One of the most insidious effects of the amount of sitting westerners do is a tightening of the chest and shoulder muscles on the front side of our bodies and a weakening of the corresponding muscles on the back sides of our bodies.
Technically known as thoracic kyphosis, the result of this imbalance are shoulders and usually heads that are positioned more forward than usual.
Slouching of any sort causes enormous stress on the neck and shoulders, which can lead to reduced shoulder range of motion as well as neck pain, shoulder pain, shoulder blade pain, headaches, sleep disorders, numbness, and/or loss of function.
In addition to the excessive amount of sitting we do, rounded shoulders can be caused by excessive overhead activities such as stocking shelves at a grocery store, sleeping or driving with poor posture, and excessive weight training of the chest.
There’s one other thing we all do far too much of that leads to thoracic spine kyphosis: look at our phones. The hunched-over position we all sit in to look at our phones is tailor-made for exacerbating rounded shoulders.
So how do we fix this problem? First, it’s important to remember that rounded shoulders are the result of many hours and years of poor body positioning. We need to keep this in mind as we spend the time necessary to correct the problem. Developing rounded shoulders didn’t happen overnight, and neither will fixing them.
There are three main pieces to correcting poor posture. First, we need to focus on doing our best to not put ourselves in the positions that caused the problems to begin with. Try not to look at your phone so much; sit up straight; don’t sit hunched over a keyboard for excessive stretches.
Second, we need to invest time in daily mobility work. Wall slides, banded pull-aparts, doorway stretches, t-spine foam rolling, and lacrosse ball pec smashing are just a few of the things that will help.
Finally, the last thing we need to do to correct poor posture is strengthen the muscles on the back sides of our bodies that have become weak. We need those muscles to get back to doing one of the jobs they are meant to do: pull our shoulders back into proper position.
Specifically, we need to focus on strengthening the trapezius, latissimus dorsi, and rhomboids. Bent-over rows, bent-over shrugs, and inverted bodyweight rows fit the bill perfectly, as does daily use of Crossover Symmetry, which I can’t recommend highly enough.
If you need some help coming up with a plan to fix your rounded shoulders, let me know!
About the Author
Edward Getterman is a Certified CrossFit Trainer (CF-L3) and the owner of Twin Bridges CrossFit in Waco, Texas. If he can’t be at the gym or at home, he’d prefer to be at Walt Disney World. He loves deadlifts, hates running, and believes above all else that CrossFit is for everyone.