Home Scapula Workout (No Equipment Needed)

January 17, 2018 by VAHVA Fitness

Home scapula workout with zero equipment. You will be training the shoulder girdle and improving your shoulder mobility. 

he purpose of these exercises is to build mobility and learn to control your scapula and clavicle, your shoulder girdle.

Your shoulder girdle is the powerhouse of your upper body and also present in all upper body exercises. To maximize your performance and to keep your shoulders healthy, it's important to train the scapula.

These exercises can be done at home with zero equipment and with good results. This routine is excellent for beginners. For a more advanced routine, see our full scapula mobilization routine.

No matter what exercise you are doing with your upper body, your scapula is present either stabilizing or generating significant amounts of force. 

In pull ups and inverted rows it's important to depress and retract the shoulders. In handstands you are pushing the shoulders to your ears which is called the scapula elevation. 

In many movement exercises like monkey walks you are also using the scapula a lot which makes animal movements great for scapula mobility and stability.

A lot of people do scapula training, but not many do it correctly. The movement of your scapula alone won't produce good results if you are also generating movement with other areas of the body.

It's crucial to keep stable and tight hips, core and arms in all exercises. Otherwise you will be generating force with body parts that aren't supposed to be trained.

The common mistakes include bending from the arms and bending from the hips or the core. The scapula should do all of the movement while the rest of the body stabilizes. 

Your scapula should also always stay active. No matter the exercise, you are actively moving the scapula to both directions - your scapula is never relaxed.

Similar to all mobility work, controlled execution with good mind-muscle connection is the key to results. Control is everything.

Additional weight or one arm variations won't necessarily make the exercises more effective, rather the opposite often happens because the form starts to suffer.

How much and how often? These exercises can be done as a warm-up or as a scapula workout once a week or once in a while. 10-20 repetitions per set and 3-5 sets per exercise will work.

Scapula Depression

scapula depression from L-sit

In the scapula depression you depress your scapula - you push your shoulders down. You achieve the best range of motion when you let the shoulders raise to your ears (elevation) and then push them down. 

There are many ways to train scapula depression with just your bodyweight:

  • From the L-sit hold: the easier variation is to do the exercise your feet on the floor, the harder is to raise the legs in air and do scapula depressions in an L-sit.
  • Another beginner variation is to do scapula depressions between two chairs as demonstrated in the video. Parallel bars can also be used. Chairs are pretty useful because your legs can touch the floor to make the exercise easier.

All of the movement should come from your scapula (shoulder girdle), the arms should be as stiff and as still as possible. 

The strength of scapula depression is useful and necessary in exercises like dips and pull ups. The muscles worked are pectoralis minor, latissimus dorsi and lower trapezius.

Scapula Elevation

scapula retraction from bear stance

In the scapula elevation you take a pike stance and focus on pushing with your shoulders (scapula elevation). 

Other scapula elevation exercises are dumbbell shrugs and overhead barbell shrugs. You will train the muscles such as upper and middle trapezius, levator scapulae and serratus anterior.

The strength and mobility in your shoulder elevation will come helpful in handstands and all exercises where you are pushing weight overhead like in the traditional overhead press.

Scapula Protraction

scapula protraction from push up stance

Scapula protraction simply means pushing your shoulder girdle forward. You take a plank position, keep your arms stiff and focus on moving the shoulder girdle. It's important to keep the core tight.

Muscles involved in scapula protraction are serratus anterior, pectoralis minor and major and levator scapulae.

There are 4 ways to train the scapula protraction:

  • Normal width scapula protraction: will train all muscles involved in scapula protraction evenly.
  • Wide: will emphasize more the pectoralis minor and major.
  • Narrow: focuses more on levator scapulae and serratus anterior.
  • One arm: more resistance to one side. Not necessarily more effective.

The strength and mobility of your scapula protraction will help in pressing exercises and many athletic movements. 

Scapula Retraction

scapula retraction bent over

Scapula retraction means pulling your shoulder blades behind towards the midline of the spine. You will work the rhomboids, middle and lower trapezius and latissimus dorsi. 

The most important cue is to learn to keep your hips and core as stable as possible - they should not be moving at all. Avoid moving the neck. Similarly, avoid arching your lower or upper spine and instead keep the spine as stable as possible.

Scapula retraction is necessary in pulling exercises like rows, pull ups and deadlifts. These exercises require scapula stability which can only be achieved when you first work on scapula mobility. 

Working on scapula mobility is important and will make a great difference in the health of your shoulders and your overall performance. 

Train hard, stay safe.


samuli jyrkinen

About the author 

Samuli Jyrkinen

Samuli is the ninja behind the scenes (photography, videography, websites, program platforms and more). He has been training religiously for over a decade and has a firm grasp of physical and mental fitness. You will find our story here.

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