Scapular Retraction Exercises for Posture
The scapula, or shoulder blade, is attached to over a dozen muscles, including the middle trapezius, lower trapezius, and rhomboids. These three muscles act to retract the scapula, thus bringing the shoulder blades together. This movement is called scapular adduction, or scapular retraction. If you have a poor posture in which your shoulders are rounded forward, this means that you have tightness in some of your anterior muscles, such as those in your chest and front shoulders. Also, you may have weak upper and middle back muscles, such as the aforementioned traps and rhomboids. To correct these postural deficiencies, you need to perform back exercises that involve scapular retraction. This will help you strengthen the weaker muscles and, overtime, restore normal posture.
Bent-Over Barbell Row
Grasp the barbell using an overhand grip, bend your knees a bit, and lean forward at the waist until your back is parallel to the ground.
Flex your elbows and retract your scapula to bring the barbell up towards your stomach.
Extend your elbows and protract, or bring forward, your scapula to bring the barbell back down.
Seated Cable Row
Hold the machine handle with an overhand grip, position your feet on the foot platform, and sit on the machine bench with your legs extended and your torso upright.
Bend your elbows and retract your scapula to pull the machine handle towards your stomach.
Extend your elbows and protract your scapula to return the machine handle forward to the start.
Seated Machine Reverse Fly
Sit on the machine seat, placing your chest up against the machine seat, and grasp the machine handles using an overhand grip.
Abduct your shoulders in the transverse, or horizontal direction, so as to move your arms backwards horizontally, and retract your scapula to bring the machine handles towards the back.
Adduct your shoulders in the horizontal direction, so as to move your arms forward horizontally, and protract your scapula to bring the machine handles forward to the beginning position.
If you are not accustomed to performing back exercises involving scapular retraction, then it is recommended you begin doing the exercises using lighter weights and performing 15 repetitions per set. This will allow you to develop a mind-muscle connection with the various back and scapular muscles.
It is vital you keep your back straight when doing any back exercise, so you prevent injury to your spine. To keep your back straight, you need to isometrically contract your erector spinae muscles, which are located deep under the various back muscles, and also isometrically contract your rectus abdominis, or abs muscle.
Richard Choueiri is a fitness and nutrition expert and the author of "The Human Statue Workout." He began writing professionally in 2007 and his work has been featured in Bodybuilding.com and "Physique Magazine." Choueiri studied exercise science and nutritional science at Rutgers University. He holds an American College of Sports Medicine CPT, and a National Exercise and Sports Trainers Association CMMACC.