Many people spend their days hunched over. It may be over a computer, a desk or just slouching on the couch. Muscles in the front of the body become shorter and tighter, while those in the back become stretched out and weak. Incorporating shoulder retraction into your routine can help you strengthen the upper back and improve your posture. Shoulder retraction actually refers to the shoulder blades and is the motion of pulling your shoulder blades back and in toward the spine. It is a subtle movement that can provide a lot of benefit.
Perform a shoulder packing, or standing shoulder retraction, exercise with no equipment to understand the motion. Stand up tall with good posture, shoulders relaxed and arms at your sides. As you exhale try to pull your shoulder blades down and back toward each other. Hold for five to 10 counts and relax. Avoid arching your back, but just move your shoulder blades.
Lie face down on a mat to perform a "T" exercise for shoulder retraction. Place your arms straight out to your sides so your body and arms form a "T," with your palms facing down. You can keep your head on the mat, or lifted slightly. Raise your arms off the floor. Lift them as high as you can without moving your torso, pulling your shoulder blades together. Lower your arms back to the start position for one complete repetition.
Position an adjustable weight bench so the long portion is at a 45-degree angle and the seat is angled up away from the floor. Grasp a light dumbbell, one in each hand. Place one knee on the shorter portion of the bench that you would normally sit on, with your other foot on the floor for support. Lean your torso against the long portion of the bench. Allow your arms to hang down toward the floor with your palms facing each other. Lift the weights out to the sides until your arms are parallel to the floor, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Lower your arms in a controlled manner for one complete repetition.
- American Council on Exercise: Shoulder Packing
- American Council on Exercise: Prone Scapular Stabilization Series
- American Council on Exercise: Incline Reverse Lateral Dumbbell Raise
- ACSM's Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription; American College of Sports Medicine
- Perform the retraction exercises two to three times per week on nonconsecutive days.
- Perform one to three sets of eight to 12 repetitions for each exercise.
- Start with a light weight for the third exercise and gradually increase the resistance.
- Consult a physician before beginning any exercise program.
- Do not shrug your shoulders when performing retraction exercises.
- Use proper technique to avoid injury.
- Do not hold your breath during any exercises.
- Stop immediately if you feel any pain.
Bethany Kochan began writing professionally in 2010. She has worked in fitness as a group instructor, personal trainer and fitness specialist since 1998. Kochan graduated in 2000 from Southern Illinois University with a Bachelor of Science in exercise science. She is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, Certified Personal Trainer, Medical Exercise Specialist and certified YogaFit instructor.