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Ask the Expert: Winging Shoulder Blades

Winging Shoulder Blades

Q: My client has a “winging” shoulder blade. Can you suggest some exercises to help with this?

A: 

Any exercise that promotes strengthening of the serratus anterior will help with a winging scapula. The serratus anterior protracts the scapula, so try to find movements in both an open and closed kinetic chain that will facilitate protraction.

Avoid exercises that promote the winging. This will help the musculature strengthen in both stability and endurance to stabilize the scapula on the ribcage. For example, if the client cannot do push-ups without winging, try modifying the push-up and have the client perform them against the wall to assist in finding a neutral position of the scapula. Working the scapula that sits neutrally in the same manner is fine. Working bilaterally will assist with equal neutral placement of the scapula as the neuromuscular connection will assist with the weaker of the two scapula placements. Trying to work in a closed kinetic chain will also promote more awareness and assist to decrease the unstable position of the winging scapula.

Try Progressive and Regressive Push-ups, starting on the wall, then to four-point kneeling before moving into Full Plank.

To focus on the serratus anterior, try Protraction to Neutral Scapula Isolation on the Mat, Cadillac or Stability Chair with resistance from various angles. 

To focus on the rhomboids, try Back-rowing Preps and Open Elbows.