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September 13, 2013 | Exam Preparation Blog

Muscles That Move the Scapulae

As a fitness professional and an exam candidate, there is no way of getting around the fact that you need to know your anatomy! Understanding how the body moves and creates movement with the muscles is a huge part of the job.

In an earlier blog, we looked at how to study anatomy. Next we’ll start breaking down the different body parts, beginning with the muscles that move the scapulae.

The scapula, commonly referred to as the shoulder blade, is the bone that attaches to the back of your rib cage. It is the bone that creates the shoulder joint with the upper arm, called the humerus bone.

The scapulae can move in six actions and each action has primary muscles that create that action.

Scapular movements

Action of the Scapula

What the Action Looks Like (Move Your Body!)

Primary Muscles

Elevation of the scapula

Lifting your shoulders to your ears

Upper trapezius
levator scapulae

Depression of the scapula

Pressing your shoulders down

Lower trapezius

Retraction (adduction) of the scapula

Pinching your shoulder blades together

middle trapezius

Protraction (abduction) of the scapula

Forward rounding shoulders

Serratus anterior

Upward rotation of the scapula

Lifting arms above head, scapulae rotate up

Upper and middle trapezius

Downward rotation of the scapula

Occurs only when you lower your arms



Scapula muscles

A helpful way to learn the muscles is to get up out of your chair and move and mimic the actions for the muscles you are learning that week. Look at the picture of the muscle, find it on your body, and picture how the muscle is contracting and what muscles are involved in the movement. Make the muscle contract and complete the different actions that muscle is involved in.

Stay tuned for our next blog in this series, which will discuss the muscles that move the arm. If you have any additional questions that were not answered in this blog, please don’t hesitate to contact our Resource Center at 1-888-825-3636 ext. 796 or

By Bindi Delaney

Bindi Delaney is the Professional Education Coordinator for the American Council on Exercise. She is an ACE Master Trainer, ACE-certified Personal Trainer, Group Fitness Instructor and Health Coach and holds a bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science. Bindi moved to the USA from Australia in 2011 and is an exercise fanatic who loves to take on new challenges, recently completing an Ironman triathlon just for the fun of it!

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