Do you slouch?
If you spend much time sitting in front of your computer – or worse yet, hunched over a cellphone or other device – you probably do. It’s like an epidemic these days.
In fact, the effects of all this slouching even has a name: Upper Crossed Syndrome.
Sounds fancy, doesn’t it?
The thing is, the side effects of slouching aren’t just cosmetic. Your mom (or in my case, my grandmother) nagged at you to stand up tall for a reason. Having good posture can help you avoid headaches, keep your neck and shoulders healthy and injury-free, and can even help improve your breathing.
Think about it: your noggin weighs about 10 pounds, and when it juts forward unnaturally, it puts a lot of pressure on all the surrounding muscles.
I’ve got a great exercise you can add to your routine that can help you get those shoulders back where they belong.
But first, let’s take a look at why it even matters that your shoulders roll forward.
Slouched Shoulders 101
When your shoulders roll forward (or become inwardly rotated), you can create some pretty serious muscle imbalances. Some muscles get super activated or “tight,” while others become weak or loose.
The muscles at risk of becoming tight or activated are:
- the latissimus dorsi (or lats, the big muscles that run down the side of your back, below your shoulders)
- chest (both the pectoralis major and pectoralis minor)
- the upper trapezius (the traps are wide flat muscles that run from behind your neck down your back)
- the coracobrachialis (a small muscle that runs from your shoulder down your arm).
The muscles that get loose or weak when your shoulders roll inward:
- the mid- to lower trapezius (wide, flat muscles that run from behind your neck down your back),
- the rhomboids (muscles in the upper-middle of your back that go from your spine to your shoulder blades)
- the muscles of the rotator cuff
- the cervical (neck) flexors, in the front of your neck
Keeping these muscles strong, supple, and able to work through a full range of motion is really important – especially as we get older. It’s common for lifelong athletes to suddenly experience shoulder issues once they hit middle-age.
This can set you up for problems including headaches, biceps tendonitis (which often shows up as shoulder pain), shoulder impingement (ouch!), and shoulder instability.
There are whole bunch of things you can do to release those overactive muscles – including using a foam roll or tennis ball to help ease the spasms, which is another post for another day. Getting regular massages can help too.
But getting strong in those weak muscles can be very helpful.
And I know how you are (because I’m that way too). You don’t want a long list of rehab exercises to do before or after your workout.
How about an exercise you can tack on to the end of a workout? Will that work?
Exercise for Slouching Shoulders
This is a good exercise if you notice your arms fall forward when you do squats with your arms overhead or if it’s hard for you to holding the bar on your back for barbell back squats. It’s also a good one if you have a hard time doing pushups without your head sagging.
All you need is a stability ball and a resistance tube or dowel. In the video below, I use both a resistance tube and a 5-lb barbell. Step-by-step instructions are just below the video
- Drape your body over a stability ball that is directly under your thighs and hips
- Using your abs, lift your upper body so that your body forms a straight line from your heels to your hips.
- Keep your glutes squeezed and abs engaged to hold your body in place.
- Hold a resistance tube, dowel, or light bar in your hands, directly below your chest.
- “Row” upward, toward your chest.
- Next, press the arms so they extend in a straight line above your head.
- Return the arms back to chest level
- And then “row” your arms back down.
- Repeat for 10 to 12 repetitions, keeping your glutes and abs engaged.
It’s a good idea to do this one where you can watch your form, to make sure your upper body stays engaged and doesn’t sag toward the floor.
Also, it’s a good idea to be deliberate when you move your arms overhead so they stay in line with your shoulders, your biceps as close to your ears as possible without whacking yourself with your resistance tube or weight.
- For more shoulder mobility and flexibility exercises, check out Try These 13 New Moves for Healthy, Strong, Supple Shoulders.
How to Use this Exercise
As this is a core-intensive exercise, I personally like doing these at the end of my workout, so my core doesn’t get prefatigued before hitting the other exercises in my workout.
However, an argument could be made that if your primary goal is to work on isolating and targeting those posture muscles, you should do this type of exercise first so you make sure to train them while they’re fresh.
Either way, this exercise doesn’t take long to become challenging! Try it and let me know what you think!
Do You Want Flatter Abs?
The secret to a stronger, tighter core isn’t to do hundreds of crunches or cut carbs from your diet. In fact, what builds a lean, defined core is the same thing that builds a lean, defined, and healthy body.
Want to know the secrets of getting a strong core? Try the exercises in my FREE 5-Day Stronger Core Challenge, which only take a few minutes a day.
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