The Scapular Stabilisers

I have a personal interest on the scapular (or shoulder blade) stabilisers, having the tendency to have my scapula winging out.  Our modern day lifestyles (studying, working in offices, carrying children) all lead to weak and overstretched scapular stabilisers.
The scapular stabilisers involve three muscle groups, enabling six ranges of movement of the scapula- elevation, depression, retraction, protraction, upward rotation, downward rotation.
The scapular stabilisers are made up of three muscle groups:

  1. Trapezius:  The trapezius is a large triangular muscle originating at the centre of back and extending from the lower thoracic spine to the base of the skull and inserting at the scapulae and clavicle.  Contraction of the middle and lower trapezius helps adduct or retract the scapulae and works with the rhomboids to open the chest.
  2. Rhomboids: The rhomboids are rectangular muscles that originate at the vertebral spinous processes and a ligament in the midline of the back.  They insert at the medial border of the scapula.  The rhomboids allow you to draw your shoulder blades towards each other on your back – this action is called retraction.
  3. Serratus anterior: The serratus anterior originate on the side of the ribs (specifically the superior borders of ribs 1 to 9) and like the rhomboids, insert in the scapula (in the costal border).  They pull our scapula forward onto our ribs and are sometimes called the boxer’s muscles as they are the muscles engaged to pull the scapula forward (protraction) when a boxer throws a punch.

If you see a student with:

  • Flaring of the lower scapula, it is a sign that the lower trapezius muscle is weak.
  • Flaring of the medial border of the scapula, it is a sign that the serratus anterior is weak
  • Separated or protracted shoulder blades, it is a sign that the middle trapezius and rhomboid muscles are weak.

Simple body awareness can help scapular retraction (movement of scapulae toward the spine) and depression (sliding the scapulae downward).  Also shoulder blade squeezes can help strengthen the stabilisers (in particular the middles trapezius and rhomboids).  Plank and downward dog both help build strength in the serratus anterior.  The benefits of stablising your scapular are plentiful, not only will it help reduce injury in the shoulders, but it will also you to open your chest more and be able to breathe more easily.
Namaste, Sabine 200hr Weekend YTTC

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