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mid back and rhomboid stretch

THE HARDEST MUSCLE TO STRETCH…

By far, one of the most difficult areas to stretch is the middle back and upper back. 

Some people think it’s because the back muscles are too thick to effectively target.  But that’s not the case!

The truth is that many people do get tight in this area, and even develop “knots” that never seem to go away.  They try to stretch their mid and upper back muscles, but unfortunately they’re using the wrong back stretches.

And they’re hitting the wrong back muscles!

Most of the common back stretches people do only target the lat muscles or the posterior capsule of the shoulder.

You’ll see that most of the common back stretches people do only target the lat muscles or the posterior capsule of the shoulder.  The problem with this is that if you just stretch out your lats and ignore the muscles in the middle and upper back, you are going to create an imbalance that can lead to you feeling even more stiff than if you had ignored stretching altogether!

I don’t want you walking around looking like Quasimodo…

So, I’m going to give you one simple stretch to help you get that middle and upper back relief you need.

This is the best way to stretch out rhomboids, middle traps and lower traps and uses either a cable machine or even just a simple doorway!

back muscle anatomy including upper middle and lower trapezius and latissimus dorsi

3 STRETCHES THAT DOn’t work FOR UPPER AND MID BACK

Especially if you’re doing a lot of deadlifts and back training, it’s likely you’re tight in your paraspinal muscles in between your scapula.

Have you ever tried to stretch that area and gotten unsatisfying results?

There are three ways that most people TRY to stretch mid and upper back (and get it wrong). Unfortunately, they’re the most common stretches people try for this area.

1.) Hanging From a Bar

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hanging from a bar is not an effective mid back stretch
The bar hang is a common way that many people try to stretch upper and mid back but it’s ineffective for this purpose.

The problem with doing this is that is that we’re really just stretching out our lats. This can also be a great decompressive stretch to do after deadlifts, but if what you’re going for is an upper and mid back stretch, this just isn’t going to get in there.

That’s because when we hang from the bar we’re only working on the upward and downward rotation of the scapula.

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the bar hang only works for downward rotation of the scapula
The bar hang only works on upward and downward rotation of the scapula.

Instead we need a stretch that is going to pull our scapula around our body.

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We need to choose a stretch for upper and middle back that pulls our scapula around our body like this.

2.) Cross Body Stretch

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the crossbody stretch isn't an effective scapula stretch
This cross body stretch is another common one that people do to try to target the upper and middle back.

This stretch does get a little bit of protraction of the scapula out and around our body.  But there’s another problem here.  We are limited in mobility by the posterior capsule in our shoulder which is often tight, especially in athletes.

So that makes this stretch a less than optimal option for upper and mid back.

3.) Holding and Sinking

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holding and sinking isn't an effective way to stretch to scapula
This holding and sinking stretch is a classic lat stretch and won’t hit the upper and mid back the way you need to.

This is another lat stretch that’s not just good for pulling the scapula around the body.

THE ONLY STRETCH YOU NEED FOR UPPER AND MID BACK!

In order to properly stretch the muscles in the upper back we want to look for a stretch that moves in the opposite direction of the muscle’s function.   

Let’s think for a second about what the middle traps and the lower traps do.

They pull the shoulder blades down and back together like this.

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the middle traps pull the shoulder blades back, down and together
The middle traps and the lower traps pull the shoulder blades down, back and together.

The key to figuring out how to stretch the middle and upper back is to reverse engineer the function of the muscles you’re looking to release.  The rhomboids retract the scapulae or pinch them together while the middle and lower traps assist with this and also depress the shoulder blades.

The key to figuring out how to stretch the middle and upper back is to reverse engineer the function of the muscles you’re looking to release.

So, to stretch the muscles in the mid back you have to try and take the shoulder blades in the opposite direction as their normal function. We want to abduct and protract the scapulae while elevating them against their desire to remain depressed.

So, we’ve got to get them up, out and around like this.

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to stretch the scapula we need to pull the scaps up, out and around
To stretch the mid back muscles we need to move them in the opposite direction of what they do, meaning up, out and around.

I’m going to show you how to do the best stretch for upper and mid back on a cable machine.

If you’re at home, don’t worry!

You can do the exact same thing inside of any doorway!

You position yourself in between your doorway or cables and take your right arm across your body and grab hold of the cable or the door jamb to get that protraction.  Then, take the left arm, and you cross it over to the other one in the same way and from there, you just sink back like this:

CABLE/DOORWAY STRETCH

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cable doorway stretch
This Cable/Doorway Stretch is the most effective way to stretch out the upper and mid back.

You want the arms to be pulled out in front of you so you can get that protraction with those shoulder blades being pulled apart.

There’s one more important tip I want to give you this stretch.

If you want to get those middle traps and lower traps, you’ll want to elevate the shoulders so that you can depress them.

We can do this by breathing in, letting your butt tuck under, breathing in deep, and lifting your shoulders as you let your arms pull away, like this:

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cable doorway stretch for scapula
To make sure you target the middle and lower traps, breathe in, let your butt tuck under and lift your shoulders.

Hold this stretch for about 60 seconds if you want to start causing some length changes and really stretch this muscle out!

If you were trying this with me, you can feel that this is one of the greatest stretches you can possibly do to target that really hard to reach upper and mid back area!

Remember, every muscle has a function. In order to stretch out that muscle, you’ve got to basically reverse-engineer that function. If the function is to pull this way, we want to stretch it by moving it the other way. If the function is to rotate it up, we want to do something to rotate it down.

At ATHLEAN-X we don’t only put the science back in strength. We also put science back in stretching! If you want a complete workout program that teaches you how to train like an athlete and supplements that training with effective stretches like these, check out all of our ATHLEAN-X Training Programs and start training like an athlete. I’ll coach you!

Program Selector ==> See which program best fits your goals
AX1 ==> Train at Home With Dumbbells and Minimal Equipment
XERO ==> Train at Home With No Equipment

athleanx
THE HIGHLIGHT REEL:
Mid Back Stretch and Rhomboid Release

  1. The middle and upper back is one of the toughest areas to stretch. Many people are tight in this area, especially athletes and people who do a lot of deadlifts and back training.
  2. The 3 most common stretches that people do to try to relieve tightness in the middle and upper back are ineffective for hitting this area, and instead target the lats and shoulder capsule.
  3. In order to effectively stretch the mid and upper back including the middle and lower traps you need to reverse engineer the normal function of the muscle. For the upper to mid back we want to abduct and protract the scapulae while elevating them against their desire to remain depressed.
  4. The Cable/Doorway Stretch can be done at the gym or at home and is the only stretch you need to hit the hard-to-stretch upper and middle back!

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