The scapular squeeze (aka shoulder squeeze exercise or shoulder blade exercise) is a simple movement that involves squeezing your shoulder blades together to work your shoulder joint and the muscles that surround it.
The shoulder joint connects your upper arm to your torso. It is one of the most mobile joints in your body and this is partly why it is susceptible to injury.
For this reason, it is important to exercise it in order to build a stronger, more stable and functional shoulder joint.
The scapular squeeze is one of the exercises designed for this particular purpose and if you want to do it properly, follow these steps:
- Begin by lying on your back on the floor (or a mat if you need extra comfort).
- Bend your knees and plant your feet flat on the floor.
- Straighten your arms out, about 6-12 inches away from your sides. Your palms should be facing upward. This is the starting position.
- Keep your lower back pressed to the ground and squeeze your shoulder blades by pushing them downward and towards each other, as if to make them meet your spine.
- During the squeeze, you should feel your shoulder muscles contract.
- Get back to the starting position and repeat these steps.
WHAT MUSCLES DOES THE SCAPULAR SQUEEZE WORK?
This exercise mainly works your shoulder joint and the rhomboids, whose function is to draw your shoulder blades together and to make sure they stay attached to your ribcage.
BENEFITS OF THE SCAPULAR SQUEEZE
REDUCES THE RISK FOR ROTATOR CUFF ISSUES
Having rounded shoulders causes strain and tension on your upper neck and shoulders.
Over time, this pressure exacerbates wear on your shoulder joints and contributes to rotator cuff issues such as shoulder impingement and bursitis.
Working your shoulders through this exercise reduces the risk of having rounded shoulders, which then minimizes the possibility of developing rotator cuff issues.
You only need a mat for the scapular squeeze, but even that is optional.
If you feel comfortable lying on the floor without extra comfort, then by all means, do it. The presence of the mat or lack of it does not in any way affect the outcome of the movement.
EASY TO MASTER
Most popular shoulder exercises require you to master complex techniques and sometimes even use weights to work the muscles in there.
Not the scapular squeeze, though.
All you have to do during this movement is squeeze your shoulder blades together and your job is as good as done.
This exercise helps develop stability in your shoulders and upper limbs for when you are performing everyday movements such as pulling, holding items and pushing.
ALTERNATIVES TO THE SCAPULAR SQUEEZE
REACH AND ROW
The reach and row is performed with either a cable machine or a resistance band. It is a bit like the standard single-arm row, but with a little twist.
- Grab a resistance band with its handles looped around a sturdy object or a D-handle that’s attached to a cable machine.
- Walk a few steps back with until the cable/band is taut. This is to increase the amount of resistance in it.
- Get into a split stance and lean your upper body forward as you reach for the anchor point.
- Pull the handle in the direction of the hip while keeping both shoulders down.
- Stand up straight to get back to the starting position.
This movement works with a greater range of motion, which increases your muscle-building potential.
STABILITY BALL PUSH-UP
The stability ball push-up is one of the few exercises that put your scapular stability to test by making you perform it on an unstable surface.
The amount of balance you require to stay in position on the ball will make your stabilizing muscles work very hard to keep your shoulder blades stable, which then translates into overall shoulder stability.
Here’s how to do it properly:
- Get into the standard push-up position with your hands centered on both sides of the stability ball and your feet hip-width apart on the floor.
- Tighten your core, squeeze your glutes and lower your body towards the ball.
- Stabilize yourself and get back to the starting position.
This exercise also strengthens your core by making your abdominal muscles work harder to keep your body stable on an uneven surface.
It is a great way to double the intensity of your push-up without having to add weights or use any other kind of resistance.
The L-sit is a thorough core exercise that focuses on your abdominal muscles, but also makes you retract your shoulder blades, thereby working your scapular muscles and upper back too.
Here is how to do it:
- Get a low bench and sit on it.
- Hold both ends on the bench, and then lift your legs, keeping them straight until they are parallel to the ground and your body is in the shape of an “L.”
- Bring your shoulders down and back, straighten your back, and look ahead with your neck neutral.
The L-sit is a full body exercise that recruits your lower trapezius muscles, which plays an important role in stabilizing your scapulae.
Apart from your core and scapulae, this movement also trains your quads, pectoralis muscles, trapezius, hip flexors and latissimus dorsi.
SCAPULAR SQUEEZE MISTAKES TO AVOID
LIFTING YOUR LOWER BACK OFF THE GROUND
If you’re doing this exercise by lying on the floor, your lower back should remain pressed to the floor the entire time.
Peeling your back off the floor releases tension off your shoulder muscles, which then reduces the effectiveness of this exercise.
The scapular squeeze offers an effective workout to your shoulder joint as well as the ligaments and muscles that surround it, such as the rhomboids.
As for its benefits, there’s little doubt you agree that there are not many shoulder exercises that offer such great benefits with a very simple technique.
But if for one reason or another you are not able to do the scapular squeeze, the alternative exercises provided in here will still get you your desired outcome.