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Shoulder Protraction and Retraction Explained

What Are Shoulder Protraction and Retraction?

Protraction and retraction are essential functions of the shoulder blades that play a role in sports, gym training, and everyday life. Shoulder protraction is when the shoulder blades move away from one another, the upper back rounds, and the shoulders roll forward. In contrast, retraction is when the shoulder blades pinch together, the back arches, and the shoulders move back into a stable position.

Shoulder Protraction Examples

  • The essential movement – stand tall and roll the shoulders forward, allowing your upper back to round to a degree.
  • Scapular push-up – push yourself to the top position and move your shoulders forward as your upper back rounds

Shoulder Retraction Examples

  • The essential movement – stand tall and pinch your shoulder blades together, allowing your chest to stick out
  • During a bench press – lie back and bring your shoulders back, digging them into the bench while setting up and bracing


1. What muscles play a role in shoulder protraction?

The pectoralis major (chest) and serratus anterior (also known as the boxer’s muscle) are the primary muscles that cause shoulder protraction.

2. Why is shoulder retraction important?

Shoulder retraction is crucial for achieving a stable position of the scapulae, allowing for safer training and optimal performance during many activities, such as the bench and overhead press.

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