How To Cure Rounded Shoulders
WHAT IS POSTURE?
We are often told that good posture and good health go hand in hand. Everyone knows bad posture when they see it, but there are very few people who actually understand what it means to have a good posture.
When we are standing, lying or sitting down, our bodies are held in a certain position, and this is known as posture. When the body is in the correct alignment and it is supported by the correct amount of muscle tension against gravity, a person is considered to have a good posture. We would not be able to hold ourselves up if it were not for the muscles that control our posture.
Posture is not something that we consciously maintain. We don’t need to think about it because certain muscles do it for us automatically. There are certain muscle groups that are more important than others when it comes to maintaining posture, such as the large back muscles and the hamstrings. Our ligaments are responsible for holding the skeleton together; our postural muscles prevent gravity from pushing us over.
THE IMPORTANCE OF GOOD POSTURE
Good posture helps us to walk, sit, stand and lie in a position that does not put strain on supporting ligaments and muscles when we are moving or performing weight bearing activities. Correct posture does the following:
- Helps to keep the joints and bones in the correct alignment so that we use our muscles correctly. This reduces the wearing down of joint surfaces that can cause joint pain and degenerative arthritis.
- Limits the stress on the ligaments responsible for holding together the spinal joints. This reduces the risk of injury.
- Allows the muscles to work better so that the body doesn’t have to use so much energy. This prevents muscle fatigue.
- Helps to prevent strain on the muscles, muscular and back pain, and overuse disorders.
You must have the right amount of strength, muscle flexibility and joint motion in the spine and the rest of the body. You also need to have the right amount of postural muscles on either side of the spine. In addition, it is up to you to make a conscious decision to maintain a good posture at all times.
CONSEQUENCES OF A BAD POSTURE & ROUNDED SHOULDERS
Several factors contribute to poor posture, most commonly, weak postural muscles, pregnancy, obesity, high-heeled shoes, abnormally tight muscles, unhealthy standing and sitting habits and a limited amount of flexibility.
Regardless of the reasons for poor posture, the consequences are the same. When the postural muscles have been placed under too much pressure, it causes them to become weak. For example, people who are constantly leaning forward at the waist for long periods of time – their postural muscles are more prone to back pain and injury. There are several serious consequences associated with a bad posture, here are some of them:
If you suffer from bad digestion, your eating habits are not the only reason for this. The body was not designed to sit in a chair hunched over a desk with our necks protruding forwards all day. Our muscle structure and circulatory system simply are not built for such positions. When our bodies are constantly stuck like this, it leads to all kinds of problems, the obvious ones we have discussed, but digestive problems are not so obvious.
Your posture determines the way blood flows throughout the body. Good digestion requires blood to flow to the gut, if the blood flow is impaired; you are going to have a sluggish digestion system that doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to. Have you ever tried to go for a run straight after you’ve finished eating? You then get that uncomfortable feeling in your stomach; well that’s what happens when the blood flows away from your abdomen too fast.
Improving your posture doesn’t mean balancing a book on your head, or sitting up straight the way your grandmother taught you to. It means that you hold your body up so that is compatible with your basic physiological processes. There have been several studies confirming that posture affects IBS, bloating, carbohydrate intolerance and many other digestive related problems.
CARBOHYDRATE MALABSORBTION AND POSTURE
Carbohydrate malabsorbtion, lactose intolerance and FODMAPs sensitivity are major causes of digestive problems. There are several factors that contribute to these conditions and posture is one of them.
A group of Japanese scientists studied the effect of postprandial posture (the way you stand or sit after eating) and digestion. The researchers evaluated the difference between sitting and lying down after a meal. They discovered that females who lay down had a lot less malabsorbtion and digested their food slower. On the other hand, the females who sat up had a higher rate of malabsorbtion.
The same team of scientists conducted another study and found that lying down reduced malabsorption and improved the digestion of lactose in comparison to sitting up.
The scientists concluded that lying down after a meal helped to put your body into a state of rest and digest mode. When the body is in this state, blood flows easily to the digestive system which makes the digestive process easier. If you have problems with lactose intolerance or FODMAPs, reclining, or relaxing and lying down after a meal will possibly help to improve your digestion.
