Scapula Retraction Is The Bench Press Hack
Squeeze those shoulder blades!
Why Scapula Retraction Is Important And Can Improve Your Form
Do you want to increase your strength through your shoulders and upper back? Of course you do! Well you need to know about scapula retraction and how it can help you with your form and correct upright posture as well as the development of your back.
What Is Scapula Retraction?
You will know the scapulas as your shoulder blades. It is a flat bone at the back of your shoulder and these bones can be retracted or protracted through the motion of your shoulders. Strengthening your scapula is a good thing for bodybuilders.
With the lifestyle that most people lead they will be susceptible to shoulder pain caused by driving, using computers and general incorrect posture. The chest becomes too tight and the shoulders are hunched forward. This causes compression of the nerves and blood vessels.
Scapular retraction is all about good trunk posture. Your scapula reactors allow you to squeeze your shoulder blades together and allow for the pulling back of your shoulders so that your upright positioning is correct. It is all about squeezing your shoulder blades and you should do this with most lifts such as bench presses and squats. You would not use scapula retraction in shoulder presses or deadlifts though.
You want to avoid your shoulders hunching forward due to weak scapula retractors as this can put a lot of pressure on your spine. You can imagine that you are squeezing a tomato between your shoulder blades until it goes pop.
What Are The Benefits Of Scapula Retraction?
Improving your posture is a major benefit. Remember the old saying about “stomach in and chest out?” Maybe you have already mastered the “stomach in” part through abdominal exercises but the truth is that most people find the “chest out” part difficult.
If this is you, it is because you are not in the habit of squeezing your shoulder blades together. You can train yourself to do this and the exercises below will certainly help.
Then there is increasing your resistance to injuries. Shoulder pain is common in novice bodybuilders and some experienced ones suffer from it too. This is due to leaving their shoulders hanging free when they lift weights.
If you continue to lift without checking those shoulders then you are asking for trouble. Shoulder pain will follow as sure as the sun will rise. You need to master scapula retraction so that you can avoid a loaded bar ending up on your chest!
Scapular retractions will make your chest look bigger and you will achieve great results if you do your scapula retractions alongside your ribcage training.
Once you have mastered scapula retraction you will look like a total “he man” (sorry girls!). You will carry yourself around very confidently and this will attract the ladies 😉
It will also improve your bench pressing. When you do scapula retractions in bench pressing you create a good foundation of support and your chest will always be in front and not your shoulders.
The same goes for squats. You need to squeeze your shoulders to create a firm foundation otherwise your body can become unstable and the lift will be a disaster.
Exercises To Improve Scapula Retraction.
The advanced row is good for this. You want to work your back muscles, abdominals, and legs here so you should stand to do this. A resistance band or pulley system held at mid-thigh level is good.
While holding the handles in a squat position, walk back a little until you feel the resistance. Pull your arms back slowly and get a good squeeze on those shoulder blades. Then return to the start position slowly.
You can also use some light dumbbells and a bench. First, you will need to lie on the bench face down and with your arms at right angles holding a dumbbell in each hand. Move by drawing your shoulder blades together and hold for 3 seconds and then return to the start.
And here is an exercise that you can do anywhere that can be done standing or sitting. You need to lift your arms up in front of you to the level of your shoulders. Then round your back just like you would if you were hugging someone in front of you. Make sure that your arms don’t go behind, and as you do this, maintain the squeeze on your muscles between the shoulder blades. Keep this for at least 10 seconds and then gently release.