Tight pecs? Weak shoulders? Overall upper body discomfort when you sit down? Want to know what it takes to get beautiful posture?! Find out why upper body mobility is so important and how you can improve your posture!
Fix Rounded Shoulders with These Basic Steps
Raise your hand if you: work a job where you sit down most of the day. <raising my hand> Whether it be a corporate desk job, entrepreneur life or fitness professional life that has you standing for long periods of time and then sitting for long periods of time.
We sit a lot during the day.
And because of it, our upper backs suffer.
The good news is that there are mobility drills and stretches that you can do to help!
Does this look like you? Okay, maybe it’s a little exaggerated, but you get the idea.
I got my Corrective Exercise Specialist certification through NASM earlier this year and they have a pretty simple continuum that I’m using to outline how best to incorporate mobility & strengthening exercises into your routine!
INHIBIT or release tension of overactive muscles, usually through self-myofascial release aka, foam rolling.
LENGTHEN or stretching / mobility techniques (think: lacrosse balls or dynamic & static stretching) to increase range of motion of overactive muscles.
ACTIVATION or strengthening of underachieve muscles, usually including isometric holds.
INTEGRATION or strengthening, dynamic movements that allow muscles to work synergistically with newfound range of motion and length.
UPPER CROSSED SYNDROME
Rounded shoulders and forward head / protruding neck are characteristics of upper crossed syndrome. See the photo above. This is what tends to happen if we are not prioritizing our posture when we sit at our desk or even scroll through Instagram on our phone.
Potential problems with this posture include headaches, rotator cuff impingement and more. Workouts will suffer and basic movements like overhead pressing can become difficult. Good new is, if we fix the issue, you can level up your workouts and progress them easier.
INHIBIT & LENGTHEN
It’s so important to make sure that we release tight, overactive muscles. With this posture distortion, the common overactive muscles include: PECS (major & minor), upper trap (back of neck, leading to top of shoulders), elevator scapulae (neck), sternocleidomastoid (neck), scalene (neck), LATS (back), teres major (shoulder), subscapularis (shoulder).
Imagine yourself in the photo above. Now, sit up straight, with beautiful posture (or the best posture you can have). See how much more open and free and light you feel? That’s what we want!
So, we want to do do some myofascial release and mobility drills to help open up these muscles and loosen them up, for lack of a better phrase.
The RX for these mobility drills & stretches is at least 2 minutes. You can do these stretches and drills everyday! DO NOT FORGET TO BREATHE!!! Slow, controlled, deep breathes. And keep in mind, there are a ton of different stretches you can do to open up tight muscles. These are my easy go-to’s. Check out the Burpees for Breakfast Facebook page to grab more options!
PEC WALL STRETCH | Stand next to a wall, staggered stance with inside foot forward. Circle arm around the wall, so it ends up behind you, fingers wide. Ensure shoulder is down. Use other hand to assist as you twist front. Breathe, moving in and out of the stretch. Slowly walk hand up the wall, stopping at sticky points and breathing into stretch.
ACTIVE NECK STRETCH | Stand upright (go over all ya checkpoints). Place right hand on the left side of your head, just above your ear. Slowly pull head towards the right. Hold, breathe, stretch. From there, draw a line down to the bottom left corner of the room. Hold, breathe, stretch. Draw nose up to the right corner of the room.
LAT WALL STRETCH | Place hands on a wall, fingers wide. Slowly walk hands down, while walking away from the wall, hinging at the hips. You want to form an upside down letter L against the wall.
T-SPINE FOAM ROLL | Position foam roller so it’s just above the bottom of your ribs. Butt on the ground, knees bent, arms behind head. Slowly roll the foam roller towards your head. As you roll, move side to side, breathing into the stretch. Hang out on tender spots for 5s / a deep breath and then move. Extend arms overhead and continue rolling. Lift hips to increase pressure. Move around on the roller, finding your sticky spots. Expect to hear some noises from your back as you roll.
Now that we’ve release tight muscles, we need to strengthen the weak. The weak muscles with this posture distortion tend to be: deep cervical flexors & infraspinatus (neck), serratus anterior (pecs/chest), rhomboids (upper/middle back), mid & lower traps (mid back), teres minor (shoulder).
Take another peek at the photo. Does it make sense what muscles are tight / short and what muscles are weak / lengthened?
Think of your shoe laces. You can pull one side tight and keep the other side really loose. You could probably walk fine, but it would feel a little weird, depending on where the laces hit, you might feel some discomfort and pain.
Now, loosen the tight lace just enough so it’s not causing any pain. Feels better, right? Now, tighten the extra loose side. Feels pretty good now? This is similar to what we are doing by stretching tight and strengthening weak muscles!
