Forums Shoulder What is optimal scapula position? Re: What is optimal scapula position?

AvatarAlex Daubon

Glad to see this is being discussed as it has been weighing on my mind as well.

I recently purchased the Crossover Symmetry system myself after seeing it being mentioned on the forum – David, it might have actually been you, in which case thank you – after 2 shoulder surgeries I’m desperate for anything that would help shoulder function and I was unaware of this system.

The instructions for shoulder exercises all initiated by first cuing to retract the scapula and THEN perform the shoulder extension, flexion, or abduction as required by the exercise. Thanks to Eric Cressey I had the eye to stop and think twice about if this is proper technique. Eric advocates that in a healthy scapula/shoulder relationship, the shoulder/arm moves first, then the scapula is to engage fluidly – and that doesn’t mean that the scapula is to be pinched back as hard as possible, but maybe only a slight pinch. See:

So, this leads to two opposing ways of coaching scapular involvement:

  1. Optimal scapula position and engagement is a simple ON/OFF. So begin exercises by first retracting the scapula completely (ON) and THEN moving the arm or shoulder, then optionally completely protracting at the end of the movement (OFF). Repeat.
  2. Optimal scapula position and engagement is a fluid and dynamic relationship with the shoulder. So begin exercises by leading with the shoulder then somewhere between the start and end range of motion of the exercise, engage the scapula by retracting slightly. When you return to the beginning of the movement, you can have a slight protraction of the scapula.

I believe that in general, #2 is correct. Although for certain exercises, #1 is better.

For instance, on rows, pushups, band-pull aparts, face pulls, and pull-ups/chin-ups, #2 is correct.

For bench press and deadlift, #1 is more fitting.