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Old 01-04-2012, 07:31 AM   #1
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Default Shoulder blade retraction for stronger pulling and healthy shoulders

I would say 75% of the gym related articles I read and bookmark are about mobility, posture, form, flexibility and general lifting health. As well as being an interest of mine, being 21 with the intent of a long and successful lifting 'career', I think these are important factors to take into consideration. My progress over the last year has been far better than I ever expected and believe that concentrating on these things has been a key part to it.

My point for this post is to share my recent realisation and hopefully help others who may have overlooked the scaps. I read on article on T-Nation in November last year and something from it stuck with me.

Quote:
Pack the Shoulders
Safe and effective barbell rowing requires packing the shoulders, or actively depressing and retracting the shoulder blades.
The full article is here: T NATION | Perfect Pulling Exercises for a Bigger Back

This led me to incorporate exercises into my routine to strengthen the smaller muscles of the upper back/shoulders and improve shoulder blade mobility. Diesel Crew on youtube are an amazing resource for this. I soon realised that these muscles were really quite weak.

A month or so on and right now my shoulders have never felt better, my posture is improving and I can feel my lifts benefiting too. Although the article was talking about barbell rows, the improved strength and mobility can benefit other lifts too. Learning to retract the shoulder blades during pull-ups has led to some of the worst back DOMS ever, previously my arms were the first things to fail. My bench press set up and stability, squat bar position and stability have all improved greatly, leading to bigger numbers.

Whether or not everyone agrees with me I don't know but I think this can be easily overlooked, I certainly missed it, and hopefully this benefits someone. It doesn't take a lot, simply adding a few sets of band pull aparts to your warm up can make a difference.
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Old 01-04-2012, 08:22 AM   #2
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I know that retracting the shoulder blades when pulling in any variation is a highly debated topic. Doesn't mean I don't keep an open mind; I'll check out the article when I get a chance. Thanks for the link.
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Old 01-04-2012, 08:53 AM   #3
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I agree and even for those that don't believe in retracting for pulling exercises, I suppose my main point is to strengthen the muscles involved with retraction and shoulder movement. Muscles that are often overlooked and weak. Thanks for reading Shadow.

Also, the article doesn't really go on to debate for or against, it just stuck in my head. Still a good read though.
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Old 01-04-2012, 09:03 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JTurner View Post
Also, the article doesn't really go on to debate for or against, it just stuck in my head. Still a good read though.
Articles that don't debate an opinion are often the best to read. Not sure if this is the case with this article or not, since I haven't read it, but they give the pros, the cons and everything in between. Unbiased information is the way to go.
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Old 01-04-2012, 09:11 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shadow View Post
Articles that don't debate an opinion are often the best to read. Not sure if this is the case with this article or not, since I haven't read it, but they give the pros, the cons and everything in between. Unbiased information is the way to go.
I agree 100%, I just meant that that line is pretty much the only part relating to scaps, its more an article of exercise choice for back development. Struggling to write today
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Old 01-04-2012, 09:14 AM   #6
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Just out of curiosity, do you retract when you pull DLs? That's another one of those highly debated topics.

Personally, I can't see anything good coming from it on any sort of pulling movements. But as I said above, I try to keep an open-mind regardless.
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Old 01-04-2012, 09:30 AM   #7
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No, not from the floor. I like to lockout with my shoulders back but there's no need to try and keep them back from the floor in my opinion. As long as the lower back is set properly. But when I deadlift, my aim is to shift as much weight as possible. When I'm rowing however, my aim is usually to build my back and I think retracting helps achieve this. Personally it makes the biggest difference on pull-ups for me taking the emphasis off my arms and taxing the back a lot more.
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Old 01-04-2012, 09:43 AM   #8
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One of the ways I teach row and pullup form is:

Arms as hooks, start the row by moving the elbows back, finish by contracting the lats.

I use this style in conjunction with explosive pulls. It can often be misinterpreted as a bodybuilding mind-muscle concept, but it's not presented as such. It's mostly for training myself to use as much back as possible during my rows, so I don't pull only with my arms.
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Old 01-04-2012, 09:52 AM   #9
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I suppose I do retract my shoulder blades on rows. I didn't even thing about it, but I lift my chest up as much as I can, and in order to do that your shoulder blades have to come back. Just the mechanics of the body....
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Old 01-04-2012, 09:55 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BendtheBar View Post
It's mostly for training myself to use as much back as possible during my rows, so I don't pull only with my arms.
This is the key part for me. I think the majority of my rows and pull-ups have hit my arms more than anything.
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