Glad that you are searching for rhomboid exercises! I am glad because many of the people don’t even want to know about it. So they usually forget training rhomboids which is wrong as, like other muscles, rhomboids play a crucial role in building your back.
While training back muscles we usually think about latissimus dorsi (Lats) and Trapezius (Traps) only. But it is equally important to train the rhomboids by using some specific rhomboid exercises in your workout routine.
What are Rhomboids?
The “rhomboid” shaped muscles located in our upper back underneath the trapezius muscles are called rhomboids. The rhomboid muscles consist of two parts: rhomboid major and rhomboid minor.
The starting of rhomboids are marked by cervical and thoracic vertebrae and ending by shoulder blades or scapulae.
In comparison to other nearby muscles, rhomboids appear tiny and thin. The larger and prominent muscles which overshadow the rhomboids are trapezius (or traps) and latissimus dorsi ( Lats) muscles.
Despite their size, rhomboids play a crucial role in upper body movements like scapular retraction. When you try to retract your shoulders back (example, rowing movements), rhomboids are actively involved. Also, Rhomboids are specifically involved in movements related to your shoulders. While raising your shoulders upwards ( example, shrugging ), rhomboids are involved. Even the movement involving shoulder depression ( example, pull-ups and pull-downs), it requires rhomboid’s support.
Reasons To Do Rhomboid Strengthening Exercises
Incorporating rhomboid exercises in your back workout routine is really crucial to attain all-round back development. Not only development, doing rhomboid exercises allows you to get rid of many back issues, if you have any. The issues like incorrect posture and its consequences like chronic back, neck, and shoulder pain; weakness in your back, olderly pain in your back, are relieved to a great extent if you’re training rhomboids in a regular fashion.
Since we’ve already known the functions of rhomboids, training rhomboids feels like of utmost importance. Furthermore, weak rhomboids and lack of rhomboid training can even lead to poor scapular control. It means your shoulder blades won’t function properly. The primary consequences of poor scapular control is the increased risk of shoulder injuries and upper back pain. Moreover, decreased scapular muscles performance also leads to issues in elbow movement. (research here).
Rhomboid Exercises For Strengthening
There are only a handful of movements that target the rhomboids specifically. The selection of exercises for rhomboids was not so easy because rhomboids work together with so many other muscles of your back and shoulders. Thus, finding the movement that can isolate the rhomboids was pretty difficult.
However, here is the list of all the rhomboid exercises which are really effective for rhomboid isolation training and development.
Rhomboids work together with other upper body muscles. There is no such isolation exercise which is particularly centered towards rhomboid muscles. However, the face pull is one of the best moves to target the rhomboid muscles properly.
Rear Deltoids, Rhomboids, Middle Trapezius (Upper Back) etc..
Benefit of Face Pulls
- Strengthens your scapular muscles
- Improves Scapular retraction and ability to depress the scapula
- Increases Shoulder Strength
- Increases Scapular Stability
Face Pulls can be done with a cable machine or resistance band too by following steps:
- Hold the rope attachment or band with a pronated grip.
- Pronated Grip: The grip in which your arms are facing away from your body is pronated grip.
- Supinated Grip: The grip in which your arms are facing towards your body is supinated grip,
- Take some steps back while also extending your arms out in front of you just to create the initial tension in the rope or band. Bend your knees slightly to stabilize yourself. Square off your body directly in front of the cable machine or the attached part of your rope or band.
- Now, Pull the rope towards your face with your elbows bent. Make sure to engage your upper back muscles while pulling. The closer your hands get to your face, take them far away from each other so that they pass either side of your head at the level of your ear.
- After pulling the rope as far as you can, squeeze your shoulder blades together and hold the position for a brief time.
- Slowly return back to the initial position and repeat for 8-12 repetition.
Rear Delt Flys
Dumbbells can also be used to target rhomboids. Especially for those who do not have cable machines or resistance bands, rear delt flys are the best way to target your shoulders. Rear delt flys target your middle and lower trapezius and rear deltoids. Truth be told, rear delt flys are for rear deltoids but we can use it to target our rhomboids too.
Middle and Lower trap, Rhomboids, Infraspinatus and Teres minor etc..
Benefits of Rear Delt Flys
- Strengthen Upper Back and Shoulders
- Increases stability strength of your spine
- Enhances your core and hip stability
Rear delt flys can be used as a rhomboid exercise by following steps:
- Grab a pair of light dumbbells ( one on each hand ) and hold them in front of your body.
- Lean your upper body forward by hinging your hips. Make sure to keep your back straight and spine neutral. Also bend your knees slightly to have more stability.
- Raise your arms out to your sides by engaging your back muscles. Do not swing or bounce the weight and do not recruit any other muscles to lift the arms.
- Squeeze the shoulder blades at the top of the movement. Then lower the dumbbells back slowly and in a controlled way.
To supplement dumbbells and cable exercises, here we have incline pull-ups which can also strengthen your rhomboids. It is actually a bodyweight exercise which you can do just anywhere. Incline pull-ups are the beginners’ exercises to upgrade their pull strength. However, anyone who want to improve their rhomboid strength can do so by doing incline pull-ups.
Latissimus dorsi, biceps brachii, Rhomboids etc..
- Strengthens your back muscles
- Enhances your rhomboids strength
- Advances you to do vertical pull-ups
- Pumps your biceps
- Get a bar or something on which you can hold on. You can adjust the bar on the smith machine to lower level.
