Rounded shoulders or “upper crossed syndrome” is arguably the most common irregular posture. We are more sedentary than ever and with the development of laptops, tablets, and smart phones, it has made for a postural disaster. Spending large portions of the day seated, not only increases the risk of sedentary lifestyle, but increases the risk of developing lasting poor posture. We hear people say all the time that their posture sucks however; if they know their posture sucks, why are they not doing anything about it? Makes me think about when grandma would catch you slouching and scold you to sit up straight. Sometimes we don’t even realize we are slouching or sitting with our shoulders rounded, because it is such an easy position to fall into. I saw a post recently that made me think a little bit differently on how we can improve our posture.
Muscles will rearrange to maintain a position, good or bad. Constantly sitting with rounded shoulders will result in a muscle imbalance between the chest, shoulders, and back. There is a common misconception that the posterior muscles are “loose” or “weak”, and strengthening the back will improve this problem. The truth is both the anterior and posterior muscles are tight, but in different ways. The anterior muscles are overloaded (bunched), while the posterior muscles are underused (strained); meaning both sides are experiencing tension. This means the back is in a constant eccentric load trying to keep the shoulder centered in the socket. With shoulders that have slid forward, it could be dangerous to only use strengthening protocols.
This post made a good point and said “How hard is it to pull your shoulders down and back? Try it right now… it’s not very hard, is it? Strength exercises tend to be quite hard so, if strength is not the issue, then how do we go about fixing the problem? Posture could be more of a habitual problem and could be improved by increasing body awareness and body control. The solution just may be retraining ourselves through corrective or “prehab” type exercises. A good time to incorporate these exercises would be before your workout or if you have a desk job, every three hours or after a period of long sitting. Here are some examples of exercises to try:
- Static Latissimus (Lat) Stretch – hands on wall at shoulder width apart, lower chest down to the floor while kicking hips back
- Static Hip Hinge with Over Head Extension – hinge at the hips until chest is almost parallel with the floor. While holding that position, raise arms above the head with palms facing each other.
- Dynamic Lunging Chest Stretch (with arm at low, mid, & high levels) – using a doorway or partitioned wall, place hand on the wall with other hand across your body. Take a small lunge step forward until you feel a stretch in your shoulder/chest of the wall side.
- Band “W” Hold – overhand grip on the band with elbows tucked at sides. Holding tension in the band, bring hands outside of the elbows with the shoulders pulled down and back. Hold that position until shoulders start to burn and release.
- Band pull apart – (overhand & underhand grip) think about squeezing your shoulder blades together.
- Band High pulls – attach band at chest level to rack or anchor. Pull band towards your body, hands and elbows should be level with your shoulders.
These are just some examples, but the idea is to increase awareness of how those muscles should feel, especially the concentric motion. The more body awareness we develop, the better our bodies will feel. Give some of these exercises a try if you consider yourself someone who has bad posture. Also, if you have a desk job or spend a lot of time sitting, get up every few hours to get those shoulders readjusted. Good posture feels a whole lot better than bad posture and your body will thank you for it.
Becca Carley, B.S. ACSM – EP