How to fix scapula winging during bodyweight exercises?

RussF

Level 1 Valued Member
Title pretty much sums it up.

Been getting back into shape again and decided to really notice my form on push-ups and pull-ups and I have both of my scapulas that show pronounced winging during the movements. Looking back on it, I bet I have been doing this my whole life.

Recently I have been trying to work on loosening up my t-spine (used to have a straight desk job for about 5 years) and this also might be linked to it.


What have you guys found to help out with this?


I have read through this thread from 2016

Fixing Shoulders During Push-up

and this video


I am having to go back to wall push-ups and try to correct my form because even from kneeling push-ups my scapula's start to wing.

Any other ideas?
 

Marc

Level 6 Valued Member
Scapular winging is def a problem and needs to be fixed. Otherwise it can really get you into trouble especially once you move ovethead. Good you noticed it and tackle it!
Scapular winging is almost always a symptom of lacking strength or "scapular awareness".
First, it doesn't hurt to get an overview of the scapular motions.
-Elevation: Moving up the shoulderblades up i.e. shrugging
-Depression: Shoulderblades down
-Retraction: Pulling the shoulder blades back
-Protraction: Pushing the shoulder blades forward
-Upward rotation: Moving arms overhead
-Downward rotation: Returning the arms into the anatomical position

Just stand in front of the mirror and go through these moves that way you will develope an intuition for scapular movement.
The role of the scapula is to move the arm around, i.e. you need straight arm exercises to strengthen the muscles around the scapula. To hit all those scapular motions you could do the following exercises:

-Passive hangs to active hangs
-Scapular pushups
-L-sits (static)

Choose a progressio that is comfortable and do 2-3 sets of 5-10 reps each with slow tempo and very controlled. Hold the l-sit for 10-30 sec.
Do those 2-3x/week.

Also, for your main training, choose appropriate progressions that allow you to control the movement and your scaps.
 

Kyle Kowalczuk

Level 4 Valued Member
Try working on the anterior serratus muscle group. These are the muscles below and to the side of the pecs. They are kind of fan shaped. Do this with arm wall slides on a slider or roller.
 

Shahaf Levin

Level 5 Valued Member
I would suggest OS reset for scapular control. Do the resets for a while, than follow the YouTube channel. The channel has some variations that targets the scapula even more than the standard.
 

Kaisersemmel

Level 2 Valued Member
I would do extra upper back work and not worry about winging during push ups. Maybe also work on thoracic extension via FS holds?

I developed scapula winging after a surgery because I lost a lot of weight and strength. Just regular strength and muscle building for the upper back did the trick for me. I mostly stuck to rows because I believed that it would address the issue more directly. But it felt like it was more about the lat and good posture (thoracic extension).

At that time I mostly used machines and DBs and lots of different exercises. But all kinds of rows and other upper body pulling exercises should do the trick. Horizontal, vertical and shrugging the shoulders are all good :)
 

George Locke

Level 2 Valued Member
I would do extra upper back work and not worry about winging during push ups.
That's my impression. Scapular winging may not lead to pain or other problems. Scapula Stability Exercises, Challenging Current Practice : A guest article by Chris Littlewood

That said, there are a number of things you can do to improve the strength of the muscles that stabilize the scapula, e.g. serratus anterior, rhomboids, notably, push-ups (emphasize the shoulder protraction at the top or just do scap push-ups). Shrugging overhead or from an incline bench also strengthen the serratus, and they have straight-forward bodyweight analogs: handstand shrugs and decline scap push-ups. On the pull side, things like TYI rows on rings/TRX, regular ring rows, active hanging, etc. Lateral raises are one of the best exercises for the rotator cuff...
 

fractal

Level 6 Valued Member
I did my masters thesis on scapular dyskinesis (winging). It's probably not as big of a deal as scapular immobility or stiffness (when it comes to pain or injury at least). Making sure your lower traps and serratus anterior are working is important. I think you're on the right track with getting your T spine moving well. Tight and overactive pect minors and upper traps can be big contributors. Posterior shoulder stiffness can be a big player as well, just double check your range of motion in the sleeper stretch.

Like any motor control intervention, the key is to regress exercises to the point where perfect practice can be achieved. As far as exercise, I'd suggest a mix of closed and open chain work. Getups and armbars are great for open chain, crawling/rocking, plank variations (regressed) are good closed chain options. Quadruped shoulder flexion ala bird dogs with emphasis on keeping the upper trap deactivated are very good for lower traps - you may need to bend your elbow to create a shorter lever arm on your scapula. It can be a long and frustrating process to change in some people (though these people are typically not motivated to exercise full stop). Hope that helps!
 

Glen

Level 7 Valued Member
Some excellent advice so far with great exercises to help. Personally I like standing scapula push ups ((so not really a push up) using a resistance band.

Loop it around your back with the end of the band in your hands, arms straight up at shoulder height and do the motion of retraction and protraction. Not only does the band provide resistance I find it guides the movement well.
 

RussF

Level 1 Valued Member
Thank you all for the replies and information.

