What are scapular retractions and why are they important?

What is a scapular retraction?

All about the strength | Grace Brown Fitness London

An exercise that requires you to pull your shoulder blades together towards your spine, without your shoulders moving up towards your ears.

Why is it so important?

It’s a movement that focuses on improving the integrity and strength of your shoulder blades.

Apart from everything else, it helps improve your posture, making it a crucial movement for everyone to get right.

The scapulars, or shoulder blades, are not muscles themselves, but are surrounded by your back muscles that support your spine.

For such a small and simple movement, it is ridiculously beneficial. It enhances all of your upper back exercises significantly, it can be used as a strengthening tool in the upper back, it can warm up your muscles for training your upper body and it can help with training your mind/muscle connection.

Here are two exercises that will help you get those scaps moving!


Band Scapular Retractions

The band scapular retraction movement is a great exercise that can be used as a warm up, to enhance your focus before you dive into training and to strengthen the mid and upper back.

How to:

Place the band in your hands, raise your arms to about shoulder height. Relax the band, then create tension by squeezing the shoulder blades (the scapulars), without shrugging your shoulders. It’s really isolated and can be quite tricky to get right when you’re starting out. Keep at it till you get there.

Reps and Sets:

3 sets of 10 reps in a session or as part of your warm up.

Pro Tip:

Get someone to film your back while you do it so that you can check the movement.


Hanging Scapular Retractions

The hanging scapular retraction can be more difficult as you have to take your whole body weight.

How to:

Place your hands onto the bar, arms fully straight. This time we’re focusing on the up and down movement of the scapulars. So you’re going from a relaxed, full hang position, to pulling the scapulars down and together to active the mid back. Remember - no shrugging the shoulders!

Reps and Sets:

3 sets of 5 reps in a session or part of your warm up.


These are a great way to get the real muscle connection to the brain, creating for efficiency and efficacy in your training and also improving the way you sit and stand.

If you’ve added these movements to your regime, let me know how you go or if you have any questions!