- Hold onto the bar with a pronated grip and walk yourself in. Bend your knees by 90-degrees to make the stability easier or you can keep your legs straight to make the exercise challenging.
- Retract the shoulder blades and pull yourself up until your chest just touches the bar.
- Once it does, squeeze the shoulder blades together and hold the position for some seconds.
- Lower yourself down slowly and repeat for reps.
Prone Y-Raises are simple yet effective exercise for rhomboids. It definitely has a lot to offer for strengthening the rhomboids to improve shoulder health.
Traps, Deltoids, Rhomboids
- Strengthens the rhomboids
- Improves Shoulder Health
- Lie down on the floor in a prone position. That is with your face towards the floor. Extend your arms above your head so that your body forms the letter “Y”. Keep your palms in such a way that your thumb points towards the ceiling.
- Engage your back muscles to lift your arms up a few inches off the floor. Hold the position for some seconds and lower down to initial position.
- Repeat for reps.
- Make sure to keep your legs on the floor throughout the entire exercise. If you lift your legs too, you will engage the glutes like in Superman exercise which is not required here. Rather focus on the upper back only.
Scapular Wall Slides
Scapular wall slides are a very easy and effective way of improving scapular and shoulder mechanics. It helps to improve the strength of lower and mid trapezius which usually tends to be weak in most people. The benefit of scapular wall slides will make you able to do overhead lifts more efficiently. Additionally, it will also reduce shoulder injuries and anterior shoulder crankiness.
Latissimus Dorsi, Posterior Deltoids, Rhomboids etc..
- Strengthens lower and mid traps
- Improves rhomboids strength
- Reduces chances of shoulder injuries
- Stand against a wall and walk your feet out about half a foot away from the wall. Lean against the wall and keep your back fully supported by the wall.
- Pull your chin inwards so that the back part of your neck and head touches the wall. Press your lower back into the wall as well.
- Raise your arms out to the sides so they form a 90-degree angle – and – the back of your forearms and back of your hands should touch the wall.
- Slowly slide the arm along the wall to raise them above your head without separating them from the wall.
- On the top of the movement, bring your hands together to touch, and slide them back down.
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Hanging Scapular Retraction
Although scapular retraction seems small and simple movement, it is enormously beneficial. It will enhance all of the upper back exercises effectively. It will strengthen your upper back muscles and also warms up your muscles for training your upper body.
Scapular retraction movement can be done with a band or by hanging also. The hanging scapular retraction is more difficult as you have to support your whole body weight.
Trapezius, Rhomboids, Latissimus Dorsi, etc..
- Improves the strength of your shoulder blades
- Improves your posture
- Strengthen your upper back
- Improves mind & muscle connection
- Grab the bar with an overhand grip and extend your arms fully,
- Throughout the movement, focus on the up and down movement of the scapulas.
- Pull your scapulas down and together to active the mid back.
- Return to the initial relaxed position. Make sure you’re not shrugging the shoulders.
Tips For Doing Rhomboid Exercises
Whenever you’re performing rhomboid strengthening exercise, there are some fundamental things to bear in mind. These fundamental things will help you extract the most benefits of this exercise and also reduces the chance of injuring yourself.
- Start with light weight/resistance: Most of the scapular retraction exercises requires high focus. If you choose heavy weights, pulling your shoulders and elbows will be really difficult for you. That can possibly prevent you from engaging your rhomboids.
- Keep your spine neutral: You should keep your back as straight as possible without letting it arch or become rounded. If you are not keeping your spine neutral, you may experience some serious back pain and issues.
- Keep Your Shoulders down: Try to depress your scapula down which avoids your trapezius and levator scapulae muscles to take over in rhomboid exercises.
Rhomboid Exercises For Stretching
Stretching is a relief, at least for me. It also prevents a lot of injuries from happening. Thus, apart from rhomboid exercises to strengthen them, it is very crucial to incorporate rhomboid exercises to stretch them.
Infact, many problems related to your neck and upper back like tension headaches and stiffness in your neck are related to the rhomboids. Also, you will be exposed to increased risk of injuries while performing major upper body exercises and stiff rhomboids can also degrade your form.
In order to stretch the rhomboid muscles after doing rhomboid workout or as a warm-up, the following movements are the best.
It is the part of a popular yoga pose named as “Cat-Cow Yoga”. The Cat portion of the yoga is really great to loosen up the stiff rhomboid muscles.
Although it seems like a stretching exercise for your arms, it is really great for your rhomboids when done correctly. You may have probably done this before in your high school gym or during your basketball training.
Resistance Band Rows
This rowing movement is a great way to warm-up your back and shoulders. It will also help you practice the retracting and depressing the shoulder blades. It is necessary to focus on the mechanics of the movement using a light band.
The proper development of our back is possible only when we focus all the muscles present in it. Training our back muscles to strengthen them and practicing shoulder blades contraction benefits us a lot. Thus, we should focus on doing rhomboid exercises also to enhance the performance of our back muscles. Improvement in our posture, relief from back pain, etc are the major advantages of performing rhomboid exercises.
Training our rhomboids with aforementioned rhomboid exercises are greatly beneficial for posture correction. It will, in turn, help us in other exercises like squats, pull-ups, rowing, and pullups. Important of all is the fact that the rhomboid exercises mentioned above will complement your regular back training, and you will be a lot less prone to injuries as well.
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