Trainer Tip Tuesday: Tips for Un-Rounding Those Shoulders
For me, in both my personal and professional experience, posture is a combination of elements: genetics/anatomy, areas of relative muscle tightness, areas of relative muscle weakness, and a whole ‘lotta habitual sitting/standing/moving patterns.
When these things get added up over the years, the result is often some kind of uncomfortable or unhelpful posture.
The way I go about addressing posture issues, both personally and professionally, is therefore focused in these three areas:
- stretching chronically tight areas that contribute to postural discomfort issues, strengthening weaker areas that contribute to postural improvements,
- and putting a TON of emphasis on paying attention to and actively improving on existing postural habits.
Mindful Posture and Movement Work.
First, Let’s Talk Stretching/Mobilizing
Areas that tend to be tight, especially in the women I work with, are: the front of the shoulder/chest area and the upper traps (area just under the neck).
We tend to hold much of our tension in our upper backs and this often causes a ‘turtle-like’ neck shrinking posture where the shoulders creep up towards the ears.
Add in chronic forward-facing, forward-reaching activities (e.g.: desk jobs, driving, time on computers and other devices, holding kids, nursing babies) and you get a tighter, forward head, shoulder-rounded posture over time. And if you were a girl who developed breasts early or have had large breasts much of your life, then it’s pretty likely you’ve developed a forward-shoulder posture as a means of downplaying their size/avoiding unwanted attention. That’s tough!
So to first deal with these common tightnesses and postural tendencies, we can do the following stretches and mobility drills to get relief—over time, and with consistent practice, of course!
Wall Slides, Floor Slides
Extended Arm Doorway ‘hang’ stretches
Next, let’s work on getting stronger in the places that will help the most!
Areas that tend to be weaker and not get the time and TLC they deserve are: the muscles in the backs of our necks, the muscles that control and guide the shoulder blades, the muscles we sit on much of the time, all of the trunk muscles (not just those 6-pack muscles, lol), and the paraspinal muscles.
When we spend so much time in forward-facing work postures, we need to spend extra time working on all of those ‘back half of the body’ muscles (aka: your posterior chain).
To do this effectively, we need to work on strengthening our middle and low traps, scapular stabilizers, all of our trunk (aka: core) muscles, our glutes and our spinal erectors and stabilizers.
Exercises we can do regularly—both at home AND in the gym—to help ourselves out are:
And then comes the element that will make the MOST difference for us: Mindful Posture Practice.
The good news? You can do this ALL the time, no matter where you are, how old or young you are, or how fit or out-of-shape you might be.
The bad news? It’ll take lots of mental and physical effort for a while until these postures normalize (aka: become a new habit and feel like your ‘new normal’).
The other good news? You’ll immediately look taller, more confident, and potentially slimmer. You’ll feel better AND you’ll get better (and more pain-free) results in the gym, too.
So the time and effort you put into changing you sitting, standing, and moveing posture will be well worth it because the payoffs are both huge and lasting.
Mindful Posture Practice Tips: Think about…
- Stacking ribs over pelvis “Make the Canister”
- Bracing abs
- Squeezing the glutes
- Keeping the chin back and the next long
- Pulling the shoulders out of the ears
- ‘Packing’ the shoulder blades—pulling them down and in
Even if you’ve had some posture issues most of your adult life, it doesn’t mean you can’t make improvements that make a big and lasting difference in how you look, move and feel each day.
All that you need to do is make sure that you stretch what needs to be stretched, double-down on strengthening the muscles that will help you most, and stay mindful/pay attention to your head, shoulder and spinal positions until better posture becomes your ‘new normal.’
If I can do it, so can you! Take heart, believe in what’s possible, and get busy doing the work on the regular—the results will come.