I am always a fan of simple exercises that get a big bang for my buck. I want to be able to streamline my programs to have as little fluff as possible.
One exercise I often use for scapular control is called the “cheerleader exercise,” which my friend Russ Paine in Houston first showed me and has popularized over the years. Russ included this exercise in one of his latest publications on The Role of the Scapula in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy. The article is free to read and is a great adjunct to my recent webinar on Scapular Dyskinesis.
Russ teamed up with another pioneer in sports physical therapy, Mike Voight, to write the new manuscript. The amazing part is that Russ and Mike wrote one of the landmark articles on scapular rehabilitation in JOSPT in 1993, twenty years ago!
The cheerleader exercise uses a piece of Theraband or rubber tubing to perform a series of reciprocal exercises focusing on scapular retraction. You begin by grasping a piece of tubing between both hands with your arms raised forward at shoulder height. Pull both hands apart into horizontal abduction. Then, return to the starting position and pull one arm down and the other up in a diagonal pattern. For those familiar with proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) drills, these are D2 flexion and D1 extension positions. Return to the starting position again and switch the diagonals.
This is a great posterior chain drill that works on developing strength and endurance in a functional scapular patterns. It is a great drill when working on facilitating a more posterior dominant posture, and getting out of our terrible anterior dominant sitting posture.
This one drill effectively combines several exercises that focus on scapular retraction, upward rotation, and posterior tilt. But what I really like about the exercise is the reciprocal nature of the exercise.
Think about it, running, jumping, throwing and other activities always involve a reciprocal involvement of upward arm movement and reciprocal arm extension.
I don’t use this as a replacement for pure isotonic strengthening of the scapula muscles, such as the YTWL exercises, but it is a nice drill to work on integrated patterns and endurance. Next time you are looking for a drill to enhance scapular control, posterior chain strength, and postural awareness, try the cheerleader exercise.