The scapula (also known as the shoulder blade) forms the back part of the shoulder and functions to connect the arm to the trunk of the body. It provides the socket for the humorous to sit in, and is important for up/down and rotational arm movements. Finding the optimal position for the scapula through soft tissue balance is therefor vital for movement possibilities and improved posture. You’re probably wondering why this is important for you and the answer is simple – everyone wants to be able to bench press and shoulder press pain free and no one wants to be the tool with horrendous posture.
Today we will look at 2 common soft tissue imbalances that directly affect scapula positioning. We will also look at a common SMR drill you can use to help correct the issue. The reason for these imbalances could be one or more of many things, but a pretty good guess would be years of working a desk job and heavy chest pressing in the gym combined with lack of soft tissue maintenance. Each problem presented shows a photo of the imbalance versus a photo with better scapula positioning so you can compare.
Problem #1 – scapula is anteriorly tilted
Length-tension imbalance: traps/pec minor
In this problem we see the traps locked long whereas the pec minor is locked short. In other words we need to look at lengthening the pec minor. This problem dumps the shoulders forward and is common amongst the gym rats that pump the bench press daily. Chest stretches in a door frame with your elbow bent at 90 will help, but clearing up the upper pec area with a massage ball will prove to be superior. Do this lying prone on the floor or pressed up against a flat wall. Spend 2-3 minutes per side or as long as it takes to feel some change within the tissues.
Problem #2 – scapula is heavily protracted
Length-tension imbalance: rhomboids/serratus anterior
Here we see the rhomboids locked long with the finger-like serratus anterior muscles locked short. This essentially pulls the scapula forward and wide. Taking a massage ball to the serratus can help improve the soft tissue balance. Do this by lying on your side with your arm extended above your head. Spend 2 minutes per side tracking around the perimeter of the pec up into the armpit. You’ll often notice a kyphotic (forward rounded) thoracic spine with this problem, so using a foam roller on the T-spine will also aid the situation.