POSTURE, BLOATING AND GAS
Posture can also help with gas and bloating. For example, a study published in the National Library of medicine found that patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome who reported gas and bloating had abnormally relaxed oblique muscles which were perhaps caused by abnormal diaphragm contractions.
In regards to the people who don’t suffer from bloating, the diaphragm settles back when their abdomen is full. This creates extra space in the abdomen. For people who suffer from bloating, the diaphragm contracts, this pushes the food in the stomach into a restricted space which is what causes bloating.
Patients were taught to control these muscular kickbacks with a technique called biofeedback. They were told to:
- Relax the diaphragm
- Use their abdominal muscles more often especially when breathing out
A hunched over or a slouched posture restricts the flexibility of the diaphragm and weakens the stomach muscles. Try this out for yourself, slump yourself over and try doing some diaphragmatic breathing exercises; it’s not possible. When you are sitting or standing correctly, your diaphragm is given the space it needs to move properly.
The same study found that good posture and standing upright is the best posture for eliminating discomfort and passing gas. This is because the upright position triggers gas propulsion in the gut.
If you suffer from bloating and gas, improving your posture will strengthen your core muscles and allow your diaphragm to work the way it’s supposed to. Diaphragm breathing or belly breathing will train your diaphragm to relax when you have a full stomach.
For the majority of people back pain is the direct result of a poor sitting and standing posture. Most people have at least one or more postural abnormalities. Poor posture contributes to back pain for several reasons:
- Poor posture places additional stress on the discs, ligaments and muscles of the back.
- Over time, this additional stress leads to structural changes in the muscles, ligaments and discs that surround the spine. These structural changes cause mild to moderate back pain.
- Back pain is often a result of muscle imbalances due to stress on the muscles.
All muscles have an optimum tension and length. When you have bad posture, the muscles supporting and surrounding the back are at this optimum length. Poor posture causes tight and short muscles; other muscles will be weak and long. For example, people who spend the majority of the day hunched over a desk will typically develop weak lengthened muscles and tight chest muscles.
In the same way that people who suffer from lumbar lordosis (abnormal curvature of the lower back). The hip flexors (iliopsoas. Rectus femoris) and lower back become short and tight and the glutes muscles (butt muscles) and abdominals become weak and loose.
Beneath the surface of hunched backs and slumped shoulders lies a much more dangerous concern. Poor posture has a negative influence on health in more ways than back pain and cosmetic flaws.
The Archives of Internal Medicine published a study in 2006. They followed more than 4,000 men over the course of 20 years. Researchers monitored and assessed the posture of each participant and analyzed how poor posture affects health.
The men with posture abnormalities had a 64% higher risk of developing coronary heart disease. The study concluded that the relationship between the nervous system, spine and posture has a direct effect on the heart.
ABNORMAL SPINE ALIGNMENT
Poor head and shoulder posture is an indication of a lack of upper body control. This causes poor flexibility and stress on the body. To avoid poor posture, it is essential that we train our bodies to walk, sit, lie and stand in the correct way so that a limited amount of stress is placed on the ligaments and the muscles supporting the spine.
Most people believe that poor posture is due to old age and that it is unavoidable. As you will learn in this book, there are several changes you can make that will help you to develop a good posture and prevent the spine from weakening.
You do not need to have a completely straight spine to have a good posture, this is actually physiologically impossible. There are three natural curves to normal spine alignment:
- Cervical: neck area and upper spine
- Thoracic: Middle spine
- Lumber: Lower spine
These “c” shaped curves are critical to your ability to be able to stand upright and to balance. These curves can either become too small or too big, when this happens, you will start finding it difficult to stand and your posture will seem abnormal.
Abnormal spine curvatures are also referred to as spinal deformity; this includes lordosis of either the lumber or the cervical spine or kyphosis of the thoracic spine. It can also cause scoliosis, which is when the spine curves into the shape of an “S.”
As well as spinal deformity, poor posture can have a negative effect on the energy that we emit. In a study conducted on 110 San Francisco University students, it was found that those who skipped down the hall had much more energy throughout the day than those who walked down the hall in a slumped position.
Standing or sitting in a slouched position also pushes down the internal organs which makes the stomach protrude. This causes physical discomfort.
