Skip to content

Scapular Push-Ups: Complete Shoulder Stability Guide

Scapular push-ups are a great shoulder stabilizing exercise that promotes proper upper body alignment.

As someone who has been through two shoulder surgeries, I’ve done my fair share of scap push-ups. 

Read on to learn everything you need to know about scap push-ups and why they belong in your fitness routine.

Table of contents:

Why scapular push-ups?

How to guide

Push-up progression


Muscles worked 


Why Scapular Push-ups?

Many shoulder injuries are a result of poor scapula mechanics. 

Bad scapula mechanics can also result in poor posture, neck and back pain, and restricted movement.

Correct scapula alignment promotes healthy posture and better form in upper body lifting and can help result in increased strength and muscle building.

Scap push-ups are a versatile exercise and are commonly used in shoulder warm-up and recovery phases. 

If you’re someone who experiences shoulder pain or is coming off an injury, scap push-ups are great for building bulletproof shoulders.

How To

Seting up: Get in a push-up or kneeling push-up position with your hands just outside shoulder width.

Align your spine so it’s parallel to the ground while keeping a tight core (do not let your hips sag). Your starting stance should look like the peak position of a push-up.

While maintaining a tight core, retract your shoulder blades letting them pinch together. Avoid bending at the elbows throughout the movement.

Scapular push ups

Protract the shoulders by spreading your scapula and driving your spine to the ceiling

Scapular push up

Control your tempo on the way down and accelerate on the way up (do not rush the movement).

Repeat for a desired amount of reps.


Kneeling Scapular Push-Ups

If you’re new to the scap push-up or coming off an injury, it’s recommended to start with the kneeling position. 

Kneeling scap push-upsKneeling scapular push ups

If you can complete kneeling scap push-ups with quality form and high amount of reps, feel free to move on to further progressions.

Elevated  Scapular Push-Ups

The elevated version can be done on a bench or a box. The difficulty level of the elevated scap push-up lies between kneeling and standard. If you have a hard time doing standard scap push ups but find kneeling too easy, we recommend trying out the elevated variation.

Elevated scapular push upElevated scapular push up

Pro tip: Considering the increased incline, be sure to raise your hips and keep a neutral spine to get a proper angle. 

Advanced  Scapular Push-Ups

For further difficulty use a resistance band. An added benefit of the band is that the resistance will peak at the top of the push-up where you will get the most out of the movement.

Resistance band scapular push up



Scap push ups are not exactly an intense exercise nor do they require a large range of motion. That said, focus on the quality of movement and allow your shoulder blades to move fluidly.

Keep a neutral posture and focus on your scapula. Do not bend your elbows or round your back, overcompensating takes away from the intention of the exercise.

Scap push ups are a great warm up before working out (especially upper body). A couple pre-workout sets can go a long way in keeping proper shoulder mechanics before a grueling lifting session.


Muscles Worked

Serratus anterior

The serratus anterior is located on the outside of your rib cage. The muscle's attachment to your ribs and the inner border of the shoulder blade give it leverage for rotating the shoulder blade so that the socket of the shoulder joint faces more in an upward direction, allowing you to raise your arm. Without this ability to reposition the shoulder blade, you couldn’t raise your arm above your head [2].

Serratus anterior pain patter

(serratus anterior referred pain pattern [2])

Complementary Muscles Worked:

Pectoral muscles - Help regulate shoulder mobility by extending and compressing the scapulae.

Core - Plays the important role of preventing the hips and lower back from sagging throughout the movement. 

Lower trapezius - Assists with the downward rotation and stability of the scapulae throughout the push-up movement.

Rhomboids - Retract the scapulae, bringing them closer to the spine which assists in maintaining good shoulder alignment. If you suffer from a knot behind your shoulder blade the rhomboid is typically the nagging muscle culprit.

Levator scapulae - Connects the top of the shoulder blade to the neck. The levator scapulae's role during scap push-ups is to help during the transition from the protraction and retraction stages.



What's the difference between protraction and retraction?

Protraction spreads the shoulder blades outward from the spine, whereas retraction pulls them inward to the spine. Protraction uses the serratus anterior, whereas retraction uses the rhomboids and mid traps.


What are the benefits of scapular push-ups?

Scapular push-ups are great for improving shoulder stability. This will keep your shoulder blades in better alignment while promoting proper form and reducing injury in upper body movements. 

Are scapular pull-ups better than scap push-ups?

Scapular push-ups are more effective for restoring scapula stability and targeting the serratus anterior, which assists in shoulder mobility and injury prevention. 

Scap pull-ups rotate the shoulder blades at a different angle which means a few things. They’re designed to improve scapular retraction and develop the upper back muscles, which are essential for good posture and shoulder mechanics. Scap push-ups place a higher emphasis on protraction. 

One isn't necessarily better than the other, your choice relies on your fitness goals.


How do I release a knot behind my shoulder blade?

Release the muscle knot by breaking up the tight tissue with a lacrosse ball or deep tissue massage tool. When you find the knot/trigger point hold for 15+ seconds and allow your muscle to sink into the ball or tool.

Do this for a couple of sets followed by stretching and strengthening exercises.


[1] Donnelly, Joseph M. Travell, Simons & Simons Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: the Trigger Point Manual. 3rd ed., Wolters Kluwer Health, 2019.

[2] Davies, Clair, and Amber Davies. The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Relief. 3rd ed., New Harbinger Publications, Inc., 2013.

Leave a comment

Subscribe to our newsletter

Receive emails every few days with back pain relief tips, testimonials, and resources