Warming up prior to intense activity is a given, no matter the sport or event. One key area baseball and softball athletes should focus on is between their shoulder blades. But to activate your scapular musculature, or scaps, you first need to know how to engage them.
Because they lie between your shoulder blades, your scaps can be difficult to activate. In order to engage these muscles, you should pinch your shoulder blades together – a move called a retraction – and then continue your exercise. “Anytime we pull, whether it be a lat pulldown or a row, we make sure we retract first,” says Frank Velasquez, director of sports performance for Allegheny Health Network.
There are seven exercises Velasquez recommends for your scap activation program. He has them broken down into two parts. The first four exercises will require you to use a small piece of resistance tubing gripped at both ends. To begin the first exercise, extend your arms and hold them above your head, keeping them straight, with your palms facing up. Retract your shoulder blades and then pull the tubing apart toward your forehead. Control the tubing as you bring your arms back together. Complete eight to 10 more repetitions to finish this exercise.
The next two tubing exercises will mix up the angles on your tubing flys. Velasquez says to begin at chest-level with a retraction, “Pinch and pull, back under control [and] relax.” The third straight-armed tubing fly will be at your beltline. Perform both your chest and belt pulls for eight to 10 repetitions before moving on.
To close your resistance tubing workout for scap activation, bend your arms with your elbows at your side. Shorten your grip on the tubing, retract your shoulder blades and pull your hands apart. Again, do this for eight to 10 repetitions to round out your routine.
For the second phase of scapular activation, you’ll need a six-inch box. You’ll do three exercises with this, beginning with Velasquez’s six-inch box scap walk. First, place yourself in a high push-up position with the box in front of you. Next, walk up onto the box with your hands, leading with your right and following with your left. Descend from the box in the same fashion. After five reps with the right hand, go ahead and mix things up by completing five more reps leading with the left.
Velasquez then notes to transition to a lateral step with the box between your arms. This will be your next scapular activation exercise. Again, you should complete five repetitions with each hand leading.
“Your final program here with the six-inch box is our scap punch,” Velasquez says. The goal, according to Velasquez, is to line up diagonally from the box corner and step up on the edge. Push your body up from the ground entirely on the one hand. After eight to 10 reps per side, your six-inch box scapular activation program is complete.