CAN A BAD POSTURE BE REVERSED?
In short, yes it can. However, if you have had a long standing postural problem, it is going to take longer to reverse because your joints have adapted to your poor posture. If you are aware of your bad posture, you are at an advantage because some people are yet to realize this. Your task is now to educate yourself on the correct posture so that you can make the necessary changes. With practise, you will start to move towards a healthier and better body posture.
WHAT ARE ROUNDED SHOULDERS?
If you suffer from rounded shoulders, you are not alone! It’s a very common postural problem, just take a minute to look around, stop and observe the way people’s shoulders are either hunched upwards because of the cold or rolled forwards. Observe the way heads are pointed towards the ground and the lower back is slouched while in the sitting position.
These are all terrible habits, but the good news is that they are easy to fix. You were not born with the condition, you have indirectly trained your muscles and joints to hunch forward, and you can retrain them to find their correct resting position. Rounded shoulders is not some complex medical term that only doctors are capable of understanding, it’s actually quite simple, and once you understand it, correcting the issue is just as simple.
The shoulders have a resting position, when they move forward, which is outside of this ideal alignment, rounded shoulders develop. It’s also known as the “mom posture,” the bottom line is that you have bad posture. If left untreated, the condition will get worse.
RISK FACTORS AND CAUSES
Your posture is developed through your physical habits, any movement that forces your body to look forward and down for extended periods of time will cause your shoulders to slump. This position can have a negative effect on the muscles in the shoulders, neck and back and it’s these muscles that control your posture. Daily activities that cause rounded shoulders include:
- Using a tablet or Smartphone
- Using a laptop or computer
- Sitting for a long time
- Driving a vehicle
- Continuous bending
- Carrying heavy items
- Sleeping on your side
Rounded shoulders can have a negative effect on appearance and health. When the body is continuously hunched forward, the muscles adapt to this and assume that it is the body’s natural position. Excess force on the shoulder joints can cause pain around the upper back and neck.
Rounded shoulders cause the muscles to become tight and weak. The following muscles become tight and will pull the shoulders forward:
- Serratus anterior
- Upper trapezius
- Posterior capsule
- Anterior deltoid
- Latissimus dorsi
- Pec major/minor
The following muscles become weak, they are not doing their job properly and they are unable to pull the shoulders back:
- Rotator cuff
- Posterior deltoid
- Mid/lower trapezius
Think about it like this, the muscles at the front and the back of the shoulders are having a war, and the wrong team is losing!
Rounded shoulders can compress your diaphragm. This causes shallow breathing and limits your intake of oxygen. In the long term this can be dangerous. It also stretches the muscles out for long periods of time which gradually weakens upper back strength. As you age, this is only going to get worse so you might as well get it in check now.
Shrugged shoulders are the cause of muscle contusions in the neck, (especially the trapezius muscles which have been linked to increased anxiety and headaches).
ROUNDED SHOULDER DIAGNOSIS
Physical therapists and chiropractors will administer a few tests to make the correct rounded shoulder diagnosis. The practitioner will look at your resting position when you are standing. Even when standing up straight, a person with slumped shoulders will appear to as if they are slouching. Their hands may also face behind them, with the thumbs facing each other.
When standing in the correct posture, the hands will face towards the body with the thumbs facing forwards. This simple test will give the doctor a good idea of a person’s posture on a daily basis.
If you don’t feel like going to the doctors and you are not in any pain, you can do a couple of tests at home to determine whether or not you have rounded shoulders. Follow these steps:
STANDING UP TEST:
- Stand up straight and relax your arms by your sides.
- Take a quick look at your hands and see which way they are facing.
- If your palms are facing backwards, you can be 99.9% sure that you’ve got rounded shoulders.
LYING DOWN TEST:
- Lie with your back flat against the ground and place your arms by your sides.
- Do your shoulders rest comfortably on the floor, or are they slightly raised?
- To do this properly, make sure your lower back isn’t arched.
- If your shoulders don’t touch the floor, you can be 99.9% sure that you’ve got rounded shoulders.
WHAT POSITION SHOULD MY SHOULDERS BE IN?
Resetting the position of your shoulders is easy; the hard task is keeping them that way.
