Bringing your shoulders down and back is a critical element of good form and posture when weightlifting. Shoulder position is also important in everyday life, especially if you work at a computer, which tends to encourage forward-slumping posture. Slumped-over posture can lead to fatigue, back pain and other problems. Learning to keep your shoulder blades back and down helps you restore your body to good posture, both in the gym and everyday life.
Shoulder Blade Squeezes
Your rhomboids squeeze your shoulder blades together, combating the slumped-forward posture that is so common among computer users. You must strengthen the rhomboids through regular workouts, just like any other muscle, if you expect them to do their job well.
Strengthen your rhomboids by doing shoulder blade squeezes. Sit down on a stool or chair without arms. Let your hands rest naturally on your thighs. Concentrate on keeping your chin tucked in, shoulders down and keeping your chest up as you squeeze your shoulder blades together. It may help to imagine squeezing a pencil between your shoulder blades. You can even ask a friend to hold a pencil aligned with your spine so you have a target to squeeze your shoulder blades toward.
The cable row also strengthens the rhomboids and the middle and lower fibers of the trapezius muscle, all of which act on your shoulder blades. Strengthening these back muscles can help counteract the posture effects of over-developed or over-tight chest and anterior shoulder muscles. Attach a close grip handle to a pulley machine and sit down on a bench in front of the pulley. The pulley should be at about belly button height while you're seated. Keep your torso upright and squeeze your shoulder blades back and down as you pull the handle back toward your body. Keep your elbows tucked close against your body. Stop when the handle nearly touches your torso or your elbows break the plane of your body. Extend your arms, keeping the weight under control, and repeat.
Rear Deltoid Raises
Rear deltoid raises, sometimes called rear lateral raises or rear deltoid flies, target the back of your shoulder muscle, your rhomboids and the lower and middle fibers of your trapezius muscle. Strengthening these muscles helps combat forward-slumping posture. Sit down on the forward edge of a weight bench. Bend forward from the hips, keeping your torso straight until your thighs support your body. Hold a small dumbbell in each hand below your knees, palms together, elbows bent at a 10- to 30-degree angle. Spread your arms apart in a movement perpendicular to the line of your torso, as if your arms are the pages of a book being opened and your torso is the book's spine. Stop when your elbows are level with your shoulders. Return to the starting position and repeat.