RHOMBOIDS: In my mind, The Super Muscle
by Kathy McElroy, IDFA Open Figure/Fitness Model
In my mind the rhomboids are a super muscle, the muscle that retracts your shoulder blades, pulling your shoulders back and giving you the perfect posture. But sadly, they are often neglected and not trained. I know from personal experience the lack of targeting your rhomboids can do, as I am just getting over a strained bicep tendon injury.
What are rhomboids? The rhomboids are the very thin muscles located in your upper back between the shoulder blades. Since the rhomboids connect the shoulder blade (or scapula) to the spinal column, the relatively small muscles are responsible for a heavy burden that includes pulling your shoulders back for correct posture. Weakness or tightness (or both) in the rhomboids not only causes bad posture, but also eventually leads to pain
People tend to train heavy and hard their chest, lats, and biceps, but neglect to target the rhomboids specifically which causes these muscles to because overpowering and rolling the shoulders forward.
Throwing a few extra rhomboid exercises in with your back workout and chest workout will not only improve the strength of your rhomboids, but your posture as well and your presentation on stage.
Here are some great rhomboid exercises that you can do to improve posture, and reduce injury:
Shoulder Blade Squeeze
Begin this exercise standing or sitting with your back straight. Your chin should be tucked in slightly and your shoulders should be back slightly. Slowly tighten your rhomboids by squeezing your shoulder blades together as hard and far as possible provided the exercise is pain free (figure 2). Hold for 5 seconds and repeat 10 times.
Resistance Band Pull Backs
Begin this exercise in standing or kneeling with your back straight and holding a resistance band as demonstrated (figure 4). Slowly pull your arms backwards, tightening your rhomboids by squeezing your shoulder blades together as shown. Hold for 2 seconds and then slowly return to the starting position. Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions provided the exercise is pain free
Begin this exercise lying on your stomach with your arms by your side. Tighten your rhomboids by squeezing your shoulder blades together and slowly lifting your arms and chest off the ground, keeping your neck straight (figure 3). Hold for 2 seconds at the top of the movement and then slowly return to the starting position. Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions provided the exercise is pain free. This exercise may be performed with palms facing up or down.
Seated Machine Scapular Retraction
Sit on the machine with your feet on the ground and with your chest against the machine pad. Grasp the machine handles with an overhand grip and with your forearms turned to a semipronated position. Straighten your arms and keep them in this position throughout the movement. Adduct your scapula, moving the machine handles slightly toward your torso. Protract your scapula, moving the machine handles forward to the beginning position.
Bent-Over Dumbbell Row
Stand with your torso parallel to the ground and knees bent. Grasp a dumbbell in each hand in an overhand grip and with your elbows extended. Turn your forearms to a semipronated position, so your wrists are facing one another. Raise the dumbbells to the sides of your torso by adducting (bringing back) your scapula and flexing (bending) your elbows. Lower the dumbbells down to the initial position by protracting (bringing forward) your scapula and extending (straightening) your elbows. (to really target the rhomboids, row only until elbows reach your sides)
Use a heavy-enough resistance that allows you to do no more than 12 repetitions when doing the exercises for the rhomboids. This is important for maximizing the stimulation of the larger type IIb muscle fibers and to promote hypertrophy.
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