All day we are slouched over a desk, a computer, our steering wheels while driving – heck, you are reading this on a computer right now, and I would bet that you are not sitting up straight. Slouched posture is such a common dysfunction amongst all different types of people. Not only is our sitting posture forcing us into this rounded shoulder position; but also sports, stress, and jobs that require a lot of overhead work all create poor posture. People frequently hold tension in their shoulders or necks – why can’t we tense up our abs when we get upset so at least we can work on our 6-pack? If only it were that easy…
All of these things we do during our daily lives can really mess with the muscles in the upper body. Hunching over so much puts certain muscles in a shortened position and others in a lengthened position. Muscles can’t work correctly if they are reduced or expanded past their normal length. Shortened muscles become very tight and can’t function properly; on the other hand, lengthened muscles become weak and can’t function properly either!
Now, simply trying to stand up straight more often is not going to fix the problem. But it won’t make it worse – so start focusing on your posture a bit more! What will fix the problem is corrective exercise. Through corrective exercise we will stretch out and inhibit the short/tight muscles, as well as strengthen and activate those lengthened/weak muscles. But how do we know what muscles are tight and which are weak? I’m about to tell you.
A slouched posture means shoulders rounded forward and head protruding forward (like a turtle). In this position, the tight or overactive muscles that need to be stretched are typically the pecs, lats, thoracic spine, upper trap, as well as some other muscles around the neck. You want to target these muscles with static stretches and foam rolling techniques. Holding each stretch (or tender spot when rolling) for a minimum for 30 seconds or until the pain of the stretch reduces.
The underactive muscles that we need to strengthen are mainly the rotator cuff muscles and middle/lower traps. Here are a few exercises I have found truly help target those weak muscles and help fix your posture when performed often and correctly. A side note – for these strength exercises you do not need to lift heavy weights. You may not even need to use weights at all. These exercises are challenging because they target very specific muscles that are currently weak in your body. You also do not need to lift heavy weights because the goal isn’t to get huge rotator cuffs, these exercises simply help strengthen the muscles that pull your shoulders back and down.
So, why is this important? This type of posture doesn’t just create weak and tight muscles. It can also lead to serious injuries and pain down the line. Headaches, dizziness, shoulder impingement, and biceps tendonitis – these are all potential injuries associated with rounded posture. If you’ve ever had shoulder pain and weren’t sure why – this could be why. Also, the entire human movement system is connected, so dysfunctions at your neck and shoulders could create many more problems simply by the upper bodies connections to other muscles in the body.
It’s a mess, I know, so let’s fix the problem before it gets any worse!