Scapula Setting "W" Exercise | Modern Manual Therapy Blog

Scapula Setting "W" Exercise

Here is one of my favorite exercises to give patients with upper quarter dysfunction who need to work on their posture: The W's or scapula setting exercise.


  • sitting/standing
  • spine should be in neutral position, cue by increasing lumbar lordosis to neutral if not sitting/standing upright
  • place your arms up by your sides like a "stick em up" posture - old school cartoon being held at gunpoint
  • the UEs form a "w"
  • for chest opening, the palms should turn outward, forearms fully pronated
  • pull your shoulder blades and elbows down and back
    • 90% down, 10% back
    • too much back results in scapula retraction only, and occasionally scapula elevation, just what we want to avoid
    • 90% down also cues the lower traps to fire, inhibiting the upper traps and temporarily reducing tone, and often reducing pain in this area
    • the patient may also practice lightly rotation their head to the left and right in this position to practice cervical dissociation after you have restored mobility with OMPT
  • hold for 10-30 seconds, hourly or repeatedly throughout the day, more often if you are sitting for long periods of time statically or are repeatedly looking downward to offset excessive cervical flexion and protracted scapula
Try it yourself! Ahh... one of my favorites I do anywhere and everywhere! My wife used to be embarrassed when we were dating, now she's just used to it! 

This should feel very comfortable and if not, you need to to work on this more and/or possibly get some manual work on your cervical, thoracic, and 1st rib areas, as well as some STM to help this position be more attainable!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Yeh the W exercises a must for upper quarter symptoms. I do incorporate neck extension too (sometimes harder for pt to get the first time) to really try to get movement at the CTJ. Sometimes neck retraction with this motion can kill two birds with one stone.

    Anyone else do this?

  2. I occasionally teach them together but would prefer if the patient performed them separately as they'd be more likely to do both exercises more often