Scapular Dyskenisis is a shoulder problem that alters the position and function of the scapula.  It can cause pain, decreased strength & power, and an increased risk of injury for overhead athletes. Prevent it with these three exercises. 

By Jeff Millet

Athletes demand a lot from their shoulders, especially in overhead sports like baseball, softball, tennis, basketball, and volleyball. Poor shoulder movement means you will not throw, shoot, or hit as well and be more susceptible to injury.

Many shoulder-strengthening programs focus on deltoid muscles, but leave out other muscle groups that are just as critical to shoulder and scapular (shoulder blade) movement: serratus anterior and lower trap muscles.

Poor scapula-humeral rhythm (how your shoulder and shoulder blade move) is one of the key things we look for during athlete assessments at Northcore. Having poor muscle activation, stability, and strength in the back and scapular region, can cause dysfunctional movement patterns and poor resting positions. 

One of the issues we commonly see, especially in young athletes, is scapular winging. Winging occurs when the scapula protrudes from the back in an abnormal way. Winging creates poor shoulder movement and mechanics.  It is especially relevant during pushups, overhead reaching, or plank tests. Minor cases of winging are caused by weakness in the serratus anterior and lower trap muscles. Severe cases are caused by damage to the thoracic nerve.

Scapular Winging

Correcting this weakness restores the movement pattern, helps prevent injuries like impingement or rotator cuff problems, and allows the athlete to perform at their full potential. 

Three of the key exercises we incorporate into our training programs that build serratus anterior and lower trap strength for clients are wall slides, prone Y raises, and landmine presses. All three of these exercises should be executed with postural alignment.  This is achieved by keeping glutes activated and tucked under, and by keeping the rib cage down (not flared out) to reduce low back arching.

Wall Slides

This exercise focuses on restoring function of the serratus anterior, which allows the scapula to move laterally and forward.  This movement pattern is essential for overhead athletes.  Allow the shoulder blades (scapula) to slide up off the rib cage at the top. Add a band for extra resistance as your strength progresses.

Prone Y raises

This exercise targets lower trap activation. This muscle assists in scapular upward rotation and scapular depression. The depression is what keeps the scapula sitting flush against the body. Weakness causes the scapula to wing out away form body. Head and chest should stay down on ground, as you raise arms up into a Y position. Focus on activating the muscles at the base of your shoulder blades.

1/2 Kneeling Landmine press

This exercise focuses on strengthening the whole shoulder complex, the mid and lower traps, as well as the serratus anterior. Starting position and posture are crucial on this exercise to promote the proper movement pattern of an overhead reach. Both knees should be at a 90 degree angle. As you reach the top range of motion in the press, allow the scapula to slide up on the rib cage.

Get a shoulder assessment at Northcore

Strong and stable shoulder movement is the foundation for elite performance in baseball, softball, basketball, tennis, volleyball, and many other sports. To get a free movement assessment and to talk more about how we can help you, please contact us by Clicking Here.

Jeff Millet is the owner and head coach at Northcore. He has a BS in Kinesiology from Arizona State University and more than 10 years of experience training athletes of all ages and levels from beginners to professional athletes.