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Scapular Retraction Exercises for Posture

by
author image Melissa Sabo
Melissa Sabo is an occupational therapist who started writing professional guidebooks for all Flagship Rehabilitation employees in 2009. Specializing in applied therapy and exercise for non-medical readers, she also coauthored a manual on wheelchair positioning. She graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a Bachelor of Science in occupational therapy.
Scapular Retraction Exercises for Posture
A woman is sitting with good posture. Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Scapular retraction is an integral component of good trunk posture. If your scapular retractors are weak, your shoulders will hunch forward and add strain to your thoracic spine. Completing simple scapular retraction exercises can strengthen your muscles and improve your posture. These retractors are responsible for squeezing your shoulder blades together and pulling your shoulders back into upright positioning.

Resistance Band Row

Initiate your shoulder retractor muscle strengthening with a resistance band. Sitting upright on the floor, wrap a resistance band around both of your feet, keeping your feet and legs together. Monitor your alignment in a mirrored wall to make sure your back is straight throughout the exercise. Grasp the handles of the resistance band, rolling up further on the band if your legs are shorter or you are not feeling resistance. Without moving your trunk, pull your arms toward your chest, allowing your elbows to flare out sideways at chest height and then return your arms to the starting position.

Cable Rowing

Sit as the rowing station of your weighted cable exercise machine. Position your body several feet away from the foot plate so that your knees are slightly bent between 15 and 20 degrees. Straighten your back and tighten your abdominal muscles to protect your lower back. Lean forward at your pelvis and grab hold of the bar attached to the pulley system. Place your pelvis back into the starting position and do not move your pelvis or trunk while performing the row. Pull your arms back so your hands come toward the side of your chest and then return your arms almost to the fully straightened position, taking care not to lock out your elbows or allow your shoulders to roll forward.

Transverse Cable Row

Exercise the upper and lower muscle fibers of your retractors to achieve muscle symmetry. Using a rope attachment placed on the highest setting of a pulley system, lean back slightly while keeping your body straight and your hands on the rope attachment. Without moving your legs or trunk, pull the rope toward your eyes, branching your arms out at you reach your face and then return to the starting position. Using the same setup, except placing the pulley at the lowest setting near the floor, without leaning forward, pull upward on the pulley, pushing your elbows straight up toward the ceiling and return to the starting position.

Advanced Row

Perform an advanced row while standing to work your back, abdominals, legs and stabilizing muscles simultaneously. Using either a resistance band wrapped around a pole or a pulley system set around mid-thigh height, squat into a full squat while holding the handles. Walk backward in the squat just to the point of resistance. Keeping your legs and trunk stable throughout, pull your arms back and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Return to the starting position without lunging forward.

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