Winged Shoulder blades | What Are They? Exercises and Remedies

Who I am
Robert Maurer

Author and references

By the healthiergang writer , ISSA certified personal trainer and student at SaNIS (School of Nutrition and Sports Integration).

Winged shoulder blades

Gym and posture are traditionally two areas that, in the collective imagination, do not get along well with each other. Is this because the gym is not functional to posture? No. Indeed it is exactly the opposite. Exercise in the gym is the first remedy to compensate for any postural imbalances. Therefore?

So the problem is another. Each subject has more or less pronounced postural imbalances that often derive from imbalances in strength or muscle tone. With muscle strengthening these "forward" muscles:

1. they respond better to the training stimulus;

2. They "steal" work from other weaker muscles.

All this leads to an accentuation of postural imbalances.

After this necessary premise, let's analyze the theme of the winged shoulder blades. This problem is of great importance especially if we consider the large incidence of such paramorphisms in adolescence. However, we immediately see that this incidence is more attenuated on subjects who train [1] which leads to re-evaluate the importance of physical exercise (ie muscle strengthening).

So What Are They?

It is a paramorphism that derives, for the most part, from an incorrect posture in the adolescent period but also from pathological problems [2] [3] [4] [5]. It is therefore associated with a curved back, posture placed before the shoulders, often the subjects have lumbar hyperlordosis. This attitude causes the lower corner and the internal margin of the shoulder blades to move away from the rib cage (with a consequent "wing" aspect). At a muscular level, the problem consists in a hypotonus of the adductors of the shoulder blades (therefore the trapezius, the rhomboid, the large dentate, the angular) and therefore in their inability to keep the shoulder blades fixed to the chest.

Now, this defect is usually minor and tends to regress with growth more or less spontaneously. If underestimated, however, and in the face of a wrong intervention (or of inertia itself) there is a real risk of degeneration and aggravation of the situation.

Prevention and Treatment

Regarding the prevention of the problem, the general concepts apply to any postural paramorphism: balanced physical activity from an early age. In fact, by doing so, you will be able to count on an always active, strong and balanced musculature able to compensate for any incorrect attitudes (eg many hours sitting at school).

Any sports that lead to a kyphotic attitude, such as some swimming styles, should include compensation exercises for the back muscles. In the case of wrong attitudes, it may be good advice to go to a posturologist to correct them as soon as possible.

The treatment consists primarily in strengthening the posterior muscles of the trunk, therefore the great dorsal, posterior deltoids and above all the musculature placed at the adduction of the shoulder blades mentioned above. Logically, everything must be counterbalanced by an exercise also placed on the anterior muscles (shoulders, pectoral major etc.) in short, do not fall back into the opposite problem. Moreover, the winged shoulder blades present a major problem which consists in reducing the training potential of the pectoral major. This because:

  1. the anterior deltoid will “steal” work in the various pushing exercises;

2. the pectoralis major will have difficulty reaching a maximum range of ROM in elongation since the shoulder will be placed in front of it.

All this therefore suggests that we structure the protocol in a synergistic and complete way.

Logically, in severe pathological cases the types of intervention will be clinical and, at times, rather invasive [6] [7] [8] [9] [10].

Exercises And Remedies

Let's see some exercises that can be useful to us.

1. Shrug Kelso

A variant of the classic "shakes" for the trapezius that involves more the adductors of the shoulder blades. The execution involves placing the chest on an inclined bench (45-60 degrees) and performing (with dumbbells or barbell) normal shakes always perpendicular to the ground in order to activate the adductors of the shoulder blades.

In this sense, the greater the inclination, the greater the involvement of the trapezoids since we will find ourselves working more and more in a vertical position.

 2. Scapular adduction with rubber bands

Another classic and excellent exercise for the warm-up. With an elastic in our hands, we position our arms in front of us (in the sagittal plane) and we adduce the shoulder blades with consequent abduction of the humerus and tension of the elastic.

In this case, care must be taken to distinguish the work of the posterior deltoid (which is not an adductor of the scapula) from the target muscles.

3. Three-stroke pulley (Scapular Row)

This exercise (delicate and demanding) involves dividing the execution of the Pulley into two times: the first will consist of an adduction of the shoulder blades, the second in the extension of the humerus by the great dorsal (logically we will also have the flexion of the elbow by the biceps).

Again, considering the load and the tension exerted, one must have good mobility and muscle-joint solidity to perform this exercise.

Program Example

Let's now look at an example of a subject X program that has winged shoulder blades. It will be a generic form in which we are going to train the back and shoulders. Logically it will then be inserted within a general programming.

Warm-up: shoulder mobility exercises with elastic bands, myofascial release especially of the deltoid muscles.

Let's see how we put a lot of emphasis on the back exercise. We do not drop too much repetition using a relatively low load except in the dumbbell row which lends itself to involving a large part of the back muscles and in the kelso shrug which is a specific exercise for the shoulder blade adductors.

The last two exercises involve (with reduced volume) the anterior and medial bundles of the deltoid).


Winged shoulder blades are a concrete problem, they should not be underestimated and treated immediately. Moreover, a balanced and well-studied training protocol in the gym is the basis of a correct postural attitude. Not least you should take care of the attitude in everyday life so try not to stay too bent over and carve out moments to "stretch your legs" and "loosen your shoulders" (this terminology, in everyday and metaphorical use, is very indicative of the problems that can arise).

Lastly, an "appeal" to (new) parents. Taking care of the physical activity of the boy in pre-adolescent age is essential to avoid repercussions and damages that can, in the long term, become real dysmorphisms. After all, we know: “prevention is always better than cure”.

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