SCAPULA STRENGTHENING: JUSTIN DUDLEY
It is common to hear coaches, athletes, therapists and trainers refer to “scapula strengthening.” What does this really mean and why is it important? In order to understand the importance of scapula function, we need to quickly review the basic anatomy of the scapula and its relation to the shoulder complex.
The shoulder complex is often referred to as a ball and socket joint. However, it is important to realize that the shoulder is structured more like a golf ball on a tee, with the ball being much larger than the socket. This allows for a great deal of mobility at the expense of stability, setting up the potential for injury.
To combat this instability, the shoulder joint is equipped with structures to provide secondary stability, often referred to as static and dynamic stabilizers. With only one boney attachment (the SC joint) between the shoulder complex and the body, we must rely on the muscular attachments between the scapula and torso for efficient and safe movement. The scapula is the foundation upon which all upper extremity strength and function is built.
In order to control forces properly and optimize limb function, the scapula must function as a stable base. Inability to achieve this stable base frequently accompanies the development of shoulder and upper limb pain. Diagnoses frequently associated with poor scapula control include impingement, rotator cuff tendonitis, biceps tendonitis, bursitis, lateral epicondylitis, thoracic outlet syndrome, chronic shoulder instability and many more.
The major muscles that support the scapula are the trapezius (upper, middle, lower portions), the rhomboids, serratus posterior, serratus anterior, and also the long head of the biceps. It is important to not only train each muscle individually to develop adequate strength, but also as a group through functional movements to develop appropriate co- ordination between muscles. Rarely in sports do muscles work independently of each other, and the coordination between these muscles is essential for efficient movement and injury prevention.
Justin Dudley is an in-house Physical Therapist for Crossover Symmetry, based in Denver.
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