Scapular Retraction – 6 Reasons Why Squeezing your Shoulder Blades is Important (MY FAVORITE IS NUMBER 6)


Squeezing your shoulder blades is very important in most lifts like squats and bench presses (but you don’t squeeze them in deadlifts and shoulder presses off course).

Scapular retraction is done by imagining that you are squeezing something (like a stick) using your shoulder blades. With me, I imagine that I am squeezing a tomato on my back until it pops.

scapular

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Now, there are several reasons why Scapular retraction is important:

1) Better Posture – Our old professor used to say that it is important for “not so tall people” (like me) to maintain a stomach-in, chest-out posture as she was also of short stature.

The “stomach-in” part is easy if you are accustomed to doing stomach vacuums. However I have come to realize that the “chest-out” part is very difficult to do if you’re not accustomed to squeezing your shoulder blades. Thus being able to maintain scapular retraction is a part of a healthy posture and is a trainable skill.

2) It will make you look like a STUD – Related to the first item. There is just something about socially dominant men (AKA: men who obviously score a lot of tail) in the way they carry themselves and walk around.

Yes you can walk around like a marching military guy but that will only make you look stupid and not attractive at all. Those naturals, the way they walk, the way they stand there is just something that you could not see. Well there are two things about the way they carry themselves:

Crotch always leads the way

And

Their scapulae are always retracted

You see, assuming this pose will make you more dominant and you will feel more confident with yourself. Thus getting used to scapular retraction might just help you gain respect from people around you and help you score; but off course 50% would still depend on your social skills. Good luck.

3) It will increase your bench press – This is the most forgotten part of bench pressing. Retracting your shoulder blades even before you unload the bar is a must. When you bench press with your shoulders not tucked-in you unknowingly make your lift twice as unstable than done otherwise, thus significantly reducing the load that you can carry.

Retracting your scapulae in bench pressing sets up a firm base of support. And besides, in benching your chest must always be in front, not the shoulders. Not squeezing in your shoulder blades will put your shoulders in front of your chest therefore most stimulation will go to your front delts and not your chest. And since your delts are weaker than your chest, this is really gonna mess with the weight that you can bench.

Notice that the pro bencher ahs fully retracted his scapulae and his entire rear shoulders touch the bench instead of leading the way – this contributes greatly to the weight that he is able to lift:

scapular retraction in benching

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4) It will increase your squat – Even before you unload the bar from the squat rack and as you rest it atop of your monstrous traps, you must have had already squeezed-in your shoulder blades.

Same thing as with the bench, since the bar will be sitting atop your shoulders, not squeezing them in would make for a very unstable base which will definitely ruin your lift.

5) You will be LESS injury-prone – most lifters feel nagging shoulder pains early on their lifting days (even those who haven’t even made significant progress yet) mostly because every time they lift weights their shoulders are always hanging free and unchecked.

In time this accumulates damage to your shoulders (especially if you are benching with your delts) to the point that your lifts are just a tragedy waiting to happen.

Also like what we talked about above this gives stability to lifts like squats and benches –if there is no stability it is very possible that the bar would just wobble around and out of your grip. Have you ever experienced a loaded bar falling on you? I wrote this so you won’t.

6) It will make your chest look bigger – Besides ribcage training and fully expanding them (like filling your chest with air); another way to make your chest look bigger is to do scapular retractions and to do them along ribcage expansion, off course.

Scapular retraction is a skill that can be learned and you will definitely get used to it. Sometimes I even instinctively adjust my back as I sit on a chair like I would when I lie down to bench. All in all practicing scapular retraction NOT only in your lifts but as a part of a healthy and PROUD posture will pay it’s weight in gold. Eat your eggs and RETRACT your scapulae, people!

A-Lifter- Don't forget to leave your comment/feedback below.  If this article was helpful, I am sure our book Real Talk Muscle will help you even more in your quest for muscle gain. Check it out you can read the first few chapters as well.
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8 thoughts on “Scapular Retraction – 6 Reasons Why Squeezing your Shoulder Blades is Important (MY FAVORITE IS NUMBER 6)

  1. Thank you for the research you’ve done and for bottling it up on one site. I’ve corrected my shoulder posture and gotten rid of pain. I love all the knowledge you share. Clean bulk for life!!!!!

  2. hey, i appreciate you writing this. i was never aware of this whole retraction thing and it is why i have a small tear in my RC now. sucks but im trying to continue lifting. i have very weak back/pullin muscles and poor posture because i never knew to keep my scapula retracted or think about squeezing my blades together. now that i know i want to try working out again to see if i can do things like bench and shoulder press without pain but i need you to tell me what instances i should squeeze my blades together. pull ups? shoulder press? dumbbell raises for shoulders? when do i squeeze as hard as i can like on a bench? help please

    1. Nice to hear that its helping you a lot!
      And BTW, I only retract on moves that should not involve the shoulders like bench press.

      For pull ups and back moves you should retract your shoulder blades on the contacted part of the move. So at top of the move when your lats are extended (not yet contracted) your scapula should be spread out so that your lats will also be spread out and when you contract you should squeeze your shoulder blades together with squeezing your lats – that is to add to the range of motion of your lats (your back muscles). You will see that this dynamic squeezing will lead to more involvement for your lats and greater muscular development.
      hope that helps
      🙂

  3. Hi,

    Interesting article. Can you go into more detail why you don’t retract the shoulder blades while deadlifting? That was how I was tought to deadlift but I’m starting to hear it’s inefficient. I think it’s helped my posture but as I’ve gone up in weight in my training I’ve found it exponentially harder to keep my shoulderblades retracted during the lifts, now lifting 100kg for reps. I still try my best to keep them as retracted as I can but I’m thinking about changing that.

    Thanks,
    Dave

    1. Yes, because retracting the shoulder blades during a deadlift will only increase the range of motion that the bar needs to travel.

      Needless to say that retracting your scapula is not necessary during a deadlift since the purpose of a deadlift in muster the force of your whole body.

      As you can see in the article the only reason why you would retract your scapulae is to improve posture and shorten the range of motion in your bench press and reduce shoulder involvement in the move, again, not for DEADs

      Cheers!

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