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What Is Scaption?

By Shelby Miller
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Scaption is a weight-training exercise designed to strengthen the deltoid and rotator cuff muscles of the shoulder. Traditionally performed with dumbbells, it involves lifting the arms at approximately 30-degree angles in front of the body by pulling the shoulder blades down and back. As the rotator cuff muscles support and stabilize the shoulder joint during movements like overhead presses, it is recommended to strengthen these muscles with scaption to improve performance and reduce injury at the joint.

The shoulder joint, where the arm attaches to the torso, is a ball-and-socket joint that comprises the junction between arm bone and the shoulder blade, also known as the humerus and the scapula. This joint is reinforced on the front side by the clavicle or collarbone, which crosses laterally from the sternum in the center of the chest to a projection on the top of the scapula known as the acromion process. The three bones are held together not only by ligaments at each joint but by the muscles that attach at one end to one bone and at the other end to another bone. For example, the triangular deltoid muscle of the top of the shoulder attaches to the clavicle in front, the acromion process in the middle, and the spine of the scapula behind and crosses the shoulder joint to attach to the humerus below.

While the deltoid is most familiar as the muscle that lifts the arm in the shoulder joint, it does not act alone. The muscles of the rotator cuff ® the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis ® as well as upper back muscles like the trapezius, rhomboids and teres major can be thought of as supporting players for all movements at the shoulder joint. This is because these muscles all attach to the movable shoulder blades, which can be elevated, depressed, retracted or pulled back, and protracted or pushed forward, a range of movements known as scaption. Movement of the shoulder blades during arm-lifting motions is essential to preventing injury at the shoulder joint, as the rotator cuff and back muscles provide the control and leverage the joint needs to lift the weight of the arm.

The scaption exercise strengthens the rotator cuff, particularly the supraspinatus muscle, through the shoulder blade movements of retraction and depression, or pulling the scapulae back and down as the arms lift. To perform scaption, one should stand with the arms at the sides, thumbs pointing outward, and a lightweight dumbbell in each hand. Drawing the shoulder blades down and back, the exerciser lifts the arms at 30-degree angles in front of the body, or as if forming a broad Y, with the thumbs angled upward. The arms should be kept straight at the elbows as they are raised to shoulder height and then slowly returned to the start position, all the while maintaining the depressed and retracted position of the shoulder blades.

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