How’s your posture?
Do you walk up right with your chest out? Are you looking tall and strong? Or maybe not so much?
Maybe your shoulders slouch forward. Maybe your back is a little rounded. Chances are, the last 2 sound more familiar than the first.
Most of us have horrendous posture. We sit a lot. We hunch over our keyboards and phones. We basically do everything that leads to terrible posture.
One of the biggest signs of bad posture is rounded shoulders. Before we get any farther, stand up and check your own posture.
Checking for Rounded Shoulders
Of course, you could just look in the mirror to check, but if you’ve had rounded shoulders for years, you may not even notice it. That’s just how you’ve always looked. Nothing unusual.
So what I want you to do is stand with your arms by your side. Don’t try to fix your posture. Just stand how you feel comfortable.
Now, without rotating your hands, extend your thumbs.
If they point forward, your shoulders are ok.
If they point towards each other, that means your shoulders are slouched, and your arms have started to rotate in front of you.
Spoiler Alert: That’s bad.
What Causes Rounded Shoulders?
It’s a logical assumption that rounded shoulders come from shoulder weakness. However, it actually starts in your spine.
Your mid back, or thoracic spine, has a tendency to get very tight. That causes you to start to round forward, taking your whole upper body with it.
So if you want to fix rounded shoulders, you need to loosen up your thoracic spine.
Start With This Stretch
The best way to stretch out the thoracic spine is to lie on your stomach, arms out in a Y above your head.
Rotate your body up, opening your chest up to one side. Hold it for a beat, then return to the floor and switch sides.
The Problem Areas
So your back is the root, but what about the symptoms? A disease can wreak havoc on your body, and even after you’re “cured,” you still have to deal with the damage. Let’s talk about the symptoms.
Because your back is rounding, you’re going to develop certain tight muscles and certain weak muscles. Your tight spots are going to be on the front of your body.
Specifically your supscapularis, which is your internally rotating rotator cuff muscle, and the pec minor.
Your weak spots are going to be on the back side. Your external rotator cuff muscles, your rhomboid, which pinches the shoulder blades together, your lower traps, and your serratus anterior, a should blade stabilizing muscle.
After you start to address the spine, it’s time to work out those tight spots. To stretch out the supscapularis, you’re going to do what we’ll call “the pitcher stretch.”
- Raise your arm to a 90 degree angle.
- Rotate your shoulder as far back as you can.
- Press your elbow and forearm against a doorway and lean forward into the stretch.
For your pec minor, you’re going to stay in that position, but adjust it with the following steps.
- Move your body towards the doorframe so that it’s resting against the inside of your shoulder.
- While leaning into the stretch, pinch your shoulder blades together in the back.
- Slowly raise and lower your arm, reach towards the celling
Hold each of these for about 30 seconds on each arm.
For the strengthening exercises, you don’t have to work each muscle separately. Here are a couple of moves that will work all the problem areas.
Modified Pull Apart
- Hold a resistance band out in front of you, one end in each hand.
- Spread your arms out towards a T formation.
- As you spread, externally rotate your shoulders so your thumbs start to point back.
- Slowly return to the start position, rotating your shoulders back to normal.
- Start in the same position as the pull apart.
- Push your arms forward without rounding your shoulders. Think how your arms feel at the bottom of a seated row, like they’re being gently pulled from the socket.
- Externally rotate your shoulders until there is tension on the band.
- Slowly raise you your arms above your head to a Y formation.
- Lower them back down and reset before repeating.
The worst thing we do for our posture is sit at the computer. If you do all this work, but don’t fix your computer posture, it’s not going to fix anything. Be conscious of where your shoulders are as you type, and take plenty of breaks. Don’t let your day job ruin your body.