T Nation

Scapula Movement on Rows/Pulldowns?


Which way do you row for lat pulldowns, seated rows and one arm rows. I have heard mixed opinions..

  1. Let the scapula come forward then row backwards, retracting the scaps and pulling the elbows back at the same time


  1. Tuck the scapula back before the row even begins, then pull your elbows back to complete the row.

Same question with lat pulldowns but obviously you are going to be depressing the shoulder blades a bit more.


Option 1 for me for pulling movements.

Having said that for shoulder prehab (letter series etc) have been following number 2 as they do on the diesel crew shoulder rehab



Option 1 - your scaps should be depressed in full retraction anyway.


Option 2 for me.

I started doing scap retractions because they were the weakest link in my back program. Once I got them up to speed, I incorporated them into my rowing movements to make sure they never got behind again.

For lat pulls, I don't go all the way to the straight-armed position. Pretty much keep them depressed and retracted the entire time.


both. ill use option one while im feeling fresher, then as my form starts to suffer, ill drop the weight and do a couple of sets option 2. I find its easy to use scapular retraction to cheat especially when you tire. using both tactically has worked beautifully for me.


Not sure what you mean by this. Been turning it over in my head since you posted it and it still doesn't compute. Could you elaborate?

I use the retraction to generate a little bit of momentum, but I don't consider it cheating. It's still my back that's working, and the muscles are working together in a way that allows me to lift more weight. As long as my arms aren't pulling the load and I'm not using a ton of body-english, how is it cheating?


I find that using your scaps first is much harder. If you let your scaps come forward then row you can kind of cheat the way up so I'm not sure how you cheat by retracting the scaps first?


Sounds like you're in the same spot I used to be in... mid-traps and rhomboids being the weak link.


Yeah, I think you are right. Do you do the scap shrug then row on every rep or do u retract the scap back then do your whole set of rows with it shrugged back?


Every rep. Shoulders back, then double elbow.


I was just wondering about this today.

What additional muscle are you recruiting (other than those in your arms) once your scapula are fully retracted? Shouldn't just contracting the scapula be enough to work back muscles involved with pulling? Someone help me understand the mechanics here.


The rhomboids and trapezius pull the shoulder blades back and together toward the spine.

The rear delts, lateral delts, teres minor, lats, and infraspinatus move the arm backward. How much each muscle is recruited depends somewhat on the rotational position of the humerus.

But just because you have the scaps retracted doesn't mean you're not using the rhomboids and traps, they're just in a static hold as opposed to moving through their ROM.


Keeping them contracted the whole time is more difficult (no rest) and beneficial, funny how those two work together.

Plus having a solid "packed" position will help pretty much any pulling movement. When the shoulders roll forward is when you're in danger of injuries and such, plus it doesn't help the internal rotation problem that everyone nowadays seems to have.


How do you get a good stretch if you keep your shoulder blades pulled together? so you sacrifice the stretch?


You're talking out of both ends of your alimentary canal. It's more difficult, but it helps any pull?

Besides, this is the BB forum. All we're interested in here is how to make things bigger, and keeping the shoulders retracted doesn't seem to be as effective for rhomboid and trap size as moving through the ROM with an appreciable load.

Allowing the scaps to protract, and then forcefully retracting them against a load has nothing to do with humeral rotation, and it doesn't put you at risk for injury.


Alright, makes sense. I didn't really make it clear, but I was more or less wondering about a sort of "bent-over scapula-shrugs" movement instead of a full row. I've never seen anyone do them. Plenty of people do plain-old shrugs for traps. Would it not make sense to do a movement like the one I'm thinking of? Would you not recruit the rhomboids and trapezius as fully as with a full row? Just throwing around ideas here.


Yes, absolutely. That's the exact movement I used to get my strength up in that area. A wide grip lets you hit them harder with less weight and less strain on the lower back.


Option 1 is the best, IMO.



What do you know?