A Beginner's Guide To Bench Pressing With A Winged Scapula

April 8th 2019

Should you bench press with a winged scapula?

Typically, it is okay to continue bench pressing with a winged scapula, depending on your condition. However, it may be more significant to figure out why your scapula is winged and to remedy it.

You will learn about the right things to do if you have winged scapula and want to bench press. You can actually bench press even when you have a winged scapula. Bench pressing is essentially a decent exercise but at times people concentrate on it and end up with ugly postures and other associated shoulders problems. Too much emphasis on bench press, along with a lack of emphasis on pulling movements, can cause muscle imbalances. Also, for this exercise to be effective you need to pay special attention to the external shoulder rotators which involve the infraspinatus, teres minor and the posterior deltoids. To protect your shoulder during a bench press you should retract your scapula throughout the entire movement. This stabilizes your shoulders and prevents any harmful and unwanted movements while exercising.

If you want to do a bench press to makes your pectoralis very strong you need to pair it with other great pulling compound exercises.

Exercises to counter the bench press

The barbell row is one of the best movements in order to work on the counterpart muscles of the bench press.

For some lifters, pull-ups may not the best choice for countering the bench press. Therefore, focus on developing your upper and mid back to balance your shoulder girdle. In order to get the best results, you need to keep training your rhomboids, posterior deltoids, traps, and other minor muscles found at your upper back.

What is winged scapula?

Winged scapula is a medical condition that makes your shoulder blade or the shoulder bone to protrude in an abnormal motion from the back. Normally, it is rare for this condition to cause any functional limitations on your upper extremity on to which it is adjacently located. A winged scapula can affect your ability to pull, lift, and even push heavy objects. In serious cases, this skeletal condition can affect your ability to carry out various activities like changing clothes and combing your hair.

The name winged scapula is coined from the way it appears right from the back of the affected individual. It has a wing-like resemblance because of the medial border between the scapulars (shoulder blades) which sticks straight out from the back. In most cases, the scapular winging condition disrupts the scapula-humeral rhythm. This alteration contributes to decreased flexion and even causes abduction from the upper extremity. Also, it can lead to a reduction in power and the emergence of pain on the upper extremity of your back.

Did you know that for young children, this condition is considered as just a normal posture? However, it is a serious condition that requires a remedy when older children and grown-ups suffer. Having a winged scapula does not necessarily mean that you have an injury; it may be a symptom of a different condition. In essence, protruding of the shoulder blade is linked to a poor posture which is often experienced by people who like sitting at desks for a long period. Read on to apprehend more about this condition, its treatments and what to do whenever you want to bench press.

The anatomy of the shoulder bones and the scapula

The shoulder is a ball and socket joint. The head of your upper arm bone is usually the ball and the scapula which is the shoulder blade forms the socket. Therefore, the humerus sits on your scapula through a ball and socket joint. Consequently, your scapula and the arm are then connected to the rest of the body by many muscles and ligament attachments. When moving your arm, the scapula moves also to maintain everything in a normal alignment. When this alignment is altered, you are bound to have a winged scapula.

Symptoms of winged scapula

Knowing the symptoms of a winged scapula is important. Usually, the protruding of the shoulder blade is the most common physical symptoms. One common test that can be used to diagnose a medial winged scapula is through flexing both arms and pushing both your hands into the wall. As you push your hands into the wall, your shoulders blades should displace normally. Under a trained eye, health professionals can detect varying degrees of winged scapula from mild displacements to severe displacements.

Most people typically complain about pain, reduced power, limited shoulder elevation, limited range of motion, and even deformities. If you experience these conditions, you should visit a qualified shoulder specialist, avoid certain exercises and try some home remedies.

What causes scapular winging?

To understand more about scapula winging, you need to understand some of its causes. As aforementioned, scapula winging can be caused by an injury that damages the nerves and as well causes upper back muscle imbalances. Also, it may cause tightness and stiffness on your upper extremity that can affect your shoulder’s skeletal structure and posture. Here is an explanation of the common causes of a winged scapula.

1. Nerve damage

A winged scapula can result from the damage on your long thoracic nerve. Such injuries can be caused by holding a heavy bag on one shoulder for a long time. Another nerve that can be damaged in the process is the dorsal scapular nerve.

2. The serratus anterior muscle

In most cases, the serratus anterior muscle is the main cause of a winged scapula. Usually, it appears that way because it becomes either inactive or very weak. Serratus anterior muscles run from the rib cage sides just below the chest and spread to the back below your scapula. If this muscle is not working well, it will loosen from the ribs and the scapula will be winged.

3. Recurrent movements

Recurrent movements like washing, cleaning windows, digging a garden or trimming plants can cause scapula winging. Usually, these repetitive movements cause an injury to your nerves that are located around your scapula.

4. The Trapezius

Just like the serratus anterior, the traps help elevate, retract and rotate your scapula. The spinal accessory nerve runs through the traps and can be a cause for a lateral winged scapula.

