Combat a protracted scapula with these two specific shoulder exercises!

Happy Hump Day! 

Let's have a short talk about the shoulder! 

In a society where we are getting more and more inclined to use a lot of our anterior chain musculature (meaning front of the body) while looking at our phones, computer screens, etc., our scapular area might suffer the consequences of these postural patterns we subject ourselves into! 

Why is this important? 

It causes our scapula to be more protracted and anteriorly tilted: what does this mean? Your scapula sits along the thoracic cage and operates along with the shoulder using a pattern called "scapulo-humeral rhythm." This video will explain this rhythm: 

When this rhythm changes because of the positioning of the scapula, it may cause a multitude of issues which can lead to thoracic outlet syndrome, impingement syndrome, neck pain, headaches, etc.  

What can be done:

Here are two of the best exercises I would recommend that should help combat these:

1. Target the shoulder external rotators such as the infraspinatus and trees minor muscles. In a certain study conducted by Reinold and associates in 2004 using electromyography (EMG), they found that sidelying external rotation exercises produced the greatest amount of activity in the Infraspinatus and Teres minor muscles (these are the main external rotators of the shoulder joint). Note that you can perform other external rotation exercises to work on these muscles as well. 

2. The second set of exercises that I would recommend would be targeting the lower trapezius muscles. After doing a bit more reading, I found a couple of studies which cited that the lower trapezius was best targeted using prone exercises that facilitate a full can position (scaption position) and the seated press up exercises (among the exercises below shoulder level - according to the study). 

A. The Prone Y Exercise (prone scaption) 

B. Press Ups (seated push ups)

Overall, these two exercises I listed above were not meant to replace an all encompassing program you may currently be doing in your regimen. I am merely highlighting a few key concepts that might be helpful for an individual who would like an explanation of why these exercises might be helpful.

This article was not meant to diagnose your condition in any way. A thorough evaluation done by a physical therapist should always be the first course of action if your symptoms persist. 

About the author: Mark Z. Jamantoc, PT, OCS

Looking for a physical therapist in Bellingham? Click HERE


1. Electromyographic analysis of the rotator cuff and deltoid musculature during common shoulder external rotation exercises. Reinold MM1Wilk KEFleisig GSZheng NBarrentine SWChmielewski TCody RCJameson GGAndrews JR.

2. The effect of middle and lower trapezius strength exercises and levator scapulae and upper trapezius stretching exercises in upper crossed syndrome.  Won-Sik Bae, MS, PT,1,* Hyun-Ok Lee, PhD, PT,2 Jae-Wook Shin, MS, PT,3 and  Keon-Cheol Lee, PhD, PT1
Author information ► Article notes ► Copyright and License information ► Disclaimer

3. Surface Electromygraphic Analysis of the Lower Trapezius Muscle During Exercises Performed Below Ninety Degrees of Shoulder Elevation in Healthy Subjects. Robert A. McCabe, MS, PT, OCS,a Karl F. Orishimo, MS,a Malachy P. McHugh, PhD,a and  Stephen J. Nicholas, MDa
Author information ► Copyright and License information ► Disclaimer

4. Serratus anterior and lower trapezius muscle activities during multi-joint isotonic scapular exercises and isometric contractions.
Tsuruike M1Ellenbecker TS.

Abbey Schory,1 Erik Bidinger,1 Joshua Wolf,1 and  Leigh Murray, PT, MA, PhDcorresponding author1Author information ► Copyright and License information ► Disclaimer

6. Electromyographic Analysis of the Supraspinatus and Deltoid Muscles During 3 Common Rehabilitation Exercises. Michael M Reinold, DPT, PT, ATC, CSCS,* Leonard C Macrina, MSPT, CSCS, Kevin E Wilk, DPT, PT,Glenn S Fleisig, PhD, Shouchen Dun, MS, Steven W Barrentine, MS, Michael T Ellerbusch, MD,§ and James R Andrews, MD


  1. Your article about diagnose the reason of shoulder pain and treatment with above exercises is really admirable. It will helpful for neck pain and back also.


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