Learn how the "Scap" plays a huge role in throwing and hitting harder.
Most athletes probably have no idea where or what their scapula is and certainly don't understand what it has to do with arm, bat, ball, club-head, hammer, javelin, puck, racquet, shot, stick or the speed of any other sports implement. This article will define what the scapula is and how it's used to increase performance and prevent injuries for rotational athletes who turn their body’s to throw or hit.
In some sports training environments a few athletes have been or maybe are being introduced to a term called “scap load” and a few lucky athletes are being taught how to load or move their scap (scapula) as part of their throwing or hitting mechanics and training.
The scapula is the anatomical name for the bone that is also known as the shoulder blade. The scapula, or “scap” for short, is part of the shoulder joint. In fact, the scapula and the upper arm bone (the humerus), together, form the shoulder joint.
The Position and Movement of the Shoulder Blade - “Scap Load”
For a right handed thrower, the right shoulder blade or scapula should ideally lay flat on top of the ribs on the backside of the body (when the athlete’s arm is by their side in a seated position).
But for many hitters or throwers, the right scapula does not lay flat on top of the ribs and many times doesn’t move correctly, either.
This is often the result of weakness in some of the muscles underneath and below the shoulder blade. For many rotational athletes, this ultimately reduces how hard they can throw or hit a ball or other sports implement and it can be the cause of pain and can lead to shoulder injuries, as well.
When the shoulder blade lays flat on the rib cage and moves correctly, the shoulder blade and upper arm move into a position where the right pectoralis major chest muscle is stretched (loaded) which allows the athlete to use the great strength of there large and powerful chest muscle to hit or throw with more force, power and arm speed.
Winged, Tipped & Rotated Scaps
So many young developing athletes have shoulder blades that, instead of laying flat down against their ribs, are rotated forwards or inwards or just aren’t positioned on the ribs as they should or don’t move over the ribs as they should, either.
Look at the position of your athletes scaps and look for these very common issues:
1. Winged Scaps - the scapula is rotated inwards so the back of the scapula looks like a little wing coming out of the athlete’s ribs.
2. Tipped Scaps - the scapula is rotated forwards so the bottom of the scap is tipped forwards off of the athlete’s ribs.
If you see these winged or tipped scaps, ideally the athlete needs to learn how to use the correct small muscles to make the scapula sit flat down on the rib cage as the athlete throws or hits a sports implement. This will dramatically improve their throwing mechanics, increase arm or implement speed and allow the athlete to exert a lot less effort to create greater hitting or throwing power and speed, and maybe most importantly, reduce the stress on the hitting or throwing shoulder and arm.
“Scap Load” - Connecting the Scapula and Rib Cage
We teach athletes to feel how to move the right scap (scapula) and position it where it lies flat down against the rib cage. When this happens correctly, we tell them that the scap is “connected” to their rib cage and want them to learn the FEEL for how to connect it for part of their hitting or throwing motion.
We typically see 2-4 mph increases in ball velocity when the athlete learns how to stay connected and the athlete can feel the difference in their ability to throw at higher velocities with much dramatically less effort.
Connecting the Scap to the Shoulder Turn
In the first part of the throwing or hitting motion, a right handed thrower or hitter turns the shoulders to their right in a motion many call the load phase. This turn of the shoulders and load stretches many big powerful muscles and other elastic tissues of the spine, core and upper body that will help the athlete develop more arm & implement speed.
Initiate the Shoulder Turn with the Right Scap
We teach throwers and hitters to initiate the shoulder turn to their right with their right shoulder blade.
We simply stand behind them and place a hand on their right scap and have them push the right scap into our hand to initiate the right shoulder turn.
The next step is to engage the muscles of the right scap to pull it down flat against the rib cage as they complete their turn and move their right arm and shoulder into what’s called “external rotation”.
Throwers and hitters are instructed to keep their right scap connected to their rib cage until they get to the ball release point in their throwing or hitting motion. At the release point, the shoulder blade should naturally move forwards, so the athlete is instructed to allow the right scap to disconnect from the rib cage.
Strengthening the Scap Connection
We place a PC360 arm cuff above the athlete’s throwing elbow and connect a resistance band to the cuff to train the athlete how to engage and strengthen the correct muscles to move the right scapula down flat against the ribs as they go through the throwing motion.
Activate then Hit or Throw
As soon as the hitter or thrower learns how to connect the right scap, using the resistance bands to activate the correct muscles, we have them immediately go hit or throw so they learn how to actually get and stay connected while actually hitting or throwing.
Training the Shoulder Turn
The muscles that stretch and load as the shoulders turn to the right are spine and core muscles and they should be trained at the same time with the scap connection muscles.
We use the PC360 Torso Harness and Arm Cuffs connected to resistance bands to strengthen the spine, core and shoulder blade muscles at the same time. This allows the athlete to build mechanics, strength, power and speed at the same time.
In the Next Article
In the next part of this series, we will show you how we teach & train hitters or throwers to use their core, hips, legs and feet to create even more effortless power, arm & ball speed.