Scapular Stabilisation Exercises
Article by Sam Moyle
What are your Shoulder Stabilisers?
Your scapular stabilisers help your shoulder's rotator cuff muscles to stabilise the shoulder joint while in motion.
Your rotator cuff muscles arise from the scapula (shoulder blade) and attach to the head of the upper arm bone (humerus). If your shoulder blade is not dynamically stable, rotator cuff tendinopathy or impingement may occur.
Strengthening the muscles that support the scapula are important. The exercises that focus on these muscle groups are known as scapular stabilisation exercises.
The most important scapular stabilising muscles that tend to weaken include:
Correct Your Scapular Posture
The correct position for the scapula (shoulder blade) is back and rotated down. Essentially, this means maintaining a good 'military posture', with shoulders back and chest out.
A round-shouldered or hunched posture is to be avoided at all times.
To achieve the correct scapular position, you need to use your mid and lower trapezius muscles to retract the shoulder and pull the scapula down medially. However, it is also important not to dip the acromion, so your upper trapezius and serratus anterior muscle also play an important scapular positioning role, otherwise you will be likely to suffer rotator cuff impingement or future rotator cuff tears.
When you perform any upper body weight training exercise, always get into the habit of starting with good upper body posture and pinching the shoulder blades together. You should feel that the scapula is a solid platform which keeps the shoulder correctly positioned while you perform the exercise.
What you might find is that exercises that were painful, will not be painful if you stabilise your scapula correctly. In effect, by using the scapular muscles you can achieve better shoulder mechanics and avoid injury.
Correct scapular stability is difficult to learn and demands a great deal of practice and concentration. You first need to understand what the correct position is, and often this requires a physiotherapist to guide you. Then, during your training sessions, instruction and observation from a trainer can help you achieve and maintain the correct shoulder position.
How to Normalise Your Scapulo-Humeral Rhythm
Your physiotherapist is an expert in the assessment and correction of your scapulo-humeral rhythm. Any deficiencies will be an important component of your rehabilitation.
Researchers have identified poor scapulo-humeral rhythm as a major cause of rotator cuff impingement. Plus, they have identified scapular stabilisation exercises as a key ingredient for a successful rehabilitation.
Your physiotherapist will be able to guide you in the appropriate exercises for your shoulder.
Can a Posture Brace Help?
Some patients benefit from the use of a passive or intuitive posture brace.
More info: Posture Braces.
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