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Shoulder Retraction Exercises

by
author image Tim Petrie
Tim Petrie is a Physical Therapist and an Orthopedic Certified Specialist working in Milwaukee, Wisc. When he isn't working, he loves distance running, Packers football, and traveling with his wife and his energetic three year old daughter.
Shoulder Retraction Exercises
Shoulder retraction exercises can help improve posture and prevent rounding of the shoulders. Photo Credit undrey/iStock/Getty Images

Rounded shoulder posture is extremely common, especially in individuals who frequently sit throughout the day. This type of posture, which is typically caused by weakness in the shoulder blade muscles, can lead to pain in the neck or shoulders if not addressed. Fortunately, shoulder retraction exercises can be helpful for strengthening these weak muscles and improving posture.

Side-Lying External Rotation

This exercise helps strengthen the infraspinatus muscle, which aids in opening up or retracting your shoulders.

Step 1:

Lie on your side with your elbow bent at a 90-degree angle and your palm resting against your belly.

Step 2:

Bring your shoulder blade down and back. Then, slowly rotate your wrist and forearm away from your abdomen until they are facing forward. Do not allow your elbow to move away from your side or your shoulder to shrug.

Step 3:

Hold the ending position for 1 to 2 seconds and then slowly lower your wrist and elbow back to your stomach. After a set of 10 repetitions, repeat on the opposite shoulder.

Prone Extension

Prone extensions are a great way to strengthen your lower trapezius muscle, which plays an influential role in maintaining good shoulder posture.

Step 1:

Lie on your stomach on the floor with your arms at your side and your palms facing downward.

Step 2:

Bring your shoulder blades down and back as though you are tucking them into your back pocket. Maintain this as you slowly lift both arms toward the ceiling.

Step 3:

Hold your arms at the highest point for 1 to 2 seconds and then slowly lower them back to the floor as you release your shoulder blades. Once 10 repetitions become easy, you can add a light weight to each hand.

Rows are a great exercise for strengthening the muscles that retract the shoulders
Rows are a great exercise for strengthening the muscles that retract the shoulders Photo Credit Dirima/iStock/Getty Images

Rows

Rows help to strengthen the latissimus dorsi muscle. This muscle helps pull the shoulder blades into the down and back position, which promotes retraction of the shoulders.

Step 1:

Wrap a resistance band around a pole or stabilize it on the inside doorknob of a closed door. Stand about 2 feet away from the pole and hold one end of the band in each hand.

Step 2:

Slowly pull each end backward as though you are rowing the oars of a boat. As you do this, squeeze both shoulder blades down and back without letting your shoulders shrug. Your forearms should remain parallel to the ground as you complete this motion.

Step 3:

Hold this position for 1 to 2 seconds and then release the tension on the band. Complete 10 repetitions of the exercise.

Prone Horizontal Abduction

This exercise activates the middle portion of your trapezius muscle. Strengthening this area helps pull the shoulder blades together and open up the shoulders.

Step 1:

Lie on the floor on your stomach with your arms held out to the side at shoulder level. Your palms should face downward.

Step 2:

Begin by setting your shoulder blades in the down and back position. Then, slowly raise both arms toward the ceiling while keeping the shoulder blades retracted. Do not shrug your shoulders while doing this.

Step 3:

Hold the arms at their highest point for 1 to 2 seconds and then slowly lower them back to the ground while relaxing your shoulder blades. Once it is easy to complete 10 repetitions, add a light weight to each hand.

Wall W's should be performed while leaning against a wall with your arms in the 90-90 position shown here.
Wall W's should be performed while leaning against a wall with your arms in the 90-90 position shown here. Photo Credit Anetlanda/iStock/Getty Images

Wall Ws

This exercise helps activate multiple different muscle groups in the shoulders and shoulder blades that aide in retracting the shoulders and improving posture.

Step 1:

Begin by leaning against a wall with your feet about 6 inches away. Your buttocks, upper back and head should stay in contact with the wall at all times.

Step 2:

Place both arms against the wall in a “field goal” position with your shoulders and elbows bent at 90-degree angles. Then, slowly slide your arms up the wall 6 to 12 inches. Make sure your wrists and forearms stay in contact with the wall the entire time.

Step 3:

Hold this position for 1 to 2 seconds and the slowly slide the arms back to the starting position without losing contact with the wall. Repeat 10 repetitions of the exercise.

Warnings and Precautions

To improve your posture and the strength in the shoulder retraction muscles, complete two to three sets of 10 repetitions of each exercise. This can be done two to three times per week. The exercises should not be painful to perform. Check with your doctor with any concerns prior to beginning a new workout.

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