5 Scapular Stabilization Exercises for Strong Shoulders

Scapular Stability Exercises for Strong Shoulders: A Brief Overview

The scapulae are the two bones at the front of your chest. They form part of the shoulder girdle and play a key role in stabilizing your upper body during movement. When they become weak or damaged, it leads to pain and weakness in other areas of your body such as your neck, back, shoulders and arms.

It is important to understand that there are many different types of scapular stability exercises. Some involve only one shoulder while others include both shoulders. There are also some variations which may vary from person to person depending on their age, height, weight and other factors.

These range from simple static holds (like holding a dumbbell in each hand) to dynamic movements involving various combinations of the above exercises.

In general, scapular stabilization exercises are performed to strengthen the muscles around the shoulder joint. However, they can also be used to improve posture and reduce muscle imbalances in other parts of your body. Many people use them to treat conditions like shoulder pain or aches and pains in other joints such as your knees, hips or ankles.

There are several reasons why strengthening the muscles surrounding the shoulder joint is beneficial. It is important to strengthen the muscles surrounding this joint for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, they help to keep the shoulder in the correct position. This helps to reduce muscle pain in other areas of the upper body and can also help with everyday tasks such as reaching above your head or carrying bags.

Secondly, because we use our shoulder joints so often during various activities, they are prone to wear and tear. By strengthening the supporting muscles, you can help to prevent and even reduce shoulder pain caused by overuse.

What Muscles do Scapular Stabilization Exercises Work?

Scapular stabilization exercises primarily work the small muscles of the rotator cuff. The rotator cuff is a group of muscles that surround the shoulder joint and help with various shoulder movements such as lifting and rotating the arm.

There are four main muscles of the rotator cuff:



Teres minor


As well as these muscles there are also other small muscles that surround the shoulder joint. These include the lower and middle trapezius muscles, the rhomboids and the deltoid.

The shoulder joint itself is a very complex structure. It is made up of bone, cartilage and connective tissue. The muscles are connected to the bones via strong bands of fibrous connective tissue called tendons.

The tendon of the bicep muscle (triceps) is the large white ‘cord’ that you can see on the back of your arm when your elbow is bent.

The rotator cuff muscles are responsible for keeping the ball of the upper arm bone (humerus) in the shoulder socket (glenoid fossa). They also help to lift the arm and rotate it. These muscles are prone to wear and tear because they provide movement for the arm, which we use all the time.

Overuse of the shoulder can damage these muscles, which is why many people experience pain in this area. Activities such as swimming, tennis or weightlifting can put extra strain on these muscles, especially if you do not perform the movements properly or if you have poor technique. This can lead to pain and other symptoms such as weakness and limited movement.

Strengthening the rotator cuff can help to prevent and relieve shoulder pain caused by overuse and injury.

Why Do Scapular Stabilization Exercises?

Scapular stabilization exercises involve moving your shoulder blades to help maintain their strength and position. The muscles in and around the shoulder blade are often weak compared to other groups of muscles such as the chest (pectorals) or back (latissimus dorsi).

The main muscle that controls movement of the shoulder blade is the trapezius. The trapezius originates at the base of the skull and runs across the back, narrowing towards the middle of the back before ending at the bottom of the shoulder blade (scapula).

By performing exercises that work this muscle, you can help to maintain its strength and position. The trapezius attaches to the clavicle (collarbone), so by working it you can help to prevent muscle imbalances caused by the overuse of other muscles such as the pectorals or deltoids.

The trapezius is also connected to the scapula itself, so exercising it helps to keep the shoulder blade in the correct position and prevent it from slipping out of place (a condition known as ‘winging’).

The shoulder blade is also home to the subclavius muscle. This small muscle lies underneath the clavicle and helps to stabilize the shoulder blade during activity. It is sometimes damaged during trauma or surgery to the shoulder joint, which can lead to a drooping shoulder blade.

Strengthening the subclavius muscle can help to prevent the shoulder blade from drooping and improve posture.

Strengthening the shoulder blade and subclavius muscles can be achieved by performing certain exercises. These are designed to move the shoulder blades through their full range of motion, strengthening and maintaining the muscle so that they stay in the correct position.

Exercises That Strengthen the Shoulder Blades

There are a number of exercises that can be used to strengthen the scapular stabilizers. These include the following:

Shoulder Blade Retraction

Shoulder Blade Retraction with External Rotation

External Rotation

Scapular Pull-Ups

Although many of these exercises target the same muscles, each one focuses on a different aspect of scapular stabilization and muscle management. As a result, it is a good idea to include a variety of scapular stabilization exercises into your routine. This helps to prevent muscle imbalances and ensures that all of the muscles in this area are toned and strengthened.

Shoulder Blade Retraction

The shoulder blade retraction exercise helps to maintain strength in the trapezius muscle and the muscles that control the movement of the shoulder blades. It can be performed either using just your hands or using resistance tubing.

Sources & references used in this article:

The effects of scapular stabilization based exercise therapy on pain, posture, flexibility and shoulder mobility in patients with shoulder impingement syndrome … by A Moezy, S Sepehrifar, MS Dodaran – … of the Islamic Republic of Iran, 2014 – ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

Effect of a 6-week strengthening program on shoulder and scapular-stabilizer strength and scapular kinematics in division I collegiate swimmers by EE Hibberd, S Oyama, JT Spang… – Journal of sport …, 2012 – journals.humankinetics.com

Scapular muscle recruitment pattern: electromyographic response of the trapezius muscle to sudden shoulder movement before and after a fatiguing exercise by AM Cools, EE Witvrouw, GA De Clercq… – Journal of Orthopaedic & …, 2002 – jospt.org

Efficacy of abdominal control feedback and scapula stabilization exercises in participants with forward head, round shoulder postures and neck movement impairment by S Shiravi, A Letafatkar, L Bertozzi, P Pillastrini… – Sports …, 2019 – journals.sagepub.com

Comparison of 3-dimensional scapular position and orientation between subjects with and without shoulder impingement by AC Lukasiewicz, P McClure, L Michener, N Pratt… – Journal of Orthopaedic & …, 1999 – jospt.org

The effectiveness of scapular stabilization exercise in the patients with subacromial impingement syndrome by Z Başkurt, F Başkurt, N Gelecek… – Journal of back and …, 2011 – content.iospress.com

Rehabilitation of the pitching shoulder by AM Pappas, RM Zawacki… – The american journal of …, 1985 – journals.sagepub.com