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  • Writer's pictureKeep It Moving PT & Wellness

Week 39: Scapular Depression Isometrics

Updated: May 19

Exercise: Scapular Depression Isometrics 

Purpose: To activate the muscles that depress and posteriorly tip the scapula while inhibiting the upper trap and shoulder muscles from dominating the movement

What It Targets: Activation of the Scapular Depressor Muscles: Primarily the Lower Trapezius, with assistance from the Latissimus Dorsi, Serratus Anterior, and the Pectoralis Major and Minor


  1. Sit on a chair with your elbow and forearm resting on a stable surface that is just below shoulder height, with your palm facing down.

  2. With your elbow mainly straight without being rigid, slide your palm back so your shoulder blade is in a comfortable neutral position, halfway between protraction (reaching forward) and retraction (reaching backward).

  3. Keep the arm and shoulder completely relaxed.

  4. With intention to activate the muscles on the under side of your shoulder blade and side of your trunk, press your palm and elbow lightly into the table.

  5. You should primarily feel the muscles just below the armpit, and keeping the muscles on the top of your shoulder and neck completely relaxed.

  6. Press lightly while only activating the target muscles.

  7. Hold for as long as prescribed. Repeat as many times as prescribed. 

Main Cues:

  • Less is more in regard to the force

  • You should primarily feel the muscles just below the armpit firing

  • Keep the muscles on the top of your shoulder and neck completely relaxed

  • Do not arch your back or bend your trunk to the side

Common Compensations/Adverse Effects: 

  • Tensing/activation of the neck and shoulder 

Correction: Use less force until you only feel activation just under your armpit; Conscientiously avoid using your neck and shoulder muscles; Change your arm position by sliding your arm forward or backward

  • Feeling burning or nerve tension in your neck/shoulder

Correction: Decrease the excursion of the shoulder blade movement; Decrease the level of force used; Raise or lower the height of the surface so it is more comfortable; Conscientiously avoid using your neck and shoulder muscles

Why We Love It:

  • Activates muscles that are often weak and inhibited to produce a movement that is often lost but very crucial for shoulder and neck health

  • Helps to establish proper muscle firing mechanics to lay a solid foundation for harder scapular/shoulder exercises 

  • Is a low threshold exercise to decompress the neck and shoulder 

*Disclaimer: Not all exercises are suitable for everyone, and participation in novel activities may increase the risk of adverse effects such as pain, soreness, or injury. Please consult with your Physician or a local Physical Therapist prior to attempting any exercise you feel uncomfortable performing. If adverse reactions occur, discontinue performance of the exercise and consult your physician or trusted clinician for evaluation.

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