Faulty or impaired movement of the scapula places more stress on the glenohumeral joint than desired with overhead lifts and sports. Dysfunctional movement is very common with shoulder pain and impingement. At times you may also see a downwardly rotated scapula.
If upward rotation is limited, a client will display excessive shoulder flexion above 90 degrees when the humerus is in maximal internal rotation. Typically, a person will have minimal flexion beyond 90 degrees if the scapula is moving properly.
Upward rotation of the scapula is the result of a force couple between the upper and lower trap along with the serratus anterior. If any of these muscles are weak, rotation can be limited and overpowered by the rhomboids and levator scapulae muscles (both downward rotators). This pattern of muscle dominance is common.
Additionally, tightness in the rhomboids, levator scapulae, pec minor or latissimus can also restrict normal mobility. It is probably safe to assume stretching of the chest and lats would be helpful, but it also helpful encourage the proper muscle firing patterns in the traps and serratus anterior as well.
This exercise will focus on just that using a nontraditional form of shrugs along with a mini-band.
Execution: Begin standing facing a wall. Place a resistance band around the wrists. Position the forearms on the wall with the elbows at shoulder height. Next, slowly begin to actively shrug the shoulders for 3-5 repetitions. Gradually slide the forearms upward 10-15 degrees at a time and repeat the shrugs until you reach maximum flexion. If necessary rest between each set.
Application: The exercise is designed to encourage upward rotation in a more functional manner as opposed to traditional shrugs with the arms at the side. Traditional shrugs generally activate the rhomboids and levator scapulae which is not desired given their natural dominance pattern.
The resisted wall shrugs should not create any pain or discomfort. The band should be lighter and not too difficult as this may take away from the controlled shrug motion. Initially, clientele may feel awkward particularly if they possess a faulty muscle activation pattern. As muscle tightness resolves and strength improves, clients should gain more mobility and optimal shoulder function. This exercise is particularly useful in overhead athletes when used as a corrective exercise, preventive measure and during rehab when scapular dysfunction is present.