Scapular rehabilitation exercises should focus on selective activation of weaker muscles and minimal activation of hyperactive muscles. For rehabilitation of overhead athletes, single-plane open chain exercises below 90° of shoulder elevation are often recommended. Moreover, incorporating the kinetic chain in shoulder rehabilitation exercises is advised and has been suggested to influence scapular muscle activity levels.
To study the influence of kinetic chain incorporation during 5 variations of a shoulder-elevation exercise on scapular muscle activity.
Cross-sectional study.
University laboratory.
Thirty-one asymptomatic participants (15 men, 16 women).
The electromyographic activity of the upper (UT), middle (MT), and lower (LT) trapezius, and serratus anterior was determined during 5 variations of an external-rotation exercise with bilateral elevation: (1) open-hand position (reference exercise), (2) closed-hand position, (3) dynamic bipedal squat, (4) static unipedal squat, and (5) dynamic unipedal squat on the contralateral leg. All data were normalized as a percentage of maximal voluntary isometric contraction (MVIC).
A closed-hand position (exercise 2) instead of an open-hand position (exercise 1) resulted in lower MT (mean difference = 3.44% MVIC) and LT activity (mean difference = 7.76% MVIC). Incorporating the lower limb (exercises 3-5) increased UT activity when compared with exercise 1 (mean differences = 3.67, 2.68, 5.02% MVIC, respectively), which in general resulted in increased UT : MT ratios. Additionally, LT activity decreased when a dynamic unipedal squat was added (mean difference: 4.90% MVIC). For the serratus anterior, the greatest activity occurred during elevation in a static unipedal squat position (exercise 4, 22.90% MVIC).
Incorporating the kinetic chain during shoulder elevation exercises influenced scapular muscle activity and ratios. In particular, incorporating the lower limb resulted in more UT activity, whereas the open-hand position increased MT and LT activity.