Once I first began lifting at 16, my exercise consisted of three workout routines: 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 other 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 best way to arrange a balanced program, what periodization was, the best way to heat up correctly, or actually do anything that’s pretty frequent data to the commonly extra educated lifting inhabitants nowadays—however the one factor I did get proper was consistency.
If I’d identified then what I do know now, this information plus the consistency I had in place would’ve resulted in way more speedy progress. I might’ve mitigated lots of the accidents and dysfunctions I’ve since needed to cope with only a bit extra of the data I’ve now.
One idea I now implement into my applications is to focus on the scapular (shoulder blade) muscle tissues, which get a lot much less consideration than they deserve. That is seemingly as a result of they’re on the backs of our our bodies and aren’t as well-liked to coach as pumping up the pecs or biceps.
To coach the actions of the scapulae correctly, let’s first discuss some fundamental anatomy and biomechanics, dive into some frequent issues, then study 4 superior workout routines to construct scapular power.
Fundamental 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 hooked up to the physique by way of muscle tissues solely whereas all different joints have ligaments for added stability. This muscular-only attachment of the scapula to the physique supplies for excellent mobility, however any dysfunctions in scapular muscle tissues can lead to poor positioning or stability of the scapula that may result in ache and damage.
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 supplies an optimum interface for the top of the humerus to maneuver with out impinging on any constructions.
Actions of the Scapula
When most individuals consider shoulder stability, they consider scapular retraction–pinching your shoulder blades collectively. This is smart. For many of us, this appears like a really steady and stable place. However the actuality is that your shoulder is a extremely cell joint that permits for a variety of actions.
True stability is setting the scapula in the very best place and maintaining it stable for no matter motion you’re doing–whether or not it’s a one-arm push-up, urgent a barbell overhead, or throwing a fastball. There are six fundamental actions of the scapulae as described under.
Retraction – Pinching your shoulder blades collectively like on the finish of the concentric portion of a seated row is scapular retraction. It’s probably the most frequent teaching cues in health, nevertheless it’s usually really helpful inappropriately which may 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 chargeable 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 tissues. Despair – The alternative of elevation, the scapulae slide inferiorly (down towards the butt) once they’re depressed. Muscle mass chargeable for scapular melancholy embody the decrease trapezius and latissimus dorsi. Identical to the pelvis, the scapulae can tilt anteriorly and posteriorly. These actions are lesser identified however extraordinarily vital in case your aim is to carry exhausting and heavy with out damage. Anterior Tilt – Think about that the scapulae are cups of water, so dumping the water out the entrance of your physique could be an anterior tilt. The pectoralis minor, levator scapulae, and quick head of the biceps are the first muscle tissues that trigger anterior tilt. Posterior Tilt – Conversely, posterior tilt could 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 fundamental actions of the scapulae, let’s speak about a time period you would possibly’ve heard earlier than known 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 known as scapulohumeral rhythm. The motion mostly related to the time period scapulohumeral rhythm is upward rotation throughout full shoulder flexion or abduction, which includes 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 power, tearing.
The muscle tissues chargeable for upward rotation of the scapula are the serratus anterior, higher, and decrease trapezius. It’s incorrect to assume the remainder of the scapular muscle tissues aren’t working as a result of each time the scapulae transfer, all the scapular and rotator cuff muscle tissues have to be energetic to some extent 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 supplies 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” whenever you’re within the gymnasium. This can be a teaching tip that’s sadly frequent nowadays and is utilized to all types of workout routines 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 would possibly 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 may go forward and take a look at 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 see the distinction in attain between the 2. In the event you’ve by no means achieved 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 shifting in any airplane of movement, similar 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 tissues doing what they had been designed to do.
In the event you’re affected by painful and/or tight shoulders, it’s seemingly that you just’re additionally affected by dysfunction of a number of of the muscle tissues that connect to the scapula. Three frequent issues for lifters with weak scapular muscle tissues are:
Widespread Issues for Lifters with Weak Scapular Muscle mass: Impingement
The bursa and rotator cuff tendon each occupy the area between the humerus and part of the scapula generally known as the acromion.
Impingement sometimes happens 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 typically within the case of the rotator cuff tendon, a whole tear.
