Articles Scapula Stability

March 2, 2020

Scapula stability plays an important role in preventing and rehabilitating shoulder injuries. This article discusses what scapula stability is, why it’s important, common problems and how this can be improved through exercise.

What are the Scapula Stabilisers?

Your shoulder blades (scapula) are attached to your ribcage by several muscles. 

These muscles all pull in different directions to help keep your shoulder blades stable while your arms move and take load, these are known as your scapula stabilisers.

The Main Scapula Stabiliser Muscles

Why is Scapula Stability Important?

Normal shoulder function requires coordinated movement to occur between your shoulder blades and shoulder joints.

The scapula stabilisers control the amount of movement occurring at the shoulder blades while also keeping them stable on the ribcage.

Scapulohumeral Rhythm
For every degree of movement at the shoulder blade there is approximately 2 degrees of movement occurring at the shoulder joint.

Studies have demonstrated abnormal movement patterns and imbalances in the scapula stabilisers can contribute to the development of shoulder injuries (i.e. shoulder impingement, rotator cuff strains, labral tears).

Shoulder Impingement
Pain as the arm is raised above shoulder height

To appreciate this, try standing tall then slowly raise your arms above your head. Next, try this again but this time let your shoulders slump. You may notice how much more difficult (and uncomfortable) it is to raise your arms to the same height when in a slumped position. 

Slumped Vs Tall Posture

Common Problems

Some common issues include:

  • Hitching, this refers to abnormal hunching of your shoulder as you start to raise your arm.
  • Winging, this refers lifting off of the inner border your shoulder blade. This often becomes more obvious as your arm is loaded during a push up motion.
Scapula Winging
  • Rounded shoulders, this refers to rolling in of your shoulder blades giving you a slumped appearance. In these cases, the lower angle of your shoulder blades often become more prominent as you lower your arms from an overhead position.
Lifting off of the lower angle of the shoulder blade


The issues above are often due to muscle imbalances in the scapula stabilisers.


We often see weakness in the muscles which:

  • Depress the shoulder blades in a downwards direction.
The fibres of the lower trapezius muscle assist with this action.
  • Pinch the shoulder blades together
  • Prevent lifting off of the inner boarders of your shoulder blades
The inner boarders of your shoulder blades are mainly anchored down by your serratus anterior muscle


We often see tightness in the muscles which help to:

  • Elevate the shoulder blades in an upwards direction
The fibres of the upper trapezuius often become excessively tight
  • Pull the shoulders forwards

Exercises to Improve Scapula Stability 

Your scapula stability can be improved by performing specific exercises, we have compiled a list of helpful exercises to get you started:


It is important to try and keep your shoulder blades down and back while performing these exercises.

  • Push ups 
  • Tricep Extensions
  • Rows
  • Reverse Fly
  • Lat Pull Downs


  • Upper Trapezius Stretches
  • Pectoral Corner Stretch
  • Thoracic Spine Stretch

Please keep in mind the information provided is general in nature and should not be used as a substitute to consult your treating health professional. If you have any specific questions or require assistance with your individual treatment requirements please do not hesitate to contact MyFamily Physio Mona Vale, Northern Beaches Sydney.

Related Articles