A winged scapula occurs when the shoulder blades float away into the shoulder socket from the spine. It results from the weakness of shoulder blade stabilizers. Serratus Anterior also referred to as the punching muscle is usually the most affected.
The scapula is essentially the base of every movement in your arm and is also the foundation of your shoulders making winged scapula exercises vital. The serratus Anterior holds your shoulder blades against the ribcage. It means the shoulder blade must be mobile and stable. Lack of stability and mobility may lead to scapula winging.
When your shoulder blades are healthy, they should be sucked up tight against your ribcage. If you notice them poking out of the upper back when you are in a standing position, chances are you have scapula winging.
Today, a large amount of time is spent in an awkward sitting position in cars and working desks. Swimming, on the other hand, tends to exacerbate the position further. Note that swimming plays a huge role in strengthening the internal rotators and protractors of your shoulder at the expense of the muscles that tilt the shoulders in the opposite direction.
The hunched position confines the body into kyphosis, a condition where the upper spine develops forward rounding. Such a posture tends to prevent the scapula from tilting backward. The backward tilting of the scapula is what creates space for the shoulder joint’s rotator cuff.
So, what exercises must be carried out to improve the strength of your shoulders? First, we recommend that you take counterbalance effects which strengthen the muscles that rotate the arms externally at the shoulder socket. Corrective shoulder exercises go a long way.
We recommend doing each set of exercise at least twice a week as a preventative measure if you have not experienced winged scapula. If you have a shoulder injury, work on the following sets of exercises at least three times a week.
1. Scapula Protraction Exercises
The Serratus Anterior muscles together with the pectoralis minor contract pulling the scapula bones outer edges forward. These muscles must, therefore, be strengthened isometrically. This is how you do it:
- Stand upright and ensure your hands are hanging at your sides.
- Face your palms outwards them move your shoulders inward and forward. The shoulders should appear like they are trying to reach each other in front of your chest.
- This position should be held for about five minutes.
- Finally, return your arms to your sides and relax.
- Repeat the exercise several times.
2. Passive Scapula Retraction
The execution of this exercise relaxes your spine and uses gravity to bring the shoulder blades together. Here is how to do it:
- Kneel on the ground.
- Keep your shoulders over your hands.
- Position your hip joints over your knees.
- Ensure your belly is relaxed so that it can passively extend your lower back.
- The arm should be straight and the shoulders in a relaxed position.
- Allow your head to drop down.
Every time you exhale, try to bring your shoulder blades closer together. Also, try to increase the extension of your spine slightly. Stay in that position taking 5 to 10 breaths.
3. Scapula Push-Up
This exercise can be performed at home without weights. You can perform it using your body weight to build muscle. Push-up is a major strength-training move. When done correctly, it can relieve winged scapula and strengthen the shoulder’s core muscles. This exercise targets the muscles surrounding the scapula. Unlike the traditional push-ups, scapula push-up exercises are considered to be more difficult. Strengthening these muscles improves your posture as you sit up straight and pull your shoulders back.
Here is how you do it:
- First, get into a high plank position.
- Your arms must be straight under your shoulders.
- Your toes must touch the ground.
- Get your body into a straight alignment and keep your neck into a neutral position.
- Tighten your core muscles so your hips don’t sink.
- Your head should face the ground in line with your torso. Don’t arch your neck when tired.
- Move your hands inwards and bring them slightly closer than the width of the shoulders apart.
- Ensure your fingers are facing forward.
- Move your feet inwards and be sure they are about six inches between them
From the plank position, the scapula push-up will need small movements. Make the exercise easier by stopping from your feet to your knees. The shoulder blades should be squeezed together to lower the torso. However, do not bend your arms. When the scapula has been brought together, release the exercise and get back to your starting position. To maintain a flat back, be sure to maintain a good abdominal control throughout the exercise.
4. Behind-the-Neck Band Pull-Apart
This exercise targets the lower trapezius and increases shoulder motion. While training, the lower traps are challenging to target compared to the middle and the upper traps. This may cause the lower traps to become weak and problematic. Behind-the-neck band pull-apart strengthens your lower straps thereby reversing kyphosis. More so, it boosts your thoracic mobility which sharpens your technique in lifts.
Here is how you should do it:
- Get the ends of a resistance band with both hands.
- Hold your arms straight over your head.
- Pull both arms down to your sides. Ensure they are straight.
- Then, bring the band behind your neck.
- Finally, raise your arms behind your neck.
- As this exercise is performed, the band will stretch several inches.
Although the major component in this exercise is a resistant band, there are many variations you can try out that may require different equipment.
5. Overhead External Shoulder Rotation
This exercise strengthens the external rotators of the shoulder. The rotation enhances stability during overhead arm actions. Here is how to do it:
- Stand upright and extend the right upper arm from the body at the shoulder level.
- Ensure the elbow is bent at 90 degrees.
- Rotate your shoulder internally to enable the forearm to point toward the floor.
- Grab a small dumbbell in the right hand (the weight does not have to be heavy).
- Then, rotate your shoulder externally at 180 degrees.
- When the right forearm is pointing towards the ceiling stop and get back to the starting position.
6. Standing Doorway Chest Stretch
As is the case with every muscle group, chest muscles have a tendency of tightening due to poor sitting or standing postures. That stiffness may affect the upper body limiting motion. This exercise opens your chest cavity pulling your shoulder blades together. While at it, an upright posture is maintained. Here is how to do it:
- Stand in a doorway facing the wall perpendicularly.
- Stretch both arms on either side holding on to the door frame.
- Keep the shoulder blade pulled back and down.
- Keep your body tall and vertical.
- Step your body forward and allow the arms to be stretched back gently.
- Focus on putting pressure on the pectoral muscles and not your fists and hands.
Despite being an easy muscle area to stretch either dynamically or passively, the execution of chest stretches needs substantial devotion and accuracy. It is the surest way to achieve maximum benefits without putting the body in danger.
By strengthening your Serratus, you will be reducing your winged shoulder blades. We gave you these winged scapula exercises because we feel they will be highly effective. Because they are easy to do, we encourage you to try them out.