How to Fix Scapular Winging
Scapular winging. It’s a thing.
Forgive the aloof and standoffish tone. I recognize the term “scapular winging” is a thing and that it can be an actual, real-live, medical diagnosis with dastardly consequences.1
But more on that in a minute.
It’s just that, in some ways, I find a lot of fitness pros – personal trainers, strength coaches, and even physical therapists – can often be a little too liberal with use of the term. They toss it around with little understanding of what it actually means and with little “feel” on how it’s interpreted by their clients and athletes.
I’ve long championed the sentiment that most (not all) fitness pros use the initial assessment as an opportunity to showcase how much people suck at doing things and how broken they are, and that, for the mere cost of a 215 pack of training sessions (the equivalent of a really, really nice Audi), they’ll fix you.
Pffffft, who wants an Audi anyways?
Here’s how a typical conversation goes:
Client: “Hey, I’m thinking about hiring someone to train me.”
Douchy Trainer: “Great, I’d be glad to help. We need to start with an assessment so I have ample opportunity to showcase how much of walking ball of fail you are and how I alone can fix you.”
Client: “Uh, okay. When do we start?
Douchy Trainer: “Right now, take off your shirt.”
Client: “Not going to buy me dinner first, huh? Kidding, okay, BAM.”
[takes off shirt]
Douchy Trainer: “Oh……….MY………..GOD.”
Client: “What? What’s wrong?”
Douchy Trainer: “I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but, you may want to sit down for this.”
Client: “Okay. What is it?
Douchy Trainer: “I’m sorry to have to tell you, but, but…..you have scapular winging.”
Client: “Is….that bad?”
Douchy Trainer: “I honestly have no idea how you’re able to walk, let alone speak complete sentences. We need to fix this ASAP.”
And this is where the trainer turns into that a-hole nun from Game of Thrones walking the client, Cersei style, down to the training floor to take them through a bevy of corrective exercise drills.
Lets pump the brakes, mmmkay?
Scapular Winging: What It Is
Now, admittedly, the key words used to find this picture were “most fucked up, dumpster fire of a case of scapular winging on the internet,” so don’t get too alarmed.
This is a legit, medically diagnosed case, and not at all normal.
In a general sense, when we say “scapular winging” all we’re saying is that the shoulder blade comes or “wings” off the ribcage.
It’s sorta tricky because this pretty much describes everyone. You, me, George Clooney, your second cousin’s brother-in-law’s nephew’s Little League coach, literally, everyone, has some form of scapular winging.
So, what is it then? How much is too much? And, more importantly, what, if anything, should we do to fix it? Do we even need to fix it?
Dr. Quinn Henoch of Juggernaut Training Systems described this beautifully not too long ago. In short: a true case of scapular winging, like what’s pictured above, is a neurological condition where the Long Thoracic Nerve isn’t doing it’s job of innervating the Serratus Anterior (who’s job it is to adhere the shoulder blade to the ribcage).
The approach or fix in this case hasn’t anything to do with turning on “x” muscle or performing x, y, and z corrective exercises.
It’s not quite that simple.
Scapular Winging: What It Isn’t
I’ll tell you this much: we don’t have a pandemic of people walking around with true scapular winging. The vast majority of people you’ll encounter are owner’s of a completely healthy Long Thoracic Nerve.
They’re not broken. There’s nothing super duper nefarious happening.
What’s likely the culprit is a lack of tension and motor control.
The fix, then, is……..Drum roll…..
If we can figure out ways to introduce load and subsequently, tension, this will not only help to turn shit on (without having to go down the 19-part corrective exercise rabbit hole) but also help people get into better positions via a little introduction to protraction.
Want to “cure” someone’s scapular winging in a matter of seconds?
Watch this. Closed-chain movements, protraction in general, is kind of magical.
Wall Press & Push-Ups That Don’t Suck
Pretty cool, right? That’s some Gandalf shit right there.
Quadruped Rockback w/ Floor Press
Typically the Quadruped Rockback is a a screen used to gauge active hip flexion ROM and to ascertain someone’s appropriate squat depth based of his or her’s anatomy. However, after listening to Mike Reinold speak on the topic it’s also a great drill to cue people into more protraction and upward rotation
Floor Press w/ Upward Rotation
Taking the floor press a step further, we can take away a base of support (and force the stabilizing arm to work that much harder in order to maintain position) and then incorporate some upward rotation.
The umbrella theme here is not to dismiss scapular winging as an actual diagnosis. It is a diagnosis. It’s just not as common as people think, and I wish more fitness pros would stop jumping to conclusions so fast.
Oftentimes the fix is just to coach people up, introduce some load, and get them into better positions.
Last Chance to Save $100 off Complete Shoulder & Hip Blueprint
TODAY (7/6) is, for real this time, the last day you can purchase Complete Shoulder & Hip Blueprint at 50% off the regular price.
Because of the 4th and everyone’s travel plans, Dean Somerset and I extended our sale by one day so more people could take advantage.
That’s $100 you’re saving. Take that money you’ll save and go to a nice steak dinner instead.