Monday, March 14, 2011

Q&A: How to Execute Scaptions and the Reasons for Performing Them

Q: Can you go into detail about the scaptions exercise? I remember (and still am) being very confused about its main purpose as a corrective exercise.  It was pointed out that I have scapular winging during my pushups, and I was prescribed scaptions.  I guess I still don't understand my winging problem, or even know when I'm doing it.

A: First of all, I want to say thanks for the question and for reading the blog. 
Scaptions is a great exercise to work a muscle called the serratus anterior.  This muscle has attachment sites at the outer surface and superior border of the upper eight or nine ribs and the costal surface (under side) of the medial border of the scapula.  Basically, it runs from the under surface of your shoulder blade to your ribs on the side of your body. 

This muscle’s main functions are protraction and upward rotation of the scapula, and it can also assist in respiration.  It is largely responsible for keeping your scapula flat against your rib cage.  Therefore, when someone tells you that you are “winging” this means that your shoulder blade is not lying smoothly against your ribcage and can be due to a long/weak serratus anterior (it can also be due to the position of your rib cage, but we will not get into that here).

If you have a tendency to “wing” on certain exercises then your scapula is unstable.  We want our scapula to be very stable so that our humerus can have a stable base to move from.  Charlie Weingroff refers to this as shooting a cannon off of a canoe vs. shooting a cannon off of a stable platform - you want a stable base to produce strength and/or power from. 
For example, if you are bench pressing and your scapula is unstable on one or both sides then your humerus articulated with that scapula will also be unstable and will be less effective at moving the weight.
Scaptions will help to train this muscle and therefore improve the stability of your scapula because you are upwardly rotating and protracting at the same time, which are the two main functions of serratus anterior as explained above.

To perform the exercise, raise your arms up so that they are roughly 30 degrees in front of your side and are parallel to the ground.  Your thumbs should be pointing up, and you should think about actively protracting (i.e. making your arm as long as possible) as you raise your arms.

Begin by holding a light dumbbell or plate (~5-10 lbs) and perform 2-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions.  Once you are able to get 12-15 reps with that weight then progress to a heavier weight.   
Hope that helps!  If you have anymore questions feel free to leave them in the comments or shoot me an e-mail.

Have a great week everyone!


  1. not a bad attempt but i found this video was a little more informative.

  2. @Chris- haha yeah. The person performing the exercise is definitely better looking:)