How to Fix Rounded Shoulders – Stretches and Exercises
Modern culture is, unfortunately, against you and good posture. Rounded shoulders are a byproduct of driving, sitting, cell phone using, laptop typing, event going, homework doing life. 73% of the population suffers from varying degrees of rounded shoulders! Even in physical activities like Muay Thai, you may find yourself taking the rounded shoulder position as a defensive measure, which then adds fitness to the list of things you’re doing that helps keep promote rounded shoulders. Let’s fix those rounded shoulders once and for all.
What’s Really Happening with Rounded Shoulder Posture?
Like with any “postural imbalance” you have a series of tight muscles and weak muscles. With rounded shoulder posture, the front of your body has become incredibly tight (your chest area) while your back has become stretched out and weak. To fix it, we’ve got to make the front of the chest less tight (so it’s not pulling your back forward) and strengthen the back. To fix rounded shoulders you need to make the tight not as tight and the weak strong (or the strong stronger.)
Want to do a quick test to see if you have rounded shoulders? Stand up and let your arms hang? What are your thumbs doing? Are they pointed at each other? You have rounded shoulders. Now pull your shoulders down and back. Where are your thumbs now? Pointed forward? Now your shoulders aren’t rounded forward. That’s the position you want to get to full time.
Permanently Fix Rounded Shoulders and Posture
- The doorway stretch – There are three variations to this stretch depending on how your position your hands and elbows in the doorway. You can have your hands above your elbows at a 90 degree angle, hands and elbows in-line (roughly), or hands below elbows with elbows straight-ish (your arms would be at roughly a 45 degree angle away from the body.) Each stretch helps target a different part of your pecs (upper, mid, and lower.) If you’re at work you can do the same thing in any corner (if you don’t have a doorway) and can do these either as holds (30+ seconds) or moving in and out of the stretch (hold for roughly 2 seconds, release, repeating 10x.)
- Foam Roller Gravity Stretch – Get a foam roller between your shoulder blades and let gravity do it’s job to pull your body down and back. You can move your arms around to different positions similar to the doorway stretch. Bob & Brad suggest doing this at the start or end of the day for 3 to 5 minutes and you can even stick a pillow under your head for added comfort.
- Standing Rows – Using resistance bands in a doorway, or a TRX Strap you want to perform a neutral row. By neutral I mean you want to have the band or strap roughly in line with your chest as you pull towards you. You’ll want to have your elbows pointed towards the ground to prevent from pulling your shoulders up while pulling back. Squeeze the shoulder blades together at the end range. You should also go arms fully extended down to hit the lower traps and (Bob & Brad call it the hitch-hiker, it’s also called a face pull) pull the band towards your face with the thumb pointed behind you.
- Superman Variation – Laying face down put something soft under your face and chest. With thumbs toward ceiling, elbows bent to 90 degrees, pull your arms back towards your shoulders. You can use weights or a can from your pantry to add difficulty. You should also perform this in the arms straight out and arms below elbows positions (from the stretching) to hit each part of the body. 10 – 15 reps per position.
- Wall Angels – Get your butt, back, and head against the wall. You’ll more than likely need to walk your feet out a few inches from the wall to get everything to sit flat. Make sure you have the chin tucked so the chin isn’t pointed up or down. Put your hands and elbows up against the wall and slowly slide them up and down along the wall. You can also perform this on the floor with knees bent (to get your low back flat against the ground) or (if you have a TRX system) you can perform this with the TRX straps without a wall. The wall or floor are good for identifying your end range of motion when the wrists or elbows start to come off of the surface.
4 Moves to Fix Rounded Shoulders
- The Single Arm Bent Arm Doorway Stretch – Move up to the doorway, and put your arm / elbow into the doorway (hand above elbow.) Now twist away from the doorway to open up your chest. You want your thumb to be pointed behind you, and pull your arm back if possible. This will shift your shoulder from it’s current rounded position to more of a safe position.
- The Single Arm Straight-ish Arm Doorway Stretch – This time instead of bending the elbow you want the arm straight-ish with your hand as close to the top of the doorway as you can. Again, rotate away from the arm and doorway. Squeeze the shoulder blades down and back.
- Armbar Stretch – Lay face down. Place your left arm on the ground to support yourself. Twist at the hip, bringing your right leg over the top of your left, bending at the knee. Extend your right arm as far as you possibly can to open everything up.
- Hang from a pull up bar – same hip twisting motion as above on the ground.
- Band Pull Aparts – With a resistance band, start with your hands as though the thumbs are pointed towards the ceiling. As you pull apart also rotate your hands so at the end your thumbs would be pointing behind you. This is to rotate the shoulders into proper position to strengthen the back muscles we want to strengthen. Pull the shoulder blades down and back to avoid the upper traps trying to do the work for you.
- Visualization – pretend your Pinocchio (when he had strings.) You have a string that runs pulling your head up. Mentally think about this string pulling you upright to prevent hunching. If you’re sitting in a chair you can use a tennis ball or massage ball between the shoulder blades to make sure you aren’t falling forward.
The Top 3 Ways To Stop Rounded Posture
- Foam roller gravity stretch – Bob & Brad suggest the same item they suggested in the earlier video
- Band Pull Aparts with external rotation – They love calling it the “hitchhiker.” Use a band to pull apart and point your thumbs away from you at the end range. You want the shoulder blades to go down and back. Repetition range, they say do a ton multiple times per day.
- Face pull variations, elbows by your sides with bent arms (looks like an L), and arms fully extended down variations are shown as bonuses
- Awareness to posture. Simply be aware of what your shoulders are doing throughout the day while sitting and adjust accordingly.
5 Exercises to Fix Rounded Shoulders
- Extended arm massage ball myofascial release – Grab a massage ball and get it positioned in your tight upper chest. You’ll want your arm fully extended with your arm down away from your body on the wall. Press your chest and ball into the wall, then move the ball around to find additional tight spots. You can move your arm up and down on the wall as well to try and find additional tight spots.
- Single arm chest opener stretch – Place your arm on the wall and slightly twist away to open the chest up. Slowly moving your head away from the arm will increase the stretch.
- Forearm wall slides – Face the wall, place one leg in front of the other and bend your front leg. Place both forearms on the wall, elbows bent. Slide your arms up and down the wall, with your end range being a 90 degree elbow bend. Your thumbs would be pointed towards your face if you pointed your thumbs out. Try to keep the shoulders down. Suggested rep range of 15 done 2 to 3 times.
- Prone T’s – Lay face down on a bench with your arms down at your sides. Raise your arms up with your thumbs towards the ceiling squeezing at the shoulder blades. Try to keep your face neutral and stomach down on the ground.
- Floor angels – Lay on your back with your knees bent and arms out to your sides, elbows bent, with your hands roughly around your head. Keep your elbows and wrists down on the ground. Slowly slide your arms up towards over your head stopping when any part of your arm comes up off the ground. You’ll know you’re making progress as you can move further without anything popping off the ground.