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Week 45: Standing Vertical Pulldown

Exercise: Standing Vertical Pulldown

Purpose: To target the scapular depressors and retractors with the intention of inhibiting the scapular elevators to decompress the cervical spine

What It Targets: Targeted activation of the scapular depressors, specifically Lower and Middle Trapezius, Latissimus Dorsi; Scapular Retractors: Rhomboids, Middle Trapezius; Shoulder Extensors: Triceps, Posterior Deltoid; Inhibition of the scapular elevators and cervical accessory muscles: Upper Trapezius, Levator Scapulae, Scalenes, Sternocleidomastoid


  1. Stand rather close to a two-tailed resistance band that is anchored high overhead.

  2. Grab each tail of the band with each hand with your elbows bent and at shoulder height. Be sure to relax your shoulders. 

  3. Pull down on the band with the muscles on the bottom side and middle of your shoulder blades, as you pull your elbows straight down to your sides. Be sure not to pull your elbows behind your trunk.

  4. Pause for two seconds at the end of the range, feeling muscle activation in the lower middle of your back. 

  5. Slowly let the resistance band pull your arms back up until tension is released from the band. Keep your shoulders and neck completely relaxed.

  6. Repeat as prescribed. Typically low load (light resistance) and high reps (12-20) is the prescription, with the goal being to retrain the movement pattern.

Main Cues:

  • Be sure to keep your upper shoulders and neck completely relaxed throughout the entire exercise

  • The main focus is to feel muscle activation in the middle lower back, surrounding the undersides of your shoulder blades

  • Do not let your elbows move behind you past your trunk

  • Let the band pull you up slowly

Common Compensations/Adverse Effects:

  • Tensing of the shoulders and neck

Correction: Make conscious effort to relax your neck and shoulders and initiate motion from the lower shoulder blades and mid back; Exhale calmly as you rotate to allow your shoulder blades to drop down and back, and away from your neck and shoulders

  • Pain in mid or lower back

Correction: Be sure to maintain a stacked spine position; Decrease the range of motion to a comfortable one to avoid any discomfort; Decrease the resistance

  • Pain in neck

Correction: Do not allow your shoulders to hike forward or up and cause compression on the neck; Reduce the range of motion; Decrease the resistance

Why We Love It:

  • This exercise makes it easier to activate the middle and lower traps while keeping the upper traps and neck relaxed, which is a difficult thing to avoid

  • You can make significant progress in proper shoulder blade mechanics by incorporating this drill into your weekly exercise routine

  • It feels fantastic due to its decompressive properties for the cervical spine (neck)

*Disclaimer: Not all exercises are suitable for everyone, and participation in novel activities may increase the risk of adverse effects such as pain, soreness, or injury. Please consult with your Physician or a local Physical Therapist prior to attempting any exercise you feel uncomfortable performing. If adverse reactions occur, discontinue performance of the exercise and consult your physician or trusted clinician for evaluation.

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