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YTW Exercise Tutorial

How To Do & The Best Variations Of YTW's

By: Zack Mathews, NASM - CPT, CES, & PES, PN-L1

YTW Exercise

The YTW exercise has quickly become on of my favorite shoulder movements to do with my clients over the past year.

Many clients have went from having stiff, painful shoulders with poor overhead mobility to having full range of motion and feeling amazing! All thanks to YTW’s!

Muscles Worked During YTW's

The YTW is an amazing shoulder movement that is going to target your:

  • Front Deltoids
  • Medial Deltoids
  • Rear Deltoids
  • Trapezius
  • Rhoboids
YTW's Muscles Worked

What Does The YTW Mean In Exercises?

Simply put, YTW stands for the three positions your arms will be put into for an isometric hold. 

Each of these movements will put you into scapular retraction, meaning you will be strengthening the muscles in and around your shoulder blades.

Since most people spend so much time with rounded shoulder being on their computers and phones, pulling your shoulder blades back and building strength in this position will help you maintain proper posture. 

Also, it will help relieve tightness and pain in the upper back, shoulders, and neck.

How To Do The YTW Exercise

  • Start with your chest on the floor.


  • Tuck your chin to keep a neutral spine position throughout the whole movement.


  • Extend your arms out into a Y position and lift your arms as high off the ground as you can.  Actively be “reaching” with your hands to extend your position.  Hold for 15 seconds.


  • Once 15 seconds passes, bend your elbows and pull your shoulder blades to make a W.  Keep your elbows and wrists as high off the ground as you can.  Hold for 15 seconds.


  • After 15 seconds, extend your arms out straight to the side and keep your hands as high off the ground as you can.


  • That 45 seconds will complete one round of YTW’s.


I’ve always learned YTW’s with an added position, either Surfers or I’s.  Check out the variations below for how to add the 4th position to make the hold a full 60 seconds.


What Other Scap Retraction Exercises Can I Do?

Once you can comfortably perform the YTW exercise with perfect form, you can start adding weight to different movements and performing movements on a bench to increase strength and muscle.

Since you’re coming from bodyweight only with the previous YTW exercises, any of the movements below that require weight can be done with 2.5 - 10 pound dumbbells.

I guarantee you that you’ll feel the burn with these light dumbbells.

Can YTW's Make Me Stronger?

Yes YTW’s can make you stronger because as your mobility improves, you’ll be able to push past your limiting areas on certain shoulder movements. 

If you can improve range of motion, you’ll be able to put more stress on your muscles.  As you put more stress on your muscles, you’ll be able to increase your weights and get stronger.  I love pairing YTW variations with bigger muscle group movements, such as pull-ups, in a pull day workout.

Do Shoulder YTW's Build Muscle?

Similar to why the YTW exercise can get you stronger, the more range of motion you have, the more opportunity you have to build muscle.

Most people associate muscle building with increasing weight or reps each week.  That is called progressive overload and will help build muscle.

Another form of progressive overload is improve range of motion.

For example, let’s say you do overhead shoulder press with a barbell for 10 reps at 95 pounds.   You have limited mobility and can only lift the bar about 2/3’s of the way above your head.

You implement YTW’s and after a couple months you can lift the bar completely overhead for 10 reps at 95 pounds.

That added range of motion will require more muscular recruitment and you will build more muscle!

YTW Exercise Recap

Performing YTW’s will benefit those who have tight, rounded forward shoulders from being on devices, poor posture, etc.

YTW’s are a scapular retraction exercise meaning you’ll be pulling your shoulder blades back and working all the muscles in your shoulder and upper back.

You can do this exercise as part of your warm up that pairs great with foam rolling your upper back and lats.

Alternatively, do 2 - 3 sets as part of a superset in your workout. If you want to hammer your shoulders with a tough superset, pair a YTW variation with one of these shoulder superset exercises.