EMG analysis of the scapular muscles during a shoulder rehabilitation program

Am J Sports Med. Mar-Apr 1992;20(2):128-34. doi: 10.1177/036354659202000206.


The purpose of this study was to determine which exercises most effectively use the scapular muscles. Eight muscles in 9 healthy subjects were studied with indwelling electromyographic electrodes and cinematography while performing 16 exercises. The 8 muscles studied were the upper, middle, and lower trapezius; levator scapula; rhomboids; pectoralis minor; and the middle and lower serratus anterior. Each exercise was divided into arcs of motion and the electromyographic activity was quantified as a percentage of the maximal manual muscle test. The optimal exercises for each muscle were identified based on intensity (greater than 50% maximal manual muscle test) and duration (over at least 3 consecutive arcs of motion) of the muscle activity. Twelve of the exercises qualified as top exercises for all of the muscles. On further analysis, a group of 4 exercises was shown to make up the core of a scapular muscle strengthening program. Those 4 exercises include scaption (scapular plane elevation), rowing, push-up with a plus, and press-up.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Electromyography
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Muscles / physiology*
  • Rotation
  • Scapula / physiology*