Have you taken the time to examine your posture lately? If not, now would be as good a time as any. Take the moment to stand perpendicular or sideways to a mirror and imagine a line going from the lateral malleolus (outside ankle bone) to the approximate point of the earlobe. If you have good posture, this line should intersect the hip and shoulder joints. A common postural imbalance that tends to occur is when the shoulder slouches or rounds forward. In other words, the shoulder joint is actually in front of the previously mentioned line which can also be termed rounded shoulders. It is certainly a cause for concern, as is any type of alignment or postural imbalance that becomes a mainstay over extended periods of time. Chronic postural imbalances can result in stress and deterioration within the affected area, and oftentimes beyond that, affecting the other areas of the kinetic chain. It is for this reason why this article will propagate some common causes of rounded shoulders and provide some bodyweight upper back exercises, specifically inverted bodyweight rows, which will help create a balanced alignment of the shoulders.
CAUSES OF ROUNDED SHOULDERS—MORE THAN BAD POSTURE
Throwing & Repetitive Movements
Anytime you partake in an activity that has repetitive qualities your body will attempt to adapt to the chronic stress that you inflict it with. As someone who is constantly throwing something, repetition after repetition (a football, a shot put, a baseball, etc.), there will be a continuous contraction of the anterior portions of the body along with a constant extension of the posterior portions of the body. Your body will adapt to this stimulation by creating a constant flexed anterior coupled with a constant extended posterior—this leading to the development of something such as rounded shoulders.
That Which Can Be Seen Holds a Greater Value Than That Which Cannot
What is it that you see when you look in the mirror?
The most reasonable answer would be that you see the front/anterior portion of your body—your face, chest, abdomen, quadriceps, etc. The back/posterior portion of your body is likely a lot more difficult to notice.
Those trying to improve their physical fitness, especially men, can easily get caught up with having too much of a focus on the muscles that they can see in the mirror, in absence of those that they cannot; this can also potentially result in an imbalance such as rounded shoulders.
The bench press, for example, has become an extremely popular lift due to its simplicity and the macho ego that it embraces. Its repetitive nature can be compared to, and have the same effect as, repetitive throwing movements.
Bodyweight Exercises to the rescue!
Unlike those who have rounded shoulders due to postural issues, those partaking in an activity that is repetitive in nature, are usually involved in that activity because they view it as a pleasurable experience, and it is therefore necessary to handle the imbalance in a different way.
There are two ways one can treat an imbalance: either add or subtract.
You could very easily recommend someone to stop doing the activity that is causing the imbalance in the first place, but that can be rather unreasonable. Instead, it would be more logical to add in a movement that counteracts the repetitive nature of the activity.
Since one of the causes of rounded shoulders involves the repetitive contractions of the musculature in the front of the body and the extension of those in the back, it would be ideal to counteract such a movement with the contraction of the musculature in the back of the body, and the extension of those in the front.
In this case, inverted bodyweight rows serve as a great choice. Inverted bodyweight rows can be seen in the corresponding video, as well as several other bodyweight row variations. You can basically do inverted bodyweight rows just about anywhere. All you need is something to hold on to about 3 or 4 feet off of the ground.
Greg Pearson is an exercise science major at Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania with minors in biology and coaching. He is also a lifelong athlete – involved in the sports of basketball, baseball, football, track & field and volleyball growing up. Competed at Shippensburg University in the shot put, discus, and hammer events as a Division II Track & Field athlete. You can contact Greg via e-mail: [email protected] or his linkedin profile.