Muscle-Strengthening Exercises for the Scapula & Shoulder

The scapula, or shoulder blade, connects your upper arm to your collarbone. The scapula and the muscles surrounding it play an important role in the movement of your upper arm and shoulder. Having weak stabilizing muscles around the scapula and shoulder can lead to poor performance and injuries, so it is essential to include work for strengthening the scapula and shoulder if you perform resistance training or partake in intense physical activities. Consult your doctor before beginning any new exercise regimen, or before performing any exercises following an injury.

Scapula Retractions

Sit on a seated row machine, and grasp the handles with straight arms. Keep your back upright and your head facing forward. Without bending your arms, try to move the handles back a few inches by squeezing your shoulder blades together. When you get as far back as you can, hold for two seconds before returning to the start position. You might only get two to three inches of movement at first, so work on building this up over time.

Y Raises

Lie on your stomach on a weight bench or a Swiss ball, with a light dumbbell in each hand. With straight arms, raise the dumbbells up in front of you as far as you can, then lower them under control. In the top position, your torso and arms should form a "Y" shape. This is a good exercise for strengthening the shoulders and upper-back muscles around the scapula.

Face Pulls With External Rotation

Stand in front of a cable machine with the pulley set at head height and a rope handle attached. Hold the rope with your thumbs facing you, and row it towards your face by squeezing your shoulders blades together, flexing your arms and keeping your upper back tight. Pause for a second when the rope is around three inches from your face, then return to the start position. This will work all of the upper back, posterior shoulders and scapula stabilizers.

Safe Strengthening Guidelines

These exercises should all be done with correct posture and injury prevention or rehabilitation in mind. For this reason, avoid going too heavy on any exercise, stick within the 12- to15-repetition range for three to four sets, and never train to failure or to the point where your form deteriorates. You should perform all these exercises twice per week, either at the end of your weight sessions or on separate days.

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