Healthy shoulder function requires a balance of scapular stability, arm flexibility, and good motor control during arm movement. Upward rotation is needed for movements like the shoulder press, push-press, push-jerk, and pull-up – where the arms are overhead inline with the shoulders.
Upward rotation refers to coordinated movement of the scapula and arm during shoulder flexion.
Restoring upward rotation requires a combination of stretching the downward rotators, strengthening the upward rotators (scapular plank pushups, half-kneeling face pulls, overhead shrugs), and training proper shoulder motor control (wall slides). I use the term ‘pack scapula down’ – not to describe a rigid position – but a controlled retraction of the scapula during its upward rotation (see illustration). At the top of the movement – with the arms extended, pull the arms back 2-inches retracting the shoulder blades (part B).
This motion is similar to an overhead barbell shrug where a shrug at the top of the lift is used to enhance upward rotation – as the scapula is controlled by the lower trapezius. After pulling the arms back off the wall (part B) return the arms to the wall and slide them back down to the starting position – maintaining contact with the wall (part C). The wall squat arm slide integrates anterior core stability and thoracic extension with shoulder flexion.
This movement also integrates upper and lower body movement: the low-back remains in contact with the wall as the hips descend into flexion and arms rise. SUSPINE POSITION WITH PT LYING ON BACK, HEAD, AND SHOULDER WITH EXTREMITIES MODERATLY FLEXED, LEGS ARE SOMETIMES EXTENDED.


PT KNEELS SO THAT WEIGHT OF BODY IS SUPPORTED BY THE KNEES AND CHEST WITH ABDOMINEN RAISED, HEAD TURNED TO ONE SIDE AND ARMS FLEXED. The gleno-humeral joint (shoulder joint) is a ball and socket joint where the head of the humerus (arm bone) articulates with the glenoid fossa of the scapula. Wall slides train the muscles surrounding the scapula for both dynamic and static stability – controlling the position of the scapula during arm movement.
Retraction and depression is needed for movements like the overhead squat and snatch – where the arms are abducted (out to the sides) in a wide grip. This 3-to-1 ratio of arm to scapular movement is called scapulo-humeral rhythm – the scapula upwardly rotates 60-degrees during the 120-degrees of shoulder flexion. Focusing on lower trapezius engagement as the scapula rotates out to the side creates this position of dynamic stability. A slight shrug while pulling the arms off the wall engages the upper trapezius for full upward rotation.
This timing of lower and upper trapezius activation takes some practice – the initial focus should be upward rotation without elevating the shoulders (part A of the exercise). The scapula starts in upward rotation during the hang and then returns to a neutral position (downwardly rotates) as you pull up towards the bar. If you move your arms from a shoulder press position out to an overhead squat position – you can feel the slight difference in position of the shoulder blade. Anterior core stability is needed to maintain neutral hips and prevent ribcage flair during overhead lifts.


Note your breathing as you perform a few repetitions – try to breathe into the sides of your lower ribcage. If the scapula is fixated or unable to move in coordination with the arm – shoulder flexion will be limited.
Keeping your forearms in contact with the wall – slide your arms up and out – without shrugging the shoulders. Note – the shoulders remain relaxed down as the arms slide up and out (part A), before a shrug is added at the top position to pull the arms back (part B). The advantage of the forearm wall slide is that you start in a neutral position and move into upward rotation. While a shoulder press requires active scapular movement during shoulder flexion, the overhead squat and snatch require more of a fixed shoulder blade position to support the bar overhead.
You can revisit the Kolar Wall Bug (see here) to help improve anterior core stability, diaphragmatic breathing, and training a ribcage down position. Controlling the lower part of the shoulder blade with the lower trapezius helps prevent the shoulders from elevating during the movement.



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