Widespread Issues for Lifters with Weak Scapular Muscle mass: AC Joint Sprain
Two bony processes of the scapula, the acromion, and coracoid (AC), are linked by numerous ligaments to the clavicle. The AC joint is the joint between the scapula and clavicle. Whereas there are muscle tissues that join the clavicle to the humerus (pec main, deltoids), ribcage (subclavius), backbone (trapezius), and cranium (sternocleidomastoid), there aren’t any muscle tissues that join the clavicle with the scapula.
Thus, accidents of the AC joint are sprains and never strains, since sprains refer to break to ligaments whereas sprains refer to break to muscle. Sprains take longer to heal than strains due to the comparatively decrease blood provide of ligaments versus muscle tissues, so we wish to keep away from them in any respect prices.
AC joint sprains will 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 because of repetitive trauma.
On the backside of a dip, the place of the shoulder mixed with the power 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, achieved steadily sufficient, can lead to a sprain.
Widespread Issues for Lifters with Weak Scapular Muscle mass: Winged Scapula
Lastly, probably the most well-liked maladies of the scapula, winged scapula is usually attributed to weak point of the serratus anterior. Nonetheless, it isn’t simply weak point of the serratus anterior that contributes to winged scapula.
Facilitation of a muscle, which suggests a muscle does extra work than it’s speculated to, additionally contributes to the serratus anterior shutting off when it’s speculated to be working. So, we might strengthen the serratus all we wish, however till the facilitated muscle is handled, it gained’t matter.
Or, if the serratus anterior is actually weak, we’ve received to strengthen it, however then we’ve received to make sure it’s re-integrated into the completely different actions that we carry out, whether or not within the gymnasium, sport or each day life. That being stated, this text isn’t about fixing dysfunctional motion patterns, activating weak-ass muscle tissues, or every other 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 method in hell you must strive any of the workout routines I’m about to indicate you.
Go and repair your shoulder issues as a result of for those who incorporate these workout routines into your routine, your issues will probably be multiplied in magnitude for the reason that following workout routines require quite a lot of power.
Four Workout routines for Robust, Steady, and Ache-Free Shoulders
There are two frequent denominators in all 4 of those workout routines: one is to take care of straight elbows, which retains the main target the place we wish it (on the scapular muscle tissues) and two is to deal with scapular posterior tilt to make sure the scapulae keep flush to the ribcage and the serratus anterior is energetic.
That is seemingly essentially the most wanted workout routines on this article as a result of we not often practice in shoulder extension and my guess is that for those who’ve been placing in loads of reps on the bench press, your shoulder extension mobility sucks.
For lasting mobility beneficial properties we have to not simply lengthen the tissues by way of passive static stretching, however construct power within the muscle tissues 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 carry the hips as excessive as doable, however solely with the scapula staying flush with the rib cage by way of posterior tilt and the backbone staying as near impartial as doable.
Begin along with your fingers on the bottom behind you along with your fingers pointing in the direction of your toes (tougher) or away from one another (simpler). Protecting your backbone tall, carry your hips simply off the bottom and retract and posteriorly tilt the scapulae. Whereas sustaining spinal and scapular place, carry the hips as excessive as doable. Begin with 10-second holds and construct as much as 30-second holds for a complete work time of 1-2 minutes.
2. Arched Hold
The arched dangle is nice for constructing power in scapular retraction whereas concurrently stretching the complete entrance of the physique (anterior line) and mobilizing the backbone into extension–a place we have to work to counteract the consequences of recent life on our posture.
Hold from a bar along 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
Whilst you’ve seemingly achieved 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. Elevate 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, essentially the most tough of the 4 workout routines–the one-arm scap pull up and switch trains scapular melancholy, retraction, and grip power so for those who can’t successfully dangle onto a bar with one hand, work on that earlier than attempting this system.
Hold from a bar along 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 workout routines works a unique ingredient of scapular power and stability, and for those who combine all of them into your routine you’ll construct power, stability, and mobility for pain-free shoulders.
Give these a go, deal with correct approach, and reap the rewards. If in case you have any questions or wish to join with me straight please go to my YouTube channel or Fb hyperlink in my bio.