Part 3: Poor Scapular Control

In the first two parts of this series we learned about shoulder internal rotation and thoracic extension, and how limitations with these movements can quickly create shoulder pain in the swimmer. So let’s talk about the other common problem I see in swimmers who have shoulder pain: poor scapular control. Quick anatomy lesson: the scapula is your shoulder blade. If the athlete does not have complete control of the shoulder blade while swimming, eventual shoulder pain will be the end result.

Improving scapular motor control is simple in theory, but it takes work and consistency. And I recommend that every competitive swimmer spend time working on it, daily. Before I show you how to train it, one important note must be realized: you will have difficulty training scapular motor control if you have limitations with your shoulder IR or thoracic mobility. This brings this blog series full circle; make sure you are addressing mobility limitations if you want your scapular control training to be most effective. Look back at parts 1 and 2 of this series for more information.

Now, check out the videos below to learn a few good exercises to improve scapular motor control and strength.

Prone Scapular Retractions

Banded Exercises (Cross Over Symmetry)

Cross over symmetry or equivalent is a must that I recommend every swimmer have at home and/or in their swim bag and use it regularly! I typically recommend the athlete perform the above exercises at least 3x per week as a workout and utilize as warm ups prior to practice or a swim meet.

Thanks again for reading. Please reach out to me with any questions. 423 243 0394. If you continue with shoulder pain during swim activity, you need to come in to AJ Physical Therapy for a full evaluation so we can make a game plan to get you better!

Andy Johnson PT, DPT, OCS


©2019 by Proudly created with