Functional Resistance Training: Scapular Retraction

Welcome to the Functional Resistance Exercises for the older adult series! As we all know, walking is a great activity which comes with many benefits including improvements in aerobic fitness, strength, and it often has the element of social interaction, all done with minimal to no equipment! Nevertheless, we need to look at other activities to improve our ageing. In this blog series, we will be discussing 5 resistance, posture and balance exercises, referred to as “Functional Resistance Exercises” because they apply directly to activities of daily living giving you the confidence to live a happy, active and independent life!

Remember to incorporate the exercises with aerobic and flexibility activities which can further enhance the quality of your life!

The first exercise we are going to discuss is:

Scapular Retraction

Don’t be discouraged by the name, all we are doing here is squeezing the shoulder blades back and down (Think of putting your shoulder blades into your back pockets). The main muscles we are working are the rhomboids and trapezius.

Some important aspects of the Scapular Retraction:

  • This exercise will maintain and improve posture through strengthening the muscles that support the body against the forces of gravity.
  • During this exercise, we work the scapular retractor muscles which are responsible for squeezing the shoulder blades together and pulling the shoulders back into upright positioning.
  • It is an easy exercise and can be performed with or without equipment.
  • It is an integral component of good trunk posture. Strong scapular retractors resist the development of a hunched-forward posture and decrease the strain on the thoracic spine (upper back).
  • Provides additional benefits of promoting good balance, posture, stability and an expanded chest cavity for easier breathing.

How to perform Scapular Retractions:

Pull the shoulder back and down (put the shoulder blades in your back pockets and imagine squeezing something between the shoulder blades). 


Level 1: Sit on a chair and squeeze shoulder blades together

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Level 2: Stand up straight and raise your arms so that they are level with your shoulders. Bring Arms back slightly so you feel a gentle contraction between the shoulder blades. Turn palms up and hold for 3-5 seconds. Slowly bring arms back to your side.

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Level 3: Place resistance band around a solid post or a door know of a closed door. Holding each end of the band pull band at waist level with elbows at your side and bring shoulder blades together. Return to starting positions.

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The goal is to perform 3 sets of 12-15 reps. Don’t worry if you can only get a couple of reps! Use this as your starting point and build up to 3 sets of 15 reps.


The Information in the above blog has been adopted from Roetert & Ortega (2019) “Physical Literacy for the Older Adult” published in the Strength & Conditioning Journal.

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