Scapular Control and Fixing the Overhead Squat : A Case Study

Scapular Control and Fixing the Overhead Squat : A Case Study

There is a lot of discussion right now in the rehab to performance worlds on the need for scapular control. While many argue about the importance of the scapula, I believe it is the foundation of proper shoulder mechanics and the following case study is a great example of how improving scapular control can improve performance.

I recently treated a CrossFit who was having significant difficulty with the overhead squat and snatch. Anytime he put weight on the barbell, his left shoulder would elevate significantly higher than his right, throwing his strength off and resulting in lots of missed lifts (see below). Significant time spent address mobility around his shoulder hadn’t helped improve his technique, and although his shoulder wasn’t painful, the athlete needed this problem to be fixed.



Upon analysis of his overhead squat with a PVC pipe and during shoulder passthroughs, we could immediately see a difference in muscle size of the lower traps compared to the upper leading us to the hypothesis that this imbalance was causing the upper traps to work overtime in upwardly rotating the scapula and the entire scapula being excessively elevated as a result.

Range of motion testing was all within normal limits for him to perform all CrossFit movements without problem.

The following plan evened out this athlete’s shoulder imbalance and has done the same for many other athletes dealing with the same issue.


Strengthening Scapula Controllers

Week One:

Pushup With a Plus On Wall 3×15 for serratus anterior activation.

Wall Slides 3×15

Prone Y 3×15

KB Overhead Carries


Week Two:

Once some level of scapular awareness was present, we progressed to the following exercises that require increased coordination.

Face Pull Overhead Squat x3sets

Prone Foam Roll

Crawling for coordinated closed kinetic chain strengthening of the scapula stabilizers

Foam Roll Up Wall

Pushup Plus from the floor – now that the athlete demonstrated the ability to perform isolated scapular protraction, we progressed to this variation.

This week his overhead squat looked better than the before picture, but you can still note the scapular elevation:


Week Three and Beyond: Continued progression of the above exercises and began resuming light overhead work. As you can see in the video below, significant muscle shaking continued on the left side but this will clear up with continued isolated strengthening of the scapular stabilizers.