The Scapular Pull-up

  • Written by Eric Hörst and found on his NICROS web site.  well worth a read


The Scapular Pull-up

Shoulders are one of the most commonly injured body parts in climbing.  However, if you put in the time and use the correct exercises, most shoulder injuries are preventable.  Ultimately, one of the most overlooked exercises that will go a long way towards preventing shoulder injuries by developing correct movement patterns is the scapular pull-up.

Never heard of it?

Well, here’s an article by coach and training guru Eric Hörst of Training for Climbing that outlines exactly why the scapular pull-up is such and important exercise, how to properly perform it, and how it should be incorporated into your training routine.

Why the Scapular Pull-up:

“Keeping your shoulders healthy and developing proper movement patterns in pulling motions demands the ability to forcefully depress, rotate, and retract the scapula. Regular use of this isolation exercise will develop better kinesthetic awareness of your scapula position and enable you to climb harder and longer with good form, despite growing fatigue. Furthermore, being able to quickly and forcibly engage the lower trapezius and latissimus muscles will empower you to keep your scapula in proper position when campus training and lunging.” – Eric Hörst

As Hörst notes, training with the scapular pull-up is so effective because it not only strengthens your ability to quickly retract the scapula, but it also engrains proper movement patterns.  Learning to move correctly goes a long way toward protecting your shoulders when training with high intensity exercises like limit bouldering and campusing.

How to Use the Scapular Pull-up:

To show you exactly how to preform the scapular pull-up, Hörst provides a step by step guide complete with some example photos to make it easy to follow. Then, Hörst touches on how to increase or decrease the difficulty of the exercise depending on your currently level.

Finally, Hörst recommends you start out using the exercise by performing two sets of 6-12 reps with a three minute rest in between.  Once you have mastered it, he recommends moving from two to three sets.  While this may not seem like a lot of volume, it’s important to remember that this is a highly isolationist exercise where quality is much more important than quantity.

To read more about the scapular pull-up click through below for Hörst’s complete article.  Remember, while injury prevention work might not always be the most fun, it’s always worth it as it’s a lot more fun than having to spend six months away from climbing while rehabbing.

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