Your upper back is a reservoir of great strength in all your movements. Don’t believe me? Take Bruce Lee for example. He is shown to have incredible punching power, is reported to be able to pump out one-handed pull ups like they were going out of style, and could hold a dragon flag by just balancing himself on his shoulder blades.
There is something to this. His scapula strength and control was phenomenal, as demonstrated in the photo above from his warm-up scene before battling Chuck Norris in The Way of the Dragon. Why is this so important? Because the scapula has seventeen different muscles attached to it. Your traps? Those are connected to the scapula. How about biceps and triceps? Those are connected too. The serrats? Even the pecs?! You can train chest back training your back?!! YES! All of these muscles and more are connected to your scapula.
So let me make this simple: STRENGTHENING YOUR SCAPULA MEANS STRENGTHENING ALL OF YOUR UPPER BODY.
If that’s the case, why isn’t there some kind of scapula specific training to make Bruce Lee’s out of everyone? Well, not every trains the way that Bruce Lee did, but there definitely is one great exercise that can build such great scapula strength, it’ll blow your mind.
I can almost hear a collective “ugh” as you may read that word if you’ve had trouble doing pull ups in the past. But this exercise will strengthen all the tendons connecting to your scapula, IF PERFORMED CORRECTLY.
There are many pull-ups that target different muscle groups, but not all of them specifically target the scapula. Doing a pull up on the wide bars really helps to build scapula strength, but you need to unload your shoulders for the most effectiveness.
What does that mean? Well if you grab onto the pull-up bars, you might be in a dead hang, but realize that your shoulders are shrugged, to the point that they almost touch your ears. What you want to do is reverse shrug them, so that your shoulders are… well… shoulder width apart, and your scapula is fully activated. In fact, a great precursor to actually doing pull ups is to just do reps of this reverse shrug to strengthen your shoulder blades as much as possible. Add an isometric hold towards the end (hold the shoulder shrug for 7-12 seconds) for a REAL strength boost.
Your upper back will begin to bristle with muscle in no time, but, even better, you’ll be so much stronger in all your upper body movements by stabilizing and strengthening your shoulder blades.
If you were curious what the other connected muscles were, here they are:
Omohyoid, Inferior Belly