BANDED PULL APARTS | Stand upright, shoulders back and down, with pelvis slightly tucked, band in both hands. Wrap band around hands a couple times. Raise arms in front of you, just parallel to the ground. Pull band apart, moving arms out laterally to the side, squeezing shoulder blades as arms straighten out.
BANDED PULL APARTS – REAR DELT FOCUS | Looks the same, but targets different muscles. Same set up as the banded pull aparts, except you’ll hinge forward slightly and bring your arms slightly higher. The change in angle works rear delts a bit more and does it ever burn!
SUPERWOMAN ROWS | Lay on your belly, with arms and legs stretched out. Actively engage core, glutes, and lower back muscles, as you lift your chest and arms (and legs) off the ground. Arms should be outstretched in front of you. As if you were rowing, spread arms wide, as you bring them down to your sides. Elbows at about 90 degrees and think about bringing shoulder blades into your back pocket. Squeeze at the top, and return to start.
SNOW ANGEL SWIMMERS | Similar to the Superwoman Row. Rather than bending elbows to 90 degrees, keep arms nearly straight. Start with palms down and as you move arms down to sides, rotate palm up. Ending position should be with arms at your sides, upper back engaged, palms up.
T’s & Y’s | Lie on belly, with toes curled. Roll shoulders back and down, so shoulder blades are on your back. Keep chin tucked. With shoulder blades on your back, move your arms out into a T shape. Squeeze shoulder blades together, like you have a coin or card in between your shoulder blades, moving arms up and down. For the Y, start in the same way, but move arms into a Y position, thumbs pointed up. Initiating from the shoulder blades, move arms up and down, slowly and controlled.
With newfound range of motion and increased mobility, it’s time to start integrating dynamic movements. You can repeat some of the strengthening exercises, working them into a circuit 3 – 5 times per week. Aim for 1 – 3 sets of 12 – 15 reps.
SQUAT TO ROW | At the cable machine, add the flat bar attachment to the bottom attachment. Adjust weight, as needed. You’ll likely want light to moderate, depending on workout. Grab the flat bar at each end, with palms up, position shoulders correctly and step back. With arms extended, perform a squat. As you come up from the squat, pull the flat bar attachment toward you, rowing bar back with elbows bent. Return bar to start position and repeat.
FACE PULLS | At the cable machine, position the rope attachment at the top attachment. Adjust weight, as needed. You’ll likely want light to moderate, depending on workout. Grip the rope with palms facing down. Step back and stagger stance. Roll shoulders back and down and imagine you are holding oranges under your armpits. Initiating with your upper back muscles, pull the rope attachment to your face. Elbows should be wide and you should squeeze your shoulder blades together at the end of the movement. Depending on your height, you will want to bring the middle of the rope to your nose. Bringing the rope to your forehead will work rear delts more. Bringing the rope to your chin will work
RDL TO REAR DELT RAISES | Stand upright, shoulders back and down, pelvis slightly tucked, core braced, dumbbells in hand, palms facing you. Hinge at hip, keeping back flat, stopping when tension is felt in hamstrings). Initiate movement from rear delts to raise arms out to the side, slowly, keeping elbows slightly bent. Squeeze shoulder blades at the top, lower then repeat.
BENT ROW W/TWIST | Grab a dumbbell, standing upright with weight in heels, slight bend in the knee, glutes squeezed, pelvis slightly tucked, shoulders back and down. Hinge at hip (stagger stance for extra support) bracing core to bring back to a 45 degree angle (or until tension is felt in hamstrings), chest up. Ensure shoulder blades are on back. Start with palms facing each other. Row dumbbells back, elbow shooting straight back staying close to your body, while twisting palms to face up. Squeeze at the top. Return to start and repeat.
A FEW NOTES
- Practice makes progress! If you want to correct muscle imbalances, you need to work on it. Practicing these stretches / drills / exercises at least a few times a week – stretches / drills everyday! – will help correct the issue. Depending on the severity, it will probably not feel great those first few times!
- I didn’t take these photos in the gym purposely. All can be performed at a home office or home gym. Most can even be done at the office!
- Take videos and/or use the mirror at the gym. Do not be afraid to take photos or videos to ensure you are performing these moves with correct form.
- Work with a coach, if you need extra assistance. I program specifically for this muscle imbalance for all my clients that display this posture distortion during assessments. We gotta build a solid foundation first.
- If you have pain and/or something doesn’t feel right, take a trip to your doctor or physical therapist. Remember, I’m a not either of those, so I cannot diagnose or treat anything!
In case you didn’t know, I’m back to full-time personal training under Burpees for Breakfast Fitness, LLC. I love helping women move well, get strong and live their best life.
I’m taking on clients! If you are local and looking for in-person training, I have a new training studio home! If you looking for online coaching, I’ve got availability! I’m looking for ladies that are ready to quit making excuses, be challenged and reach their goals! Fill out the application today!
Is this something you struggle with?
Which exercises are you going to include your daily routine?!