Why Scapular Mobility Is Critical For Olympic Weightlifting

The scapula, or more commonly known as the shoulder blades, play a critically important role as the foundation for mobile shoulder joints. A great movement for increasing strength, stability and mobility of the scapula is Scapular Cat Cow. This exercise enables singular focus on the movement of the scapula alone which will make it easier for you to call upon it when needed.

When completing overhead work such as the Snatch, Jerks and Overhead Squats, proper engagement of the scapula can lead to bigger lifts and avoid the commonly described and painful shoulder impingement. Proper scapular engagement or retraction helps the entire torso to remain stable as well, which is critical for staying injury free during any of your squatting movements.

The difference in stability is very noticeable when examining Wes Kitts, an American Record holder in the Snatch at 174kg.

Setup Instructions & Cues

Scapular Cat Cow

  • Come to the mat on hands and knees. Your hands and knees should be evenly placed on the ground, with your spine straight, drawing your belly in.
  • On the inhale, pull your shoulders back and scapula (shoulder blades) together. Think about pinching your shoulder blades together while drawing the tops of your shoulders down and away from your ears.
  • On the exhale, begin to round your shoulder blades by pressing your shoulders down into the ground.
  • Continue this back and forth slowly and evenly a total of 10 times.

Unlike Cat/Cow in which you use your entire back, during this variation you will only use your shoulders and scapula to complete the action.


Sandra Arechaederra has actively practiced yoga for years but maintains a focus on its application for improving athletic performance. Sandra is an accomplished Olympic weightlifter in her own right, having medaled at the 2010 USA National Championship Meet, she continues her work with the California Strength weightlifting team on a weekly basis for mobility training and runs a mobility program implemented with the California Strength NFL Combine Prep Class every year. Sandra has her 200 RYT credential as a certified Yoga Teacher.

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