Search the Blog

Our Ebook on Fatigue

Adin Book cover Georgia

Follow Me

Subscribe by Email

Your email:

Current Articles | RSS Feed RSS Feed

Scapula Winging | Weak Serratus Anterior | Weak Rhomboids




Understanding the causes of scapula winging is crucial to your shoulder health, both from a prevention and treatment perspective.

Causes of Scapula Winging

Scapula winging can be caused due to a long thoracic nerve injury, which typically is a result of blunt trauma to the neck and or shoulder area. A virus could also affect the long thoracic nerve causing scapula winging. I recommend having your doctor or an orthopedic specialist rule out nerve damage from blunt trauma or a virus which may be causing scapula winging before exploring corrective exercises.

If the factors in the above paragraph have been ruled out, the main cause of weakness in serratus anterior is when the rhomboid and levator scapulae muscles are shortened. This problem exists in those who often have poor posture when performing computer work; particularly those who carry stress in their neck. Often people subconsciously contract their shoulders in an upward fashion when stressed out. Additionally, poor form during weight training and improper exercise selection can contribute to anterior serratus weakening.

When the rhomboids and levator scapulae are too tight, it causes a lengthening of the serratus anterior. In most cases, when the origin and insertion of a muscle gets pulled further apart, it has a weakening effect. If the serratus anterior is weak, conditioning it is important because it keeps the scapula (shoulder blade) flush up against the thoracic cavity, preventing scapular winging. During pressing movements such as pushups, a strong anterior serratus keeps the scapula in check. If the scapula wings during a pressing movement, it is important to temporarily stop most pressing movements and implement serratus anterior exercises and other muscles that correct the problem.

Before selecting exercises to specifically strengthen serratus anterior, assess whether or not the serratus is in fact weak. Without hiring a professional to determine a protocol for a winged scapula, one can easily make the mistake of going online to find numerous articles reporting “strengthing the anterior serratus will help or solve a winged scapula.” In some cases a recipe approach like can worsen the problem.

For example if the scapula is in a protracted position at rest (static posture), and the pec minor is tight, anterior serratus conditioning is not the first line of defense in correcting a winged scapula. In this case, restoring strength of the rhomboids, lower, middle and possibly upper traps are priority. Also, stretching of the levator scapula alongside some soft tissue work may be necessary.

Knowing the difference between a tipped and winged scapula is crucial to correcting scapula problems.

A forward tipping of the scapula is often misdiagnosed as scapula winging. Scapula tipping is caused by a shortening of the pec minor muscle. Tipping of the scapula happens when the inferior angle (bottom corner) juts out. See Image below bottom corner of shoulder left:

Scapula Tilting with Slight Scapula Winging

Scapula Tilting

In scapula winging, the lateral border and inferior angle will displace itself from the thoracic cavity (see image below)

Scapula Winging

Scapula Winging

It is possible to have both tipping and winging of the scapula, which means there are an increased number of dysfunctions in the shoulder girdle to correct.

After getting your scapula checked out by a specialist and he or she determines you need strengthening of serratus anterior, please contact us and one of our trainers can help you correct the weakness or dysfunction in that muscle. The second best option is to check out the below serratus anterior strengthening video exercise series (Please note there are five progressions):




Physical Therapy of The Shoulder, Robert A. Donatelli

Premier Personal Training: Expert Personal Trainers serving Palo Alto,Los Altos, Mountain View, Menlo Park, Atherton & vicinity.

Weight Loss, Rehabilitation, Nutrition and Fitness Services.


