Indexed on: 15 Nov '11Published on: 15 Nov '11Published in: Journal of strength and conditioning research / National Strength & Conditioning Association
A balanced level of muscle strength between the different parts of the scapular muscles is important in optimizing performance and preventing injuries in athletes. Emerging evidence suggests that many athletes lack balanced strength in the scapular muscles. Evidence-based recommendations are important for proper exercise prescription. This study determines scapular muscle activity during strengthening exercises for scapular muscles performed at low and high intensities (Borg CR10 levels 3 and 8). Surface electromyography (EMG) from selected scapular muscles was recorded during 7 strengthening exercises and expressed as a percentage of the maximal EMG. Seventeen women (aged 24-55 years) without serious disorders participated. Several of the investigated exercises-press-up, prone flexion, one-arm row, and prone abduction at Borg 3 and press-up, push-up plus, and one-arm row at Borg 8-predominantly activated the lower trapezius over the upper trapezius (activation difference [Δ] 13-30%). Likewise, several of the exercises-push-up plus, shoulder press, and press-up at Borg 3 and 8-predominantly activated the serratus anterior over the upper trapezius (Δ18-45%). The middle trapezius was activated over the upper trapezius by one-arm row and prone abduction (Δ21-30%). Although shoulder press and push-up plus activated the serratus anterior over the lower trapezius (Δ22-33%), the opposite was true for prone flexion, one-arm row, and prone abduction (Δ16-54%). Only the press-up and push-up plus activated both the lower trapezius and the serratus anterior over the upper trapezius. In conclusion, several of the investigated exercises both at low and high intensities predominantly activated the serratus anterior and lower and middle trapezius, respectively, over the upper trapezius. These findings have important practical implications for exercise prescription for optimal shoulder function. For example, both workers with neck pain and athletes at risk of shoulder impingement (e.g., overhead sports) should perform push-up plus and press-ups to specifically strengthen the serratus anterior and lower trapezius.