Rounded shoulders from sitting hunched forward will set you up for a life of annoying aches and pains if you don't take steps to pull those shoulders back. Shoulder retraction exercises focus on your rhomboids and middle trapezius muscles, which bring your shoulder blades toward your vertebral column. The muscles of your scapula must have adequate strength and endurance to stabilize your shoulders while you move your arms in all directions. You will need an exercise ball, light dumbbells and exercise bands in your home or at your gym.
Prone Palms-Down Raise
Your rhomboids and the middle portion of your trapezius muscle work together to produce shoulder blade retraction. These muscles lie between each shoulder blade and your vertebral column. Use one-pound dumbbells first, graduating to no more than 3-pound dumbbells for this exercise. Make the mind-to-muscle connection and generate the movement from between your shoulder blades instead of your arms. Lie facing downward on an exercise ball with the ball in a comfortable position between your abdomen and rib cage. You need to hold a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing toward each other, squeezing your shoulder blades together till your arms are parallel to the floor. Complete up to three sets of 15 repetitions.
Use 3-pound dumbbells graduating to 6-pound dumbbells for prone rows. Lying in the same position for the palms-down raises, keep your arms and elbows near your ribcage as you squeeze your shoulder blades together to produce a rowing movement. You must hold this squeeze for three seconds then lower your arms to repeat the movement. Complete up to three sets of 15 repetitions.
Standing Parallel Retraction
You can do this exercise if it is uncomfortable for you to lie on your abdomen. Grab an exercise band of light tension and wrap the band around each hand. Then, hold your arms straight out in front of you. Keep your arms parallel to the floor as you stretch the band to bring your arms out to the side. Hold this position for three seconds, then repeat the movement from your arms in front to your arms at your sides. Complete up to three sets of 15 repetitions.
Standing Downward Pull
The exercise band needs to be anchored to an immovable object at chest level. Loop the band around a post, securely wrapping the ends around each of your hands. Stand far enough away to straighten the band in front of you. Then, squeeze your shoulder blades together as you pull the band downward, keeping your arms by your side. You must hold the retracted position for three seconds and then repeat the movement for up three sets of up to 15 reps.
- ACSM: Exercise and Shoulder Pain
- Personal Trainer Manual; American Council on Exercise