Here’s Why You Should Do Scapular Push-Ups
Take a second to look at your back in the mirror. Does your scapula a.k.a shoulder blade stick out, perhaps when you're doing a regular push-up?
“It’s down to weak scapulae stabiliser muscles that are meant to support the correct alignment of your scapulae when performing weight-bearing exercises,” says Thicha Srivisal, Merrithew lead instructor trainer and co-founder of Breathe Pilates.
Enter scapular push-ups
The move engages the muscles around the scapulae (plural of scapula, thank you); specifically, the Serratus Anterior, a large muscle that wraps around the rib-cage and is attached under your shoulder blades. Strengthening this muscle supports correct alignment and promotes a complete range of motion. It also helps you hold good posture.
So what if your scapula protrudes?
A quick anatomy lesson: The scapula rests on the rib cage, with only muscles connecting it to the spine. Because of these limited connections, movement of the shoulders are very dependent on the muscles surrounding the scapulae.
The scapula plays a vital role in how the muscles of your neck and shoulder function. It impacts almost all upper-body movement, from shrugging your shoulders, raising your arms, to lifting weights. Any imbalances or lack of strength in these muscles can contribute to alignment problems and chronic pain.
In very rare cases, scapular winging occurs. It’s marked by the shoulder blade protruding out on the back in an abnormal position, instead of lying flat. In technical terms, "the medial border of the scapulae" sticks out.
In addition to pain, it can affect your ability to do even the simplest of tasks, like washing your hair.
According to Srivisal, there are a few reasons why this happens; including poor biomechanics of muscles surrounding scapula, weak scapular stabiliser muscles, or nerve damage in your arms, back or neck. She says corrective exercises to strengthen and lengthen muscles, and maintaining correct posture by using an ergonomic chair or pillow, can help but more severe cases may require surgical treatment.
Prevention's better than cure, here's how to do a scapular push-up:
Start in a high plank position with your hands directly underneath your shoulders and your feet hip-distance apart.
Keep your body in a straight line, and your head in a neutral position and aligned with your spine. Don't drop your hips – tightening your abdominal and gluteal muscles will help.
Keeping your arms extended, slide your shoulder blades inward toward each other. Hold the position for 3-5 seconds, then slide them outwards away from each other. Remember, this isn't a regular push-up and the range of motion is very small.
Release and return to high plank position. Repeat 5-10 times.
Want more exercises? Check out Thicha Srivisal's video where she demonstrates eight movements to help stablise the key muscles that support the scapulae. For even more tips and inspiration, follow her on Instagram.