Just looking in the mirror and trying to "flex" the anterior serratus (sp?) is frustrating but points out how much I need to work on it.
Also the muscles around my t-spine seem to be fighting with my scaps when I do something like "revolved side angle pose" or what looks like a lunge + windmill. I haven't tried an arm-bar with the kettlebell but I bet it would show the muscles around the t-spine are tight.

I will have to get a yoga block to try and stretch for the lateral arch as per Pavel's article, I do have bands and a TRX trainer so I can do many of the exercises that people have listed.

As Fractal says, I think it will be a slow and long process. I wish there was a quick fix but I am pretty sure I have been "winging" during exercises my whole life.

Would this lack of anterior serratus strength affect my pull-ups? I have never been good at pull-ups (I think max was 12 in my best days and probably sitting at 4-5 now) and am wondering if this could also be affecting that.

Thanks again for all the advice and information
 

Glen

Level 7 Valued Member
Thank you all for the replies and information.

Just looking in the mirror and trying to "flex" the anterior serratus (sp?) is frustrating but points out how much I need to work on it.
Also the muscles around my t-spine seem to be fighting with my scaps when I do something like "revolved side angle pose" or what looks like a lunge + windmill. I haven't tried an arm-bar with the kettlebell but I bet it would show the muscles around the t-spine are tight.

I will have to get a yoga block to try and stretch for the lateral arch as per Pavel's article, I do have bands and a TRX trainer so I can do many of the exercises that people have listed.

As Fractal says, I think it will be a slow and long process. I wish there was a quick fix but I am pretty sure I have been "winging" during exercises my whole life.

Would this lack of anterior serratus strength affect my pull-ups? I have never been good at pull-ups (I think max was 12 in my best days and probably sitting at 4-5 now) and am wondering if this could also be affecting that.

Thanks again for all the advice and information


Very interesting
 

Marc

Level 6 Valued Member
Very interesting replies indeed.
Maybe your biggest problem is just proper awareness of your shoulders/scaps. I'd play around with the exercises and really focus on shoulder machanics during the movements. I think that might already help you a lot.
 

the hansenator

Level 6 Valued Member
Would this lack of anterior serratus strength affect my pull-ups?
It does in my experience.

I have a medical history that left my left serratus kind of weak and non-responsive and it certainly does affect my pullups. When I found things that strengthen the serratus my pullups started feeling a lot better.
 

George Locke

Level 2 Valued Member
Just looking in the mirror and trying to "flex" the anterior serratus (sp?) is frustrating but points out how much I need to work on it.
BTW, unless you're very lean and/or jacked, you sill not be able to see your serratus anterior. I can barely even feel mine flex.

Actually, does anyone have any tips for literally finding your serratus? Like, if I just press on my ribs under my armpit, all I feel is mild pain. Maybe I'm just not muscular enough to have anything much there to feel (I can only do like 25 push ups).
 

Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
An article worth reading: The Shoulder, Part I: Scapular Dyskinesis - Barbell Medicine

If you want to feel normal, that is.

My right shoulder blade used to have a bit of "winging" compared to the left. Heavy get-ups did not fix. "Batwings" did not fix. Physical Therapy band exercises did not fix. But it's gone now, after a year of barbell training which made the whole area stronger with low bar back squats, bench press, overhead press, and deadlift. I guess my view would be, generally, don't sweat what may not be a problem... just work on getting stronger.

I developed scapula winging after a surgery because I lost a lot of weight and strength. Just regular strength and muscle building for the upper back did the trick for me.
Case in point.
 

wespom9

Level 6 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
The more time I spend in the field, the more I seem to think that basic strength solves a lot of things, as the posts above me suggest. I ponder this a lot re: FMS scores. Perfection? Competence? Dysfunction? or Pain? We are taught to flag dysfunction and pain. However - dysfunction simply means taking a closer look. Pain is very different from dysfunction. There are lots of answers to go from dysfunction > competence, and simple, good training seems to be important.
 

RussF

Level 1 Valued Member
An article worth reading: The Shoulder, Part I: Scapular Dyskinesis - Barbell Medicine

If you want to feel normal, that is.

My right shoulder blade used to have a bit of "winging" compared to the left. Heavy get-ups did not fix. "Batwings" did not fix. Physical Therapy band exercises did not fix. But it's gone now, after a year of barbell training which made the whole area stronger with low bar back squats, bench press, overhead press, and deadlift. I guess my view would be, generally, don't sweat what may not be a problem... just work on getting stronger.



Case in point.

Interesting article and video.

So besides doing corrective exercises I shouldn't stop doing pushups/pullups, swings, TGU's and cleans/presses, etc...

Note: I don't have any pain or impingement but it was just noticed as I could see it in my reflection.
 

Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
So besides doing corrective exercises I shouldn't stop doing pushups/pullups, swings, TGU's and cleans/presses, etc...
Yes that's my opinion, and even with that you may not even need any corrective exercises. But others have different opinions. In the end you have to decide for yourself. Whatever you choose, if you see improvement, stay the course; if you regress or have additional problems, reconsider or change strategies.
 
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