I have both tilted scapula and winging. Only in my left scapula tho? iv been focused on correcting this. I notice when i stand straight up it is less visible if not invisible. so do you think it may be due to bad posture while standing? iv been trying to train myself to stand straight up but sometimes i forget.
Posted @ Tuesday, November 06, 2012 6:48 PM by Deven
Deven -- Strengthening the anterior serratus muscle is a large part of what will help you correct a winged and tilted scapula. 
One exercise you could start out with are lying shoulder protractions (see video link) 
Posted @ Friday, November 09, 2012 12:48 PM by Adin Smith
Thaank you ill give this a try. Hopefullyit works
Posted @ Friday, November 09, 2012 11:47 PM by Deven
I have shouder problems since 2010. ...
Posted @ Monday, March 18, 2013 12:19 PM by Mike
hi have a winged scapula and would appreciate advise! Thanks
Posted @ Monday, March 18, 2013 1:22 PM by Taylor Bucciarelli
Please reference our YouTube channel for more specific exercises regarding the shoulder girdle. Scapula winging needs a clinical diagnosis and would need to be done with a physical therapist -- on site.
Posted @ Monday, March 18, 2013 1:52 PM by Adin Smith
How can we assess a winged scapula.. it is not by week serratus.. which doctor specializes in this before judging the week serratus.
Posted @ Wednesday, April 03, 2013 8:01 PM by maria balasco
What are your recommendations if the doctor has judged the failure of the long thoracic nerve to be permanent? Is there anyway to stimulate or strengthen the serratus anterior muscle?
Posted @ Friday, April 05, 2013 6:29 PM by Karrunguni
Im a junior bodybuilder at 240lbs, i believe i have tipping of the scapula, because when i look in the mirror from the side (static, relaxed), it looks like my lats are huge and that they point out and away from my thoric wall, sort of.. I have never done any exercises for the serratus anterior until lately. Would strengthening this muscle help me in my case, or is this someting else? Also, when i tuck my shoulders back and down during bench press, flyes, pec decks etc my scapula points out.. It bugs me, because it ruins my looks, but my shoulders are fine and my mobility is good. Please help me out, thanks
Posted @ Sunday, May 05, 2013 11:23 AM by Johannes
If you send us a picture of all angles of your upper quarter (chest/torso, side and back) We can respond with some more detailed info for you. Email us at  
It could be your scapula that is influencing your appearance. Common symmetry imbalances in bodybuilding are due to not enough rhomboid, mid-lower trap and rear deltoid exercises (regarding the upper body).
Posted @ Tuesday, May 07, 2013 1:10 PM by Adin Smith
Hi I am pretty sure my scapula are tilted. Only from I side view does it look as if they stick out. Should I strengthen my serratus anterior or does scapula tilting require a different type of strenthening/therapy
Posted @ Monday, February 24, 2014 5:39 PM by marcel
RE: Marcel 
Serratus anterior exercise can help with scapula winging. Usually when someone has one pathology -- more exist. For example, it is not uncommon for the pectoralis minor, subscapularis to be drawn taught with muscles infraspinatus to become lengthened alongside the rhomboids. The lats function as medial rotators and depressors, so if they are taught -- this can also commonly contribute to scapula pathologies. My suggestion is to have your shoulder mechanics evaluated in order for you to be able to specifically target your issue. Otherwise, just assume that you have tight lats, pec minor and subscap alongside weak and lengthened infraspinatus and rhomboids, serratus anterior and and teres minor/major and train accordingly. Lastly, I would suggest you download or shoulder video as this will inevitably answer many of your questions.  
Posted @ Monday, February 24, 2014 5:51 PM by Adin Smith
I have a few questions regarding my scapula. My scapula only protrudes from the bottom part of the scapula. Almost appears as the bottom portion is protruding out and slightly up. I'm a 17 year old bodybuilder and had to cancel a competition due to the fact that this caused a huge muscle imbalance in my back. This is a huge issue for me and I've been trying to correct it by doing exercises for winged Sapulpa. My question is does this sound like winged Scapula of am I dealing with something totally different? Would seriously appreciate some feedback, thanks.
Posted @ Thursday, December 04, 2014 3:30 AM by Jacob
Also it doesn't seem as if I have weak Serratus anterior muscle because it is fully developed. Seems quite odd. I don't really know how to go about fixing this issue. Dont really know what caused either.
Posted @ Thursday, December 04, 2014 3:41 AM by Jacob
I think I got a nerve injury six years back and my Serratus sort of switched off. Have constant pain at the junction of my Levator and scapula attachment and my rhomboids. Suspecting Serratus weakness, I started doing the exercise above and have seen some improvement. Can I ask as to how long it would take to regain strength in the Serratus?
Posted @ Tuesday, December 09, 2014 1:23 PM by Ven
Hi my names James I'm 18 years old and I supposedly have a winged scapula I went to a doctor and he gave me exercises for the past 4 months and it doesn't seem to be corrected I don't know what else to do, I've looked online and seen some pictures of others and mine doesn't look near as worse I'm not really sure what to do because the doctor is not a people person can you please help me out
Posted @ Thursday, December 18, 2014 3:43 AM by James lyons
my granddaughter was born with houlder dysplasia and erb's palsy on the right side . she has scoliosis and a winged scapula. the curve is pretty severe but is an equal curve on top and bottom (S ) curve. the dr says surgery is not necessary. however she is 14 yrs old and the winged scapula has caused a lot of anxiety and low self esteem. is there a certain exercise she can perform to lessen the winged scapula? she does pilates and ballet and has a lot of flexibility.
Posted @ Friday, December 19, 2014 1:13 PM by Linda Hynes
You should we a neurologist. The classic presentation if I you put your hand at your side and raise it forward in a straight line above your head in front of you. If you can get your hand so that it is full extended perpendicular to the ground that indicates a failure of the nerve. If caught early enough there are ways to repair the nerve.
Posted @ Friday, December 19, 2014 1:28 PM by Bruce
Hi My wing story is epic, I am approaching the 26th month of my diagnosis, and just now finally getting directed to a surgeon as the past two years have been quite an interesting sequence of truly unbelievable events. I lost my whole family because they don't believe that I really have the condition, I went from working a desk job making big bucks, working out and running everyday, living in a house 1/4 of a mile from the beach about a year ago, to present where I'm currently homeless, I've lost everything and I can't leave the couch due to the pain and twitching that plagues my chest, shoulder, neck, side and of course my shoulder/back. I'm on my 6th dr, and I've just about lost my mind. Hopefully the surgeon I am meeting with tomorrow will be better than the Drs before him. I can't live this way anymore, I'm not a chicken. There is so much more to the story butt I wanted to share my journey with some like wing-Ed folks and also to leave a message out there so the world knows that this can get really bad if you don't have a spontaneous recovery, and you let it go, all the while still trying to be the superman you were before someone stole your wing. I'm damaged so much more by overusing and abusing my shoulder far beyond the prescribed time frame. Truly it was just annoying and painful once in a while up until about 3 months ago, now I can't use my right side. Keep your fingers crossed
Posted @ Thursday, April 16, 2015 2:15 AM by Jason Nefores
Post Comment
Website (optional)

Allowed tags: <a> link, <b> bold, <i> italics