The importance of upward rotation of the scapula in the snatch
Upward rotation of the scapula is important not just for the snatch but all overhead movements.
Pain when performing overhead movements?
Ever thought it might just be your scapula rotation causing this discomfort? scapula upward rotation prevents compression and shearing forces in your shoulder when humeral elevation occurs in overhead movements such as the snatch (Borsa et al 2003). To allow the snatch to take place the scapula and humerus perform a coupled motion with support by scapula stabilisers, in this instance, upward rotators perform a coupled force motion of upper trapezius, lower trapezius and serratus anterior (Paine et al 2013).
What is the snatch?
The movement of the barbell from the floor to overhead in one jerking motion. This movement requires strength, coordination, explosiveness, mobility and stability (Long 2014). To enable this movement to be performed effectively and pain free, the scapula MUST upwardly rotate (Larsen 2014). This will enable support of the barbell weight and your arms to be suddenly snatched above head (Lo 2014).
Important: This isn’t just for CrossFitters, any movement performed overhead upward scapula rotation MUST occur.
Pain when snatching?
Clinically it has been shown that patients suffering from shoulder impingement suffer from decreased scapula upward rotation (Borsa et al 2003), therefore, showing the importance of this simple scapula movement.
scapula dyskinesis is referred to as abnormal scapula movement such as decreased upward scapula rotation. This could be the root cause to your shoulder pain when snatching, as someone who has scapula dyskinesis is more likely to suffer from shoulder injury (Cools, 2014).
3 types of scapula dyskinesis, which can be identified with the overhead athlete:
- Infero-medial border prominence-downwardly rotated scapula
- Medial border prominence- Inside border of the scapula is ‘asleep’ causing scapula winging
- Supero-medial border prominence- upwardly rotated scapula
These scapula dyskinesis cause altered biomechanics to occur affecting your full performance potential for the snatch and increasing your risk of injury.
Been told to keep your scapula down?
This is the worst thing you could do in overhead movements. The downward rotators can cause a common destructive force to your shoulder. This enhances type 1 scapula dyskinesis where downward rotators are turned up (pectoral minor, rhomboids, levator scapulae) and upward rotators are turned down (lower trapezius, serratus anterior, upper trapezius) (Larsen 2014) enhancing your probability of injury.
scapula stabilisers should be trained to work together to allow upward rotation on elevation of arms and downward rotation on lowering of arms.
Decreased upward scapula rotation increase the chances of…
1) Increased shearing forces through the joint (Lo 2014)
2) Decreased space inside glenohumeral joint (shoulder) with elevation of arms (Sayce 2011)
3) Increased downward scapula rotation= increased downward force on acromion (Larsen 2014) leading to decreased subacromial space (space between humerus and acromion where important structures lie etc. your rotator cuff and subacromial bursa)
4) Upper trapezius becoming less effective in maintaining upward rotation due to dominance over downward rotators= enhanced downward rotation (Larsen 2014)
5) Weakness in scapula stabilizers leads to altered shoulder biomechanics (Paine et al 2013).
This could lead to the feeling of…
Pinching? Sharp pain? Discomfort?
Common injuries related to decreased upward scapula rotation
1) Subacromial impingent- compression of subacromial structures
2) Neural structures overloaded
3) External rotator cuff overload of supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor
4) Damage to subacromial bursa (subacromial bursa: a synovial cavity below your acromion)
5) Damage to the glenohumeral labrum (glenohumeral labrum: fibrocartilaginous rim attached around glenoid rim adding stability to the joint)
This blog outlines the importance of upward scapula rotation in the snatch. Any questions don’t hesitate to ask.
Thank you for reading and enjoy happy pain free training!
BSc Sports Therapy
Borsa, P.A; Timmons, M.K; Sauers, E.L. (2003). scapula positioning patterns during humeral elevation in unimpaired shoulders. J Athl Train. 38 (1), pp.12-17.
Cools, A (2014) Unruly scapula assessment and retraining. Physioedge podcast. Accessed 24/2/15
Lo, A (2014) CrossFit Injuries. Physioedge podcast. Accessed 26/2/15
Larsen, U. (2014) Shoulder rehab. Renovating the house from the inside out. Rehab trainer. 1.
Larsen, U. (2014). The gym junkie’s painful shoulder: an imbalanced ‘house’ that needs a full renovation. Rehab trainer.
Larsen, U. (2014) Shoulder rehab. The 3 renovators. Rehab trainer. 2.
Larsen, U. (2014) Olympic weight lifter shoulder injury. A case study in value of an iso-integration technique. Rehab trainer.
Long, Z. (2014) The full snatch. Olympic lifts.
Paine, R; Voight, M.L. (2013). The role of the scapula. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 8 (5), pp.617-628.
Sayce, T. (2011). The shoulder: what every swim coach/athlete should know-scapula rotation. Shoulder care, Sayco performance athletics.