Anatomy of the Scapula

Updated on April 15, 2020
blurbedlines profile image

Niall is a Master of Osteopathy working from private clinics in Yorkshire. He provides strength & conditioning and anatomy learning online.

Basic Role and Anatomy of the Scapula

Humans have two scapula bones. Commonly known as the shoulder blade, the scapula is a relatively flat bone which articulates with both the humerus of the upper arm, forming the glenohumeral joint, and the clavicle (collar bone) forming the acromioclavicular joint. Commonly forgotten however, is the glide like articulation formed between the ribs and the scapula, known as the scapulothoracic joint.

By observing the shape of the clavicle, you can identify another key role it provides. Muscular attachment point for stability and leverage! I believe that the Scapula is the most optimal muscle to use to teach students exactly how "Structure governs function." Observe the long grooves in the bone such as the Supraspinous fossa, infraspinous fossa and glenoid fossa. These are perfectly designed to allow individual muscles to implement a broad, extremely durable attachment point to create leverage from the scapula to the upper arm. They're also perfectly orientated to allow the shoulder to move dynamically. You only have to observe the large number of actions the shoulder is capable of (Adduction, abduction, internal rotation and external rotation, flexion and extension, elevation, depression) to gain an insight into how intricate this flat, basic looking bone actually is.

The human scapula
The human scapula | Source

The Muscles

The scapula is one of the largest muscular attachment points of the human body. A total of 17 muscles attach to it! Splitting it all up is important. I will separate the muscles into groups I believe to be a useful way of remembering and making sense of them.

At University I was always told to think of the scapula as "Swimming in a sea of muscle". This really is key to understanding its movements and injuries. The muscles are in charge of the scapula!

— Niall Walsh

Muscular Groupings of the Scapula

The rotator cuff
Arm levers
Medial border
The big ones
Anterior ribs
Biceps Brachii (both heads)
Levator Scapula
Latissimus Dorsi
Pectoralis Minor
Rhomboid Minor
Serratus Anterior
Teres Minor
Teres Major
Rhomboid Major
Triceps Brachii (long head)
Omohyoid (Inferior belly)
My own personal way of remembering them. Some could cross over into different groups.
Trapezius (One of the largest attached muscles)
Trapezius (One of the largest attached muscles) | Source

Key Nerves

The muscles of the scapula are innervated by a number of nerves. These include; accessory nerve (trapezius), dorsal scapula nerve (levator scapula, rhomboid major and minor), long thoracic nerve (Serratus anterior), subscapular nerve, suprascapular nerve and axillary nerve (rotator cuff and deltoid), musculocutaneous nerve (biceps, coracobrachialis), radial nerve (tricep).

One of the most important nerves to note is the long thoracic, as it innervates the serratus anterior muscle. If damaged can lead to the medical condition "winged scapula"

Nerves surrounding the scapula
Nerves surrounding the scapula | Source

Natural Movements and Exercises

Whenever exercise is prescribed, regardless of body part or injury, it should aim to or at least be working towards a functional movement. With any of the shoulder joints this becomes even more important due to its extreme flexibility and range of motion. Movements should be built up slowly and any resistance loaded appropriately. Using a variety of equipment can also provide the random stimulus the body needs to adapt and strengthen. These include resistance bands, kettlebells and dumbbells. Below are some videos incorporating that functional aspect and utilising the scapula to It’s full impressive potential.

These exercises are designed to let the shoulder work hard and effectively and more importantly as a unit! Utilising all those integral muscles that form the rotator cuff as well as the big powerful muscles like the trapezius, deltoid and lats!

  1. Seated Kettlebell “up” hold & press. Best particularly before seated shoulder press or military press as it uses a relatively light weight so doesn’t fatigue the larger muscles you’ll need later with the barbell/dumbbell. Leave your ego’s at home for this one and begin with light kettlebells... you’ll see why once you start. Weight in videos are 16kg for holds, 12kg for press.
  2. Banded retractions & shoulder rotations. Aimed at letting the shoulder blade glide nicely over the ribs and through its sea of muscle without restriction.
  3. Snatch (wide) grip barbell articulation. Letting the barbell slide slightly down the upper back calls for huge external rotation and shoulder retraction, if you’ve been bodybuilding for a few years or you‘re a little immobile you’ll likely struggle with this. So start with a narrower grip and slowly work your way out week after week. Finish with some presses from the position to create a more functional movement! Making the barbell feel light from that deep bottom position down the back, means when it comes to behind the neck press or shoulder press from the usual positon, you’ll be stronger.
  4. Kettlebell “up” Bench. Utilising pectoralis minor and Serratus Anterior.

Shoulder and Scapula Stability Exercises

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers


      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      No comments yet.


      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

      Show Details
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
      ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)