Scapular push-ups are an overlooked but highly effective exercise you can include in your workouts to build strength and promote shoulder stability. They are the push up that is probably furthest from the classic push-up in terms of form and muscles worked, but still has its place in your upper body workouts.
Read on to learn what the movement is, its benefits, how to perform it, and more. Let’s dive in.
Table of Contents
What Are Scapular Push-Ups?
The scapular push-up, also known as scapula push-ups, is a more advanced variation designed to strengthen the serratus anterior (boxer’s muscle) and promote shoulder stability and health.
Unlike regular push-ups, where the objective is to bend and extend your arms to move up and down, the range of motion here is far shorter, and the goal is to keep your elbows extended from start to finish.
The scapula is the medical term for the shoulder blade. The scapula connects the humerus (bone in upper arm) with the clavicle (collar bone).
How to Perform Scapular Push-Ups (Step-by-Step)
- Get down on all fours.
- Extend your legs and support your lower body on your toes.
- Plant your hands on the floor in a comfortable stance with your fingers pointing forward to prevent flared elbows.
- Engage your abs and squeeze your glutes to straighten your body.
- Inhale and protract your shoulder blades as you push your upper, middle back up to the ceiling. So you are rounding your upper back as much as possible extending your shoulders while keeping your arms straight.
- Hold the position for a moment and slowly lower your upper, middle back down so that your chest is out towards the floor. Pinch your shoulder blades together as you exhale.
- Inhale again and repeat.
Scupular Push Up from Kneeling Position
Motion for a Scapular Push-up: From the start position, slowly move the area of your upper back that is between your shoulder blades to the UP position so that your shoulders are extended. Hold for 2 seconds, and then lower that same area to the down position so that your chest is OUT towards the floor.
The Benefits of Scapular Push-Ups
The first and most notable benefit of a scapular push-up is improved scapular stability, which allows the shoulder blades to stay in position during various activities. As a result, you would feel more stable and be at a lower risk of injuries. (1)
Second, scapular push-ups do a fantastic job of strengthening the muscles surrounding the scapula (upper back), improving your posture, and reducing the risk of rounded shoulders, even if you work a desk job.
Third, scapular push-ups can promote rotator cuff health. The controlled motion of this push-up variation develops the rotator cuff muscles, which can be prone to injuries. (2)
Finally, scapula push-ups are fantastic for developing the serratus anterior muscle that’s often overlooked in fitness programs. That muscle is essential for shoulder protraction and health. It also contributes to upper body aesthetics, especially in leaner trainees.
Primary Muscles Worked 💪
- Muscles around the scapula (upper back)
- Rotator cuff muscles
Secondary Muscles Worked 💪
- Serratus Anterior muscle
Safety Tips and Final Considerations
Despite the limited range of motion, warming up well before training is crucial. Do some light cardio (e.g., treadmill walking) and dynamic stretching to prepare your body and optimize your performance.
Also, move between scapular protraction and retraction slowly to fully engage the correct muscles. Scan for potential aches and stop the set if you feel discomfort that goes beyond muscular fatigue. (3)
Next up, aim for gradual progression. Small and steady improvements in your performance can add up tremendously over the upcoming months, so don’t feel the need to do the exercise daily or attempt to double your training volume from week to week.
Finally, remember that scapular push-ups are just one movement. Combine them with other chest and shoulder exercises for the best results. Good activities to pair with this push-up variation include overhead presses, regular push-ups, lateral raises, and face pulls.
A balanced approach to training will ensure better growth, strength gain, and longevity in the gym.
Here are some more push-ups to round out your full range in a complete push-up workout:
- Classic Push-ups
- Decline Push-ups
- Diamond Push-ups
- Incline Push-ups
- Pseudo Push-ups
- Complete Push-up Workout
Click to return to all bodyweight exercises.
- Paine, R., & Voight, M. L. (2013, October). The role of the Scapula. International journal of sports physical therapy. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3811730/
- Hecht, M. (2019, November 26). Rotator cuff anatomy: Muscles, function, and pictures. Healthline.
MediLexicon International. (n.d.). Muscle fatigue: Causes and treatments. Medical News Today.