Climbing Scapula Stability
Author: Alistair Choie
Shoulders injuries are extremely common in the sport of climbing. This article discusses the importance of scapula stability, common problems and how prevent shoulder injuries through exercising your scapula stabilisers.
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 on your rib cage while your arms move and take load, these are known as your scapula stabilisers.
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.
For every degree of movement at the shoulder blade
there is 2 degrees of movement 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).
Symptoms of Shoulder Impingement
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.
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 scapula. This often becomes more obvious as your arm is loaded during a push up motion.
- 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.
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.
- Pinch the shoulder blades together
- Prevent lifting off of the inner boarder of the shoulder blades
We often see tightness in the muscles which help to:
- Elevate the shoulder blades in an upwards direction
- 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.
Incline Pull Ups
Scapula Pull Ups
Upper Trapezius Stretches
Pectoral Corner Stretch
Thoracic Extension 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.
Alistair Choie is the practice principal of MyFamily Physio in Mona Vale. He has been both a physio and climber for over 15 years. His areas of interest include musculoskeletal injuries and exercise rehabilitation. www.myfamilyphysio.com.au