How to Do Scapular Clocks: A Hinge Health Guide

Learn how to do scapular clocks to help with shoulder mobility, plus ways to modify this exercise to meet your needs.

Published Date: Aug 31, 2023

Ever find yourself rolling your shoulders and craning your neck in different directions to try and relieve upper body tension after you’ve been stuck in one position for a long time? Been there. No matter why you’re experiencing neck or shoulder tension (tech neck, anyone?), it can be very uncomfortable and affect your day in a lot of ways. The good news is that there are a lot of ways you can reduce and prevent muscle tension and joint pain, such as with frequent movement breaks and targeted exercises — like scapular clocks. 

Here, learn more about the benefits of scapular clocks and how this exercise can help improve your muscle and joint health. 

Our Hinge Health Experts

Dylan Peterson, PT, DPT
Physical Therapist and Clinical Reviewer
Dr. Peterson is a Hinge Health physical therapist who focuses on developing clinical exercise therapy programs and member education.

What Are Scapular Clocks?

Scapular clocks are a therapeutic exercise designed to improve scapular (shoulder blade) mobility, awareness, and control. This exercise can help you understand and feel the various movements and positions of the scapula. By visualizing the scapula as the face of a clock, you can move the scapula to different "hours" on the clock face to target specific areas and motions.

What Muscles Do Scapular Clocks Work? 

Scapular clocks primarily promote scapular mobility, control, and stabilization. When you perform scapular clocks, several muscles are engaged, including the: 

  • Trapezius, which is a large, diamond-shaped muscle that spans the upper back and neck.

  • Serratus anterior, located on the side of the rib cage. It plays a vital role pulling the scapula forward, like when you're extending your arm in front of you.

  • Rhomboids, which are between the spine and the scapula and help pull the scapula toward the spine.

  • Levator scapulae, which elevates the scapula and also helps in some rotational movements of the shoulder.

  • Rotator cuff muscles, which help stabilize and move the head of the humerus (upper arm bone) within the shoulder joint. They also influence scapular motion, especially when you raise your arm.

Benefits of Scapular Clocks 

Scapular clocks enhance scapular mobility, stability, and control, which can be very helpful for many daily activities and functional movements. By incorporating scapular clocks into your daily routine, you may notice improvements in: 

  • Reaching overhead, such as when reaching for a book on a high shelf, putting dishes away, or changing a light bulb.

  • Pushing and pulling actions, including tasks like opening heavy doors, pushing a shopping cart, or pulling open a drawer. 

  • Carrying items like grocery bags and kids, or moving boxes.

  • Throwing, such as when playing catch with your kids or tossing a ball to your dog.

  • Putting on a coat or backpack, which requires scapular mobility and control when you reach back.

  • Driving. When you're turning the steering wheel, adjusting mirrors, or even just maintaining a comfortable posture during a long drive, scapular muscles play a role in ensuring efficient movement and reducing fatigue.

  • Sports and recreational activities such as swimming, tennis, or weightlifting.

Another bonus: Scapular clocks are a quick and easy exercise you can do just about anytime, anywhere, making them a great “movement snack” in your day. 

Scapular Clocks: Exercises and Modifications 

The information contained in these videos is intended to be used for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice or treatment for any specific condition. Hinge Health is not your healthcare provider and is not responsible for any injury sustained or exacerbated by your use of or participation in these exercises. Please consult with your healthcare provider with any questions you may have about your medical condition or treatment.

Scapular Clocks

Scapular Clocks

Scapular Clocks

Scapular Clocks

To do scapular clocks: 

  • Stand with your arms at your sides and your elbows bent 90 degrees.  

  • Lift your shoulders up toward your ears and hold. Then lower your shoulders. 

  • Next, move your shoulders and elbows forward, rounding through your upper back as you do so. Then relax back to the starting position. 

  • Next, move your shoulders and elbows down toward the floor. Then return to the starting position. 

  • Lastly, squeeze your shoulders and elbows backward. Then relax your shoulders. 

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Scapular Clocks Modifications

Scapular Clocks Modifications

Scapular Clocks Modifications

Scapular Clocks Modifications

To make scapular clocks easier:  

  • Limit the movement of your shoulders and elbows in each direction. 

While you may want to make this exercise more challenging, it’s good to remember that gentle movements can be very beneficial because they can help alleviate muscle tension. 

How Hinge Health Can Help You 

If you have joint or muscle pain that makes it hard to move, you can get the relief you’ve been looking for with Hinge Health’s online exercise therapy program. 

The best part: You don’t have to leave your home because our program is digital. That means you can easily get the care you need through our app, when and where it works for you.  

Through our program, you’ll have access to therapeutic exercises and stretches for your condition. Additionally, you’ll have a personal care team to guide, support, and tailor our program to you. 

See if you qualify for Hinge Health and confirm free coverage through your employer or benefit plan here.

This article and its contents are provided for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice or professional services specific to you or your medical condition.

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  1. Moezy, A., Sepehrifar, S., Solaymani, & Dodaran. M. The effects of scapular stabilization based exercise therapy on pain, posture, flexibility and shoulder mobility in patients with shoulder impingement syndrome: a controlled randomized clinical trial. Medical Journal of The Islamic Republic of Iran, 28, 87.

  2. Romi, H. (2019). Effectiveness Scapular Clock Exercises to Rehabilitation Shoulder Injury. Research Gate. doi:10.13140/RG.2.2.22073.62563. 

  3. Ravichandran, H., Janakiraman, B., Gelaw, A. Y., Fisseha, B., Sundaram, S., & Sharma, H. R. (2020). Effect of scapular stabilization exercise program in patients with subacromial impingement syndrome: a systematic review. Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation, 16(3), 216–226. doi:10.12965/jer.2040256.128