Fix Rounded Shoulders with These Proven Exercises
If you are like most people, your job requires you to be seated at your desk for countless hours every day, working on your laptop/computer. This habit causes slouching, and over time, you may develop rounded shoulders, which is usually accompanied by neck and back pain.
If you are reading this post on your phone or laptop, chances are high that you are slouching at your desk, phone, or laptop. You probably don’t even realize it. It also happens when you are behind the steering wheel, driving, or even when exercising.
In a working environment, poor workplace posture not only leads to rounded shoulders, but it can also result in deteriorating employee health and low morale. In turn, absenteeism increases, leading to a decrease in productivity, lost time, and higher business costs.
The good news is that rounded shoulders can be corrected through various methods, with exercise being the simplest one.
What Are Rounded Shoulders?
Rounded shoulders, also known as “mom posture” is one of the most common posture mistakes. The term is used to describe a shoulder position at rest that has moved forward from the ideal alignment of the body. Other terms used are slouching, slumped shoulders, and a hunchback.
Since most people find themselves hunched over their desks, typing away at the keyboard, it is a much common problem. Rounded shoulders can lead to kyphosis, shoulder blade pain, compression fractures, and Dowager’s Hump.
What Causes Rounded Shoulders?
Usually, a postural imbalance is caused by a series of weak and tight muscles. With rounded shoulders, your anterior muscles, located at the front of your body (your chest area), become tight due to always being in a shortened state. Meanwhile, your posterior shoulder muscles (trapezius, rhomboids, and rotator cuff muscles), become weak due to constantly being stretched out.
To fix rounded shoulders, you need to stretch the overactive muscles that have become tight. Doing so will pull the shoulders forward and strengthen the underactive muscles that have become weak.
Slumped shoulders can be triggered by our daily tasks, which include:
- Using a smartphone or tablet for extended periods with your head down
- Using your laptop or computer for extended periods
- Driving a car for extended periods in bad posture
- Sitting for long periods in bad posture
- Excessive weight training, especially of the chest
- Carrying heavy objects throughout the day, like backpacks
How to Test for Rounded Shoulders
There are several ways to tell if you have rounded shoulders. Here is a simple one that you can try right now.
Stand in your usual stance in front of the mirror, letting your arms hang naturally by your sides. Which way are your palms facing? If they are facing backward, with the thumbs pointing at each other, then it is likely that you have slumped shoulders.
A correct standing posture will have your hands facing towards the body with the thumbs facing ahead.
How to Fix Rounded Shoulders
If you are struggling with rolled shoulders, you will be pleased to learn that you can correct and prevent the condition. Like we mentioned earlier, you need to release and stretch your tight, stiff muscles and strengthen them. To do so, here are exercises to fix rounded shoulders. You don’t need special equipment to perform these exercises. All you need is a mat, foam roller, and an exercise band.
1. Thoracic Extensions
Thoracic stretching has been shown to release the tight muscles that contribute to forward head and round shoulders. By improving your thoracic mobility, you relax the upper trapezius muscle that gets really tight from the hunchback position, thereby correcting your bad posture.
To correct your posture through thoracic release, here’s what you need to do:
- Lie on your back and place your hands behind your head.
- Place a foam roller under your upper back (in a horizontal position).
- Exhale and start to slowly roll up and down, beginning at your mid-back and moving towards your upper back.
- Hold the position for 15 to 20 seconds in areas that feel tight.
- Do two to three sets of 10 reps.
2. Band Over-and-Backs
This is one of the best exercises for rounded shoulders that you can do at home. All you need is an exercise band.
- Grab the band (or a stick), holding it straight out in front of your chest, with an overhand grip.
- Now try to pull the band/stick slightly apart to create some tension on your shoulders.
- Without bending your elbows, slowly raise the band up over your head and behind your back. Don’t strain. Just go as far as your joints can allow.
- When you get the band behind your back, try to pull it apart. Avoid shrugging your shoulders and instead keep them pulled down and away from your ears.
- Start with a wider grip and gradually narrow your grip and try to go further down your back as your flexibility improves.
If you don’t have a band or stick, here’s an alternative exercise routine:
- Clasp your hands behind your back and squeeze your shoulder blades together.
- Try to pull your arms up to deepen the stretch and create tension.
- Hold this position for about 10 seconds while taking deep breaths.
3. Door Chest Stretch
The chest doorway stretch is one of the most effective exercises for slumped shoulders. You can perform this exercise as often as you want, as long as there is a doorway.
- Stand up straight with the doorframe about one to two feet in front of you.
- Place both your elbows on either side of the frame, making sure they are at a 90-degree angle.