5. The Rhomboids

Your two rhomboid muscles help elevate and retract your scapula. They also help rotate the shoulder blades down its lateral border. The dorsal scapular nerve runs through both rhomboids and can be another cause for a lateral winged scapula.

6. Other causes

While the main cause a winged scapula is injuries, it can as well be caused by force.

Other cause can be allergic reactions to medicine, viral illnesses, drug overdose, muscular dystrophy and too much exposure to toxins.

Can it be fixed?

Most people are still puzzled on whether scapula winging is fixable. You should know from today that a winged scapula can be remedied in many different ways. Since there are numerous treatment options for a winged scapula; you are required to choose the one that works the best for you. Also, the treatment option will be pegged to the type of nerves or muscles causing it.

Normally, a winged scapula can be fixed by a massage, physical therapy, and doing monitored stretching and strength exercises. If you have a more serious condition, you will need to undergo surgery by a shoulder specialist. Here are the best ways to fix a winged scapula.

1. Massage therapy

For a normal case, you can go for massage therapy. It helps to release the stiffness on your pectoral muscles and every nerve that surrounds the shoulder blades which prevents your serratus anterior muscle from activating and tightening the shoulder blade in place.

2. Medicine

Another proper way to fix a winged scapula is through the administration of medicine. Usually, the best medicine your doctor should prescribe includes pain relievers, muscle relaxants, and anti-inflammatory drugs. All these drugs work simultaneously in remedying terribly inflamed and painfully knotted scapula.

3. Physical exercises and therapy

This is one of the most efficient, effective and affordable option for treat scapula winging. Physical therapies and strength training at home can aid in strengthening your serratus anterior muscle and as well release the tension in the pectoralis minor. Here are some of the key exercises for fixing a winged scapula.

• Scapula Rope pulldown

In a rope pulldown exercise, you use a Lat Pulldown machine. Simply lean back slightly depress your scapula and the drop your elbows slightly. After maximum shoulder depression, return to a fully extended arm position. Just do four sets of ten controlled reps for the start.

• Scapula pushup

Scapula pushups are arguably among the physicals for strengthening your serratus anterior muscles and correcting your winged scapula. To do it lie in a pushup position, then retract and protract the scapula for reps while keeping your torso (body) in line for every repetition. Do 3-4 sets of about 10-12 reps.

• Banded Shoulder Protraction

This physical remedy is similar to the scapula pushup except that a band is used. If you are uncomfortable with the pressure put onto your hands by doing pushups, you should try the banded shoulder protraction. To perform this exercise you need to wrap the band around you to the back. Then using both of your arms, retract and protract the shoulder blades slowly while pushing the band from you. Repeat this until you feel better.

• Side lateral raise

For a side lateral raise, you must keep your thumbs up while pulling your shoulders back. Just drop your scapula first before every repetition. Do about 3-4 sets for 10-12 reps.

• Other exercises for remedying a winged scapula include wall slides, lying dumbbell protraction, rear dumbbell flye, and pec stretch and release.

While doing your physical therapy and exercises make sure you do them persistently in order to the condition for good.

4. Surgery

Surgery is recommended for people who have a more serious condition. Actually, you should try some physical exercises and other remedies before going for surgery. For most people, surgery should not be an option due to the vast amounts of information and non-invasive treatments in order to regain full strength and mobility of your shoulder blades.

In most cases, surgery is needed if you are suffering injuries that involve a brute force and badly damaged nerves. For instance, a winged scapula that is caused by the damage of your spinal accessory nerves will require immediate surgery. A typical surgical treatment for a winged scapula can involve the transfer of the affected nerves and muscles. The surgeon will relocate the nerve or muscle tissue to another part of the body.

Another surgery for fixing a winged scapula is static stabilization. Here, a sling is put between your scapulars connecting it to both of your ribs or vertebrae. This is intended to make you scapula to lay almost flat on the chest ending of your back.

The last type of surgery is riskier. This surgery is known as scapula-thoracic fusion. This particular type of surgery usually involves the attaching of your scapula onto the ribs. However, this surgery is dangerous because it can permanently reduce your mobility and power instead of improving it. You should go for this option only when every other option fails.

Winged scapula exercises to avoid

Here are some of the winged scapula treatment exercises to avoid.

  1. While exercising avoid relying only on the physical therapy which emphasizes on the area where the pain is most felt. Such focus acts on trigger points which develop from the torso overworking due to a poor posture and movement strategy which places the joints in an unstable position.
  1. Other exercises to avoid are those that require more strength. If you think strength is the main remedy, then you will definitely miss out the value of mobility work thus affecting your overall stability.
  1. Thirdly, avoid all exercise that makes your shoulder or arms move repetitively because these movements worsen the situation.
  1. Avoiding exercises that will involve carrying too heavy weights on your shoulders

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