Home Baseball Content Regaining Scapular Control: Always Good Intentions, Often Bad Technique

Regaining Scapular Control: Always Good Intentions, Often Bad Technique

Written on September 18, 2013 at 2:18 pm, by Eric Cressey

The prone 1-arm trap raise (also known as the prone Y) is one of my favorite arm care drills. Unfortunately, it's also a drill that can be performed incorrectly in a number of different ways.  Additionally, as with most exercises, there's a big difference between "decent" and "optimal," and when it comes to taking care of throwing arms, even the most subtle adjustment can reduce injury risk or take away someone's pain.  A key part of being able to adjust on the fly is to appreciate how an athlete's resting posture looks.

With all these important considerations in mind, check out this detailed video tutorial so that you can make the most of this awesome exercise.

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  • Hey Eric. We just started training a group of high school softball girls at our facility. One of the pitchers already has a huge arm length discrepancy in her throwing arm. When she raises her arms over head, her throwing arm is tremendously shorter than her non-throwing arm. I’m guessing this is a similar situation with her Lats/Serratus being over active from the under throwing motion and her upper traps being under active. Could you explain this or provide a link or some corrective drills for this?

  • Seb

    Very good post Eric. Nice cues and very good explanation. Your blogs has really been enriching my work as a physio here in switzerland. Do you ever come over to Europe for talks? Thanks, Seb

  • Thanks, Seb. I make it over there here and there, but it’s been a while!

  • Brady,

    She’s likely lacking in scapular upward rotation or just limited in shoulder flexion. This is a good start: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e5-rB6bYBr8

  • Thanks Eric, very timely. This is one thing that’s pretty tough for me. Has taken me a good 2 months of focus to finally be feeling it in the right place and even then, some sets it just doesn’t happen.

    So to anyone reading, just be patient and persevere, like you would when working on your squats. 🙂

  • Susan

    What usually is the problem if there is pain in the top of the shoulder and the arm feels like it is going out of the socket? Has been working with Biomechanical therapist but position just won’t hold. The scapula keep off ribs. He is freshman In college and having x-rays/mri to find out problem but I think something maybe you could explain.
    Thanks

  • Hi Eric,

    Great vid and cues. I was able to train extensively with Shirley Sahrmann last year, and this is spot on. It’s funny how many people have depressed DR scaps, and actually benefit greatly from some- gasp- elevation. Yep, I learned upper trap facilitation techniques. I have had numerous patients who had been told to stretch the upper trap, further perpetuating their movement dysfunctions, and further shortening their lats.

  • Jennifer

    I really appreciate this post and many others. Your direction on shoulders has been indispensable to me in rehabbing my own shoulders. I have tried some YTWL circuits with little success or understanding of why they didn’t do anything. Again, this was tremendously helpful.

  • Joe

    Eric does your shoulder protection/strengthening program apply to a youth football middle school QB that wants to play this position in high school?

  • Great explanation of a seemingly simple exercise that so many people get wrong (and can actually exacerbate the problem) because they don’t understand the nuances. Thanks!

  • John

    This is such a great video. This position is difficult for a lot of young athletes to get that rotation from the scap. This is great to teach how to get that scap rotation vs. the GH. You EC are the man. Thanks for all the information you provide for others.

  • Kevin

    Thanks for the tips. I have had shoulder and low back issues that PT’s did not seem to be able to address until I found the NNM series you published. Low-Trap inhibition/weakness was/is a big problem for me. Hi-lighting the activation cues and doing one arm at-a-time has enabled me to complete the correct motion.

  • Ryan

    Hey Eric, awesome stuff! Just curious if you can do this with arms by your sides? Maybe it would help the focus of the scapula over the shoulder. Thanks!

  • Brent

    Eric,

    How would you cue a client to posteriorly rotate the scap? Or maybe more often than not, the trainer needs to do it manually?

    Also, is this drill counterproductive for really kyphotic people? Wouldn’t kyphosis inhibit the ability for the scap to effectively upwardly rotate to begin with?

    I’ll be at the Seattle seminar next month, so I’ll just add this to my list of questions. Plus I have a wicked kyphosis that I’m sure you can fix on the spot. Ha 🙂

  • Nige

    Hi Eric,
    Great video blog. I am a PT and coach in New Zealand and follow your blogs a lot, they’re very informative and useful. However, I’ve found with this exercise and its purpose, a lot of people don’t have the control to activate lower traps to rotate the scapula inwards in this position, and resort to glenhohumeral movement rather than scapula, or major shoulder elevation through often over dominant upper traps. Is this because the shoulders ROM is actually between 0-140deg of shoulder flexion with the remaining 40deg coming from thoracic extension with some elevation???
    So, I find it easier to set the torso up on an incline bench of around 15-45deg, perform the same movement, but up to that 140deg flexion mark, without forcing the extra ROM through the thoracic spine and therefore majorly elevating the shoulder and activating the upper traps. This also loads the mid and lower traps the greatest near the 140deg according the torque-curve angle, which is where (or normally well beyond this angle) it seems most people fall into compensation movements/or loose control of scapular rotation.
    But now, after watching this video, the way I have been setting people up seems to be really focused on very dysfunctional folk who just need to learn to activate the lower/mid traps without compensation (or risk of). Then this seems like a logical progression from what I’ve been doing to start including more natural/functional movements through greater ROM’s. Your thoughts Eric? Thanks

  • Scott

    Great video. Do you find that doing 1 arm trap raises in a standing position is a good regression for those for whom it’s difficult to do these in a lying-down position?

  • Scott,

    If someone is struggling, I’ll regress it to the versions with the elbows flexed – as demonstrated later in the video.

  • Nige,

    We’ll do some of the prone work on the incline bench as well, but not until they’re really good in prone.  That said, I don’t think upper trap is as evil as people think. It gets a bad rap because of the shrugging compensation pattern in people with cuff tears, but it’s still an important part of scapular upward rotation.  You can’t only fire lower trap and not get some upper trap, and if you’re in heavy scapular depression (not saying that’s the case with your patients, but it is with a lot of the throwers I see), upper trap activation can be a game changer.

  • Ryan,

    Yes, but it kind of defeats the point, as we’re looking to educate folks on scapular posterior tilt and upward rotation so that they can get through humeral elevation without pain/dysfunction.

  • Susan,

    That typically means that folks are not getting the scapula posteriorly tilted enough, so he’ll impinge in the front and feel like he’s riding up with the humeral head.  I’d regress the movement to make sure he’s only feeling it in the lower traps.

  • Joe,

    Absolutely. Good movement is good movement, and all throwers fit this bill.

  • Brent,

    1. Yes, manual positioning is huge.

    2. Yes, it can make it a difficult one to teach. May need to regress to prone horizontal abduction, or even get them up standing in scaption.

    See you soon!

  • Jake

    Great post! One quick question as it relates to the beginning of the video. If an athlete was able to optimally perform this arm care drill throughout the season on their own, to counteract the demands of the throwing season, continually working on upward rotation – would they be better off? What makes this an off season exercise?

  • kyle

    Great info as always! if out in the field, can this be done (single arm) on hands and knees?

  • Kyle,

    Yes, that should be okay.

  • Jake,

    We definitely do this during the season.


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