- Spread your arms out as far as you can on both sides.
- Bring your arms backwards slightly making sure you can feel your shoulder blades contract gently.
- Turn your palms up and at this point pay attention to the positioning of your shoulders.
- Hold this position for about 30 seconds and then slowly lower your arms by your side.
HOW DID IT GET THIS BAD?
Old age is something we can’t escape. If there is one truth on this earth, it’s that everyone is going to get old and die on day. Sounds morbid, but it’s the truth. You are going to get older, you are going to get stiffer and body parts will stop working the way they used to. You are going to stop playing sports or stop participating in certain activities. You are going to make excuses such as “I can’t fit that in my schedule anymore,” but the real reason is that your body is no longer comfortable doing them and you find it too difficult.
Over time simple things such as bending down to pick something off the floor, walking up flights of stairs and standing up from the sitting position will become too hard for you to do. You will start telling yourself that you don’t like using the stairs, or that you can’t sit in a certain type of chair, or that you no longer enjoy walking. You will develop pain in your knees, back, shoulders or neck and have continuous appointments with the doctor. You will have X-rays, get prescribed with pain killers. You may even need to have joint replacement surgery.
While this is all taking place, you might decide that you need to start exercising again. Out come the old running shoes and jogging bottoms and you take up an old sport that you used to like. It will help a little bit but the pain is still there and so you add chiropractic visits to your schedule. The pain may disappear for a while and then come back in another area. Your physical health will continue to deteriorate and you will be able to do less and less.
More than likely you will blame this on old age, “this is just what happens as you grow older.” Bad genes, a fact of life or plain old bad luck. But without you knowing it, you will be giving up on life long before your time.
Your physical mobility will continue to get worse and you will continue to worry about it. You’ve never lived a sedentary life style, you’ve always been active and you are not necessarily old. If this is what you are going through now, just imagine what it’s going to be like in ten, twenty years down the line?
At first, it started off as being a slight inconvenience, an annoying condition that limited you from doing certain things. But in the long run, you will reach a point where you are always in pain and in need of constant medical care. To make it even worse, you are not even that old! This picture sounds terribly bleak doesn’t it? What I’m doing is getting you to imagine what life will be like for you if you don’t resolve your bad posture issues now. So let me continue with this depressing reality.
Is there a connection between the fact that your knees or back hurts? That you find it difficult to put your shoes on? Or that you don’t look forward to having to bend down and pick something up off the floor? There definitely is, and each event should ring a loud alarm bell in your mind as they happen. Generally, it’s only after we suffer a major injury that we realize that something else that we were not aware of may have been happening over a long period of time. Think back over the last five to ten years of your life, you will probably be able to pinpoint when things started to go wrong for you.
Please bear in mind that any physical activity that you choose to give up now, you probably won’t be able to do it again in future because your condition will get progressively worse. If you are finding it difficult to climb up two flights of stairs, that will soon become one. After some time, you will have another limitation to add to the list. You will soon start to have trouble lifting your feet up to put your shoes on, or find it difficult to get up from a seated position. Once again, these conditions are all related because they use similar muscle groups. It will take a while for the your situation to progress, but eventually, you will decide that you can no longer walk up stairs and this will continue until you are completely immobile.
THE WAKE UP CALL
So one day you decide to cross the street, you can see a car far off but you think you can get across before the car reaches you. Well, before you know it, the car is a lot closer than you had imagined and so you start running. Your body feels uncoordinated and heavy and your legs feel like lead. The car doesn’t seem like it’s going to slow down and for a split second you thought you weren’t going to make it. Luckily, you got across the street okay; you weren’t mad at the driver, but shocked at how much your physical health had deteriorated without you being aware of it.
Often a wakeup call is a pain or an injury that puts you out of action for longer than you’d hoped. Or pain that becomes a constant part of your life. Maybe the wakeup call happened when you tried to play one of your favorite sports, second base seems a lot further away than usual, or the bat feels a lot heavier. Or you go to do some work in the yard and realize that your back isn’t in the same shape it used to be. It doesn’t even have to be something so dramatic, it may be something as simple as not being able to reach the top shelf anymore, or pain when you bend down to pick up a child.
