T Nation

Scapular Depression and Pull-ups


If you review the articles on this web site that deal with shoulder health, there's much discussion on balancing scapular elevation, retraction, and depression.

However, none of the scap depression exercise lists include pull-ups or chin-ups. Seems to me there's quite a bit of this action in the movement, particularly at the top.

Does anyone know why the chin-up gets no love in this department? I get that they preferentially recruit the lats, but it seems to me the lower traps would get hit just as hard. If chin-ups are a staple in your programming, is there really any need for a healthy individual to target the lower traps with prone trap raises, face pulls, wall slides, etc?


Hmm... I guess it might depend on your build but this seems like a no-brainer. In the hanging position scapulae wing-out in an unhealthy manner, at least in my case. Also in the elevated position they are raised, they may be depressed too but not towards the end of the set. I was thinking of never doing chin-ups again and sticking with rows.


yeah pullups arent in that category for good reasons...but they are a must-have movement in any program. Not to mention they are the hardest upper body exercise.


yeah i think mike roberston talked about this in one of his lockers....
but yes pullups do the scapular depressors but the lats are also your muscles that internalally rotate your shoulders............at least thats what i think he said... so if youre working on posture correction maybe not the best idea.... if you want to work your scap depressors though you can get into a pull up postion and do kind of a reverse shrug - keep your arms straightand pull your body up. you could also do this on a lat pulldwn


Yeah, the lats are internal rotators, but that is different from scapular depression. The straight arm pull ups are a clever exercise to use. I do those after I have finished my chins sometimes.


can you explain what you mean by straight arm pull-ups?


I actually tried the straight arm pulldowns for the first time the other day. I had a hard time keeping my arms straight, whenever I pulled down my elobows wanted to start bending as for a normal pulldown. I was wondering how much movement and what sort of loading is appropriate for this exercise?

Also, do you lean back slightly as though you were going to pull down to your upper chest or are you more upright as though doing a behind the neck pulldown?




The lats actually reach around to the front of your shoulders and insert just about the same place as the pecs do. They do pull the shoulder blades down, but they do this by pulling down from the front.

When you do lat pulldowns or pull ups and think your getting your scapula nice and pulled back and depressed, its not your lats actually depressing the bottom point of your scapula, its your rhomboids and some of the muscles that make up your rotator cuff. the lats pull down on the front and the rhomboids resist the internal forward rotation caused by the lats pulling down on the front. The combined result of those two muscles working together in one direction and balancing each other in another is that the scapula pulled down and back.


Why dont flat dumbell chest presses get talked about for tricep development? They do a fair amount of work, right? Pullups target the lats first and the mechanics of the exercise is such that these muscles will be fatigued before you can get enough direct stress on the scapular retractors to consider pullups a scapular retraction exercise.