- Step forward, lunging one foot on the other side of the doorway.
- Gently shift your weight towards the front foot until you feel a stretch in your chest. Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds.
- Go back to your original position. Complete two to three sets, holding for 20 to 30 seconds each, and repeat two to three times a day.
4. Wall Stretch
- Stand up with the back of your head, your upper back, and lower back against the wall.
- Keep your feet slightly away from the wall.
- Place your arms in a “W” position against the wall at a 90-degree angle.
- With your arms maintaining contact with the walls at all times, move them upwards towards the ceiling while keeping your shoulders down and flexed.
- Return to the original position and do ten repetitions.
5. Prone I, T, Y
Prone I, T, Y exercise is effective in strengthening the smaller stabilizing muscles in your upper back and shoulders.
- Lie flat on your stomach, with your forehead touching the ground.
- Place your arms straight above your head (to form an “I” position), with your hands in a thumbs-up position.
- Raise your arms as high as possible and hold.
- Lower the hands slowly back to the starting position.
- Now, place your arms in a “Y” position and raise them as high as possible. Hold the position, and then slowly lower them back down.
- Next, place your arms in a “T” position, and raise them as high as your shoulders can allow. Hold and then lower them back down.
- Move your arms back to the “I” position and repeat.
- Complete two to three sets of 10 reps each, one to two times a day.
Now that you have stretched the overly tight muscles, it's time to strengthen the weak ones that are failing to pull the shoulders back.
1. Band Pull-Apart
- Hold the band with your thumbs pointing to the ceiling and your arms stretched out in front of your chest.
- Start pulling the band slowly with control. As you pull, twist your hands such that your thumbs point behind you at the end of the position.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together as you pull back the band to engage the mid-straps. You should feel the tension in your straps.
2. Eccentric Push Up
- Stand in front of the door frame in a push-up position. Try to lean your weight to your hands by lowering your chest down towards the wall as you bend your elbows.
- Keeping your shoulders pulled back, try to go as deep as you can until you give your chest muscles a good stretch. Don’t let your shoulders flare outwards.
- Repeat three sets of ten reps each.
- Try to perform the same exercise on the floor (wide pushup).
An alternative method:
- With your palms on the floor and feet pressed together, get into a push-up position.
- Push your hands into the ground to draw out your shoulder blades. This will lift your upper back towards the ceiling.
- Hold this position for ten seconds and go back to the starting position, with your shoulder blades retracted.
- Repeat two sets of ten reps each.
Planks have a good reputation for strengthening the shoulders, especially for people with back and shoulder injuries. They are also common in gyms and can be quite effective in fixing rounded shoulders. Plus, they help tone up your belly and improve balance and posture. To do a plank:
- Lie flat on your stomach.
- With your elbows on the ground, and your toes propped up, lift yourself into a plank position.
- Your back and buttocks should be parallel to the ground.
- Hold the position for 60 seconds.
4. Seated Rowing
- On a seated position, grab an exercise band with the ends in each hand.
- With the arms extended in front of you, palms facing each other, wrap the band around the bottom of your feet.
- Now, pull the ends of the band towards your chest.
- Your elbows will bend. Your shoulders should be at a 90-degree angle, and in a straight line with your thumbs up.
- Try to squeeze your shoulder blades together until your hands reach your torso.
- Keep your arms close to your body to avoid leaning forwards or backward.
Try to perform the above exercises daily for faster results and to prevent your shoulders from stooping.
While the exercises are great for preventing rounded shoulders, you should be aware of your posture throughout the day, whether at your desk, driving, or texting through your phone. In addition to that, set up an ergonomic workstation to improve and help correct your rounded shoulders. Remember, the better your posture while working, the higher the chances of preventing rounded shoulders.
You can also opt for rounded shoulders braces if your case is severe and cannot be corrected by exercises. However, keep in mind that braces are only temporary fixes to slumped shoulders. Good posture is the permanent fix, so try to work on that.
On a final note, we’d like to advise you to take regular breaks when working on your desk. Try to take a 15-minute break after every 45 minutes and use that time to stretch, exercise, or take a short walk. You can schedule your routine any way you like. Just be sure to avoid sitting for extended periods. A reliable way to make sure you don’t forget to take breaks is to use a time tracker like Traqq. This program will notify you when the 45 minutes are up so that you can take your 15-minute break.
Traqq is also a productivity tracking program that tracks the time you work, the apps and websites you visit frequently, and collects data to build reports. You can then use the reports to analyze your performance levels or that of your employees and identify areas of weakness. The reports also make the invoicing process simple, fast, and accurate.