Fitness Fix: Weak, Unstable Shoulder Blades

Fitness Fix for Shoulder Blades

Try these two moves to help strengthen your scapulae.

Got a rounded upper back, hunched shoulders, or any kind of pain in the shoulder? There’s a good chance your shoulder blades — or scapulae — need some attention.

The scapulae are a pair of triangular bones that slide along your upper back as you reach, stretch, pull, and push with your arms. They allow your arms to move smoothly and comfortably in virtually any direction.

“Scapular movement directly influences shoulder health, strength, performance, and posture,” says Jordan Syatt, a Westside Barbell–certified strength coach and five-time world-record-holding powerlifter.

To support your scaps, Syatt suggests, incorporate the following movements into your routine up to six days a week. They’ll help balance out your existing training regimen and improve stability and mobility in the joints.

Seated Scapular Wall Slides

Scalpular-Wall-Slide

  • Sit on the floor with your back to a wall. Press your lower back against the wall, and draw your shoulder blades down and back; keep them there throughout the movement.
  • Extend your arms overhead and press your forearms and the backs of your hands toward the wall (they may or may not contact the wall).
  • Keeping your arms and hands as close to the wall as possible, slowly draw your elbows down, aiming to bring your wrists to about shoulder height.
  • Press your arms overhead again, keeping your shoulder blades pressed downward (think I’m tucking my shoulder blades in my back pockets).
  • Do 10 to 12 slow repetitions.

Scapular Pushups

Scapular-Pushup

  • Assume a plank position with your forearms and balls of your feet on the floor and your body straight, head to heels.
  • Engage your core and slowly draw your shoulder blades together, allowing your chest to sink toward the floor.
  • Reverse the movement, pressing your elbows into the floor and pushing the center of your back toward the ceiling.
  • Do 10 to 12 slow repetitions.

Scapular Pull-Ups

  • Take a shoulder-width, overhand grip on a chin-up bar and lift your feet from the floor.
  • Keeping your arms straight, pull your shoulder blades down and your torso upward (think, “Lift my chest forward and up”).
  • Slowly reverse the movement and repeat for 10 to 12 slow repetitions.

Illustrations by Kveta

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Andrew Heffernan, CSCS, GCFP, is an Experience Life contributing editor.

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