, equivalent to knocking down at an angle like throughout a excessive to low cable row, the scapulae should go from slight elevation and protraction to slight melancholy and retraction.
Coaching this coordinated motion between the scapula and humerus retains the shoulders wholesome and the muscle groups doing what they had been designed to do.
In the event you’re affected by painful and/or tight shoulders, it’s probably that you just’re additionally suffering from dysfunction of a number of of the muscle groups that connect to the scapula. Three frequent issues for lifters with weak scapular muscle groups are:
Frequent Issues for Lifters with Weak Scapular Muscle groups: Impingement
The bursa and rotator cuff tendon each occupy the house between the humerus and part of the scapula often called the acromion.
Impingement typically occurs when the arm is up overhead—whether or not it’s there to load up a fastball or to press a barbell overhead—and the scapula doesn’t transfer sufficient (or in any respect), resulting in the humerus pinching the bursa or tendon. The result’s repetitive trauma to the affected tissue resulting in ache, irritation, and generally within the case of the rotator cuff tendon, a whole tear.
Frequent Issues for Lifters with Weak Scapular Muscle groups: AC Joint Sprain
Two bony processes of the scapula, the acromion, and coracoid (AC), are related by numerous ligaments to the clavicle. The AC joint is the joint between the scapula and clavicle. Whereas there are muscle groups that join the clavicle to the humerus (pec main, deltoids), ribcage (subclavius), backbone (trapezius), and cranium (sternocleidomastoid), there are not any muscle groups that join the clavicle with the scapula.
Thus, injuries of the AC joint are sprains and never strains, since sprains refer to wreck to ligaments whereas sprains refer to wreck to muscle. Sprains take longer to heal than strains due to the comparatively decrease blood provide of ligaments versus muscle groups, so we need to keep away from them in any respect prices.
AC joint sprains could be the results of acute trauma (i.e. falling onto an outstretched hand) if the scapular stabilizers aren’t sturdy sufficient and/or shoulder extension mobility is proscribed. Dips are an instance of a motion that can lead to an AC joint sprain resulting from repetitive trauma.
On the backside of a dip, the place of the shoulder mixed with the pressure of gravity and the contraction of the pec main (which originates on the clavicle) ends in shearing forces on the ligaments of the AC joint and, carried out regularly sufficient, can lead to a sprain.
Frequent Issues for Lifters with Weak Scapular Muscle groups: Winged Scapula
Lastly, some of the common maladies of the scapula, winged scapula is commonly attributed to weak spot of the serratus anterior. Nonetheless, it isn’t simply weak spot of the serratus anterior that contributes to winged scapula.
Facilitation of a muscle, which suggests a muscle does extra work than it’s presupposed to, additionally contributes to the serratus anterior shutting off when it’s presupposed to be working. So, we may strengthen the serratus all we would like, however till the facilitated muscle is handled, it received’t matter.
Or, if the serratus anterior is really weak, we’ve obtained to strengthen it, however then we’ve obtained to make sure it’s re-integrated into the completely different actions that we carry out, whether or not within the health club, sport or day by day life. That being mentioned, this text isn’t about fixing dysfunctional motion patterns, activating weak-ass muscle groups, or another rehabilitative thought. I’ve included this part on frequent issues as a result of for those who endure from any of those points, there’s no manner in hell you must strive any of the workouts I’m about to indicate you.
Go and fix your shoulder problems as a result of for those who incorporate these workouts into your routine, your issues might be multiplied in magnitude for the reason that following workouts require an excessive amount of energy.
Four Workouts for Sturdy, Steady, and Ache-Free Shoulders
There are two frequent denominators in all 4 of those workouts: one is to keep up straight elbows, which retains the main target the place we would like it (on the scapular muscle groups) and two is to give attention to scapular posterior tilt to make sure the scapulae keep flush to the ribcage and the serratus anterior is lively.
That is probably probably the most wanted workouts on this article as a result of we hardly ever practice in shoulder extension and my guess is that for those who’ve been placing in a variety of reps on the bench press, your shoulder extension mobility sucks.
For lasting mobility features we have to not simply lengthen the tissues by way of passive static stretching, however construct energy within the muscle groups that assist us enter, stabilize, and exit that vary, in any other case we’ll merely tighten again up.
The aim with this train is to raise the hips as excessive as attainable, however solely with the scapula staying flush with the rib cage by way of posterior tilt and the backbone staying as near impartial as attainable.
- Begin together with your fingers on the bottom behind you together with your fingers pointing in the direction of your ft (tougher) or away from one another (simpler).
- Preserving your backbone tall, raise your hips simply off the bottom and retract and posteriorly tilt the scapulae.
- Whereas sustaining spinal and scapular place, raise the hips as excessive as attainable.
- Begin with 10-second holds and construct as much as 30-second holds for a complete work time of 1-2 minutes.
2. Arched Grasp
The arched grasp is nice for constructing energy in scapular retraction whereas concurrently stretching the whole entrance of the physique (anterior line) and mobilizing the backbone into extension–a place we have to work to counteract the results of recent life on our posture.
- Grasp from a bar together with your fingers shoulder-width aside.
- Provoke the motion by absolutely retracting the scapulae, permitting the torso to arch across the scapulae and the legs to hold freely.
- Carry out Three-6 reps of 5-10 second holds.
Three. One Arm Downward Canine
When you’ve probably carried out this train or at the very least been on this place when doing Hindu push-ups, likelihood is your focus wasn’t on scapular place, which ought to be elevation when the arms are up overhead to keep away from impingement of the bursa and/or rotator cuff tendon. Don’t attempt to pinch your scapulae down and again throughout this system.
- Get into the downward canine place with backbone in impartial and scapulae elevated.
- Raise one hand off the bottom and keep spinal and scapular place.
- Alternate sides and carry out Three-6 reps of 5-10 second holds.
Four. One Arm Scapular Pull-Up and Switch
Lastly, probably the most tough of the 4 workouts–the one-arm scap pull up and switch trains scapular melancholy, retraction, and grip energy so for those who can’t successfully grasp onto a bar with one hand, work on that earlier than making an attempt this system.
- Grasp from a bar together with your scapulae barely retracted and depressed.
- Slowly let go together with one hand with out letting the physique uncontrollably swing and decrease into scapular elevation.
- With out utilizing momentum, return the hand to the bar by miserable and retracting the scapulae and repeat on the opposite aspect.
- That is one cycle–carry out 2-Four cycles.
Every of those 4 workouts works a special component of scapular energy and stability, and for those who combine all of them into your routine you’ll build strength, stability, and mobility for pain-free shoulders.