Scapular Pull Ups: How To Do, Muscles Worked & Benefits

Scapular pull-ups, or Scapula pull-ups are one of the best exercises for strengthening the upper back muscles and improving shoulder strength and mobility.

Adding a scapular pull-up to your workout routine can help you build more muscle and strengthen weak spots in your shoulders and back.

In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about how to perform the scapular pull up correctly.

You will also learn its benefits, how to avoid common mistakes, and what are the best variation of scapular retraction pull-ups and how to do them.

What Are Scapular Pull-Ups?

Scapular pull-ups, also known as scapula pull-ups, are an upper-body bodyweight workout that uses a smaller range of motion than a regular pull-up to activate your shoulders and back muscles.

When performed correctly, scap pull-ups can lead to increased upper-body strength and improve the range of motion that your shoulders can do.

A scapular pull-up also helps you keep your shoulders in a good position when you do pull-ups or climb a ladder.

The main difference between pull-ups and scapular pull-ups is that conventional pull-ups use your arms to pull you up. On the other hand, scap pull-ups work your back and use your arms isometrically and do little range of motion.

scapular pull ups
Know More: 28 Best Rhomboid Exercises for Strength and Muscle

Benefits Of Scapular Pull Ups

Regularly performing scapula pull-ups exercises are a good choice for training. Benefits include:

  • The scapular pull is a great exercise for strengthening scapular depression, which is important for shoulder health and stability.
  • The scap pull-ups call for strength in the serratus anterior, which helps keep your shoulders working hard and with full range of motion.
  • Pulling the scapula downward and against the rib cage, which helps to keep the scapula stable. Scapular depression also prevents the shoulder blades from being rounded over and pulled forward.
  • They can help you improve your balance, coordination, stability and flexibility. It is an excellent choice if you want to get better at any sport or form of exercise.
  • You don’t need any special equipment to practice the scapula workout. All you require is the right technique and some willpower.

Scapular Pull Ups Muscles Worked

The muscles involved in Scapula pull-ups are:

  • Primarily muscles Worked:  Serratus Anterior, Lats
  • Secondary muscles Worked:  Chest, TrapeziusRhomboids, levator Scapulae, Core muscles and Triceps.
scapular pull ups muscles worked

How To Do Scapular Retraction Pull Ups

Choose your sets and repetitions based on how many you can do without losing good technique. Or you can begin with 2–3 sets of 6-12 reps.

  1. Start with your normal pull-up position. When you do the exercise for the first time, hold your hands shoulder-width apart.
  2. While you are hanging from the bar, keep your abs and glutes tight to stay still and not swing back and forth.
  3. Take a breath and initiate the scapular pull-up by bringing your shoulders back and down. Keep your arms straight.
  4. From a full hang, with just slightly shrugged shoulders.
  5. You want to draw the scapula down and together, so your body is raised a little, but you don’t want to bend your arms and pull like you would with a regular pull-up. 
  6. Hold the retracted position for a second or two, making sure to feel your back muscles working.
  7. Then return to the starting position. The range of motion is only a few inches.
  8. Repeat for your desired number of repetitions.
How To Do Scapular Retraction Pull Ups

Scapular Pull Ups Proper Form And Mistakes

Proper exercise technique is essential to ensure the safety and effectiveness of an exercise program.

  • Keep a controlled motion and avoid jerky movements.
  • Keeping your back in a straight line and without bending your elbows.
  • Keep your chest tall and your shoulder blades pulled back throughout the exercise.
  • You have to account for the training volume and avoid doing more than a few sets of scapular pull-ups at a time.
  • Ensure you maintain some tension in your abs and don’t allow your lower back to excessive arch.
  • To see continual progress and build body strength, incorporate proper warm-ups, rest, and nutrition into your exercise program.
  • Ultimately, your results will depend on your ability to adequately recover from your workouts. It is recommended that you allow at least 36 to 48 hours of rest before training the same muscle groups again, in order to allow for sufficient recovery.

Progressing With Scapular Pull-Ups

You can make pull-ups for the scapula simpler by doing assisted pull-ups. This beginner version is easy to do because you aren’t lifting a large percentage of your body weight, and it doesn’t require a large amount of flexibility.   

As you get stronger, there are a few ways to increase the difficulty of scapula retraction pull-ups

  • Increase the number of reps and sets you perform. Start with 3 sets of 10-12 reps, and gradually increase the number of reps and sets.
  • Add weight. Once you can comfortably do 3 sets of 15-20 reps, you can start adding weight. You can use a resistance band, a weight belt, or a weighted vest.
  • Change your grip. A wider grip will make the exercise more difficult, while a narrower grip will make it easier. You can also try an underhand grip, which will challenge your biceps and forearms.

1. Assisted scapular pull-up

Start with an assisted pull-up if you’re new to the exercise. To do an assisted scapular pull-up, put a resistance band around the pull-up bar and put a foot in the other end of the resistance band. Then, do the exercise.

2. Weighted scapular pull-up

Scapular weighted pull-ups are a more advanced variation. Weighted pull-ups are strength-training exercises in which you wear weights while doing a pull-up.

If you’re an advanced climber, with strong shoulders and pulling muscles, then the scapular pull-up with weight is for you.

Weighted scapular pull-ups can be performed using dumbbells, or a dip belt with barbell plates if you don’t have access to a weight belt.

3. Close Grip Scapula Pull-Up

The Close Grip scapular pull-up is a beginning friendly variation of the standard scapular pull-up exercise. As the name suggests, you hold the pull-up bar tightly, with your hands narrower than your shoulder width.

The close grip emphasizes the lower traps, rhomboids, and serratus anterior.

4. Wide Grip Scapula Pull-Up

A wide-grip scapular pull-up is an advance variation of the traditional scapular pull-up that is performed with a wider grip. This places more emphasis on the latissimus dorsi (lats).

Wide-grip scapular pull-ups require more shoulder flexibility than regular scapular pull-ups.

Best Alternative Of Scapula Pull Ups

Before we deep dive into the best scapula pull-ups alternatives. We must remember, a good scap pull up will be able to satisfy the following criteria:

  • Activate the shoulder muscle groups which are trained in the retraction pull-ups.
  • Isolate the muscle groups during execution
  • Train the shoulder muscle through a longer range of motion

Scapula Push Up

The scapula push up is known for being an advanced variation of the traditional push-up. It is also often recommended for individuals looking to improve their shoulder mobility, as well as their core strength and stability.

Scapular Push Ups

2. Scapular Dips

Scapular dip is the simple yet effective alternate of scapular pull up that you can do at home. This is likely the best bodyweight exercise for a beginner at home.

Your scapula should also always stay active. No matter the exercise, you are actively moving the scapula in both directions—your scapula is never relaxed.

Scapula Dip

People Also Ask

Do scapular pull-ups work lower traps?

It is so effective because it builds up the strength of the scapulars and also engages your lower traps and lats.


Scapula pull-ups exercise is one of the most classic ones for strengthening the muscles in the upper back and shoulders.

If you’re looking for a way to mix up your upper body workout, try this move. It’s a move that can help improve shoulder mobility, too.

The Scap Pull Up is a great way to build your upper body and keep your shoulders in a better position when you’re climbing a ladder or doing regular pull-ups.


  1. Tucker WS, Bruenger AJ, Doster CM, Hoffmeyer DR. Scapular muscle activity in overhead and nonoverhead athletes during closed chain exercises. Clinical journal of sport medicine. 2011 Sep 1;21(5):405-10.

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