Maybe you look in the mirror one day and realize that you are not impressed with what you see. Your body looks as if it’s collapsed into itself, you are sagging and you look shorter. You no longer look as vibrant and healthy as you used to, the wakeup call has got your full attention and you’ve decided that you are going to do something about it.
THE IMPORTANCE OF POSTURAL ALIGNMENT
All machines have been strategically designed to work with a specific alignment. If the parts are out of alignment or there is a violation in the parameters of the design, the machine won’t work the way it’s supposed to. The parts will grate and grind and things start to wear out pretty quickly.
The human body works in exactly the same way. Our spines and the joints that bear the most of our weight are designed to work in a specific alignment. If our postural alignment starts to collapse, our body parts won’t work the way they are supposed to. As you have read, this leads to a sedentary lifestyle and can lead to pain and disability.
Our bodies have been designed to be aligned vertically with gravity. It should not bend or lean to far forwards or backwards. The main joints in our bodies should all line up one on top of the other. None of them should be tilted or pointed out to the side. Our joints work like the hinges on a door, if they are out of place; strain is placed on them with every step we take. Our joints are most effective when they are properly aligned.
Our bodies are designed in symmetry. The right and the left side should be exactly the same, we shouldn’t have one shoulder or hip higher or more forward than the other. Our weight should be evenly centered on both feet.
Your pelvis was designed to be positioned upright; it should not be tilted too far back or forward. If it isn’t straight, the body starts to lean in one direction.
The spine is made up of three gentle curves; it is designed to carry our entire weight. It should have a gentle curve in the neck; (concave) a gentle curve in the upper back (convex) and a gentle curve in the lower back. (Concave)
If anything is out of alignment, muscles become weaker and stiffer. This leads to further deterioration in posture alignment. The downward spiral of decline begins because the pain leads to a fear of moving which causes more muscle stiffness and weakness and the situation simply gets worse.
While there are some people who are aware that they don’t have the best posture, most of us haven’t got a clue! Typically, it’s difficult to determine that your posture is out of alignment unless someone tells you. The correct alignment is not necessarily something we are taught in school. In fact, poor posture is the norm, a casual, slouching posture is considered somewhat stylish. We all look the same so we don’t see any problem with the slouch. However, just because it’s common doesn’t mean it’s normal, neither is it the best position for your body to be in.
Your alignment or posture doesn’t have to be severely off for it to affect the way your body functions or for it to cause you pain. The smallest distortions in alignment can cause a dramatic alteration in the way your body works.
You might have noticed that you don’t have the best posture and it’s not causing you problems right now. That’s absolutely fantastic news! But you better fix it now before you start to reap the negative effects of a bad posture.
Unfortunately, no matter how bad your posture may be, it will become the norm, and even comfortable because the body will just adjust. Even if you’ve only got a slight posture problem, I would advise that you get it sorted now!
WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS
The majority of people don’t have the time, money, luxury, or inclination to join a health club or make any type of effort to improve their physical fitness that demands a great deal of our time. We are way too busy living life for all that!
What we want is function, something that will improve our quality of life. We want something that is going to make things easier. We want something that is going to postpone or hold off the aging process while we do what we need to do. Something that will put the downward spiral of decline in remission for a few more years. “Maybe I’ll think about a total fitness program sometime in the near future.”
We also want to get the most out of our exercise time. If we absolutely have to do something to maintain the function of our body then please don’t make us do something that’s going to be a waste of time. If you are going to invest thirty minutes of your precious time doing something, you want to be pretty certain that it’s going to pay off. Don’t worry, you are in safe hands, the advice in this book has been tried and tested and it works if you are willing to put the work in. Keep reading and find out how you can get rid of those unsightly rounded shoulders and maintain the perfect posture.
THE INNER WORKINGS OF POSTURE ALIGNMENT
The main aim of posture alignment is to strengthen weak muscles, stretch out tight muscles and put the body back into the correct alignment so that it stays that way.
The word “posture” originates from the Latin word “ponere,” which means “to place.” However, the idea of posture alignment isn’t to place or hold ourselves in a certain position. You’ve tried this all your life and it was an epic failure. Remember when your mother used to push your shoulders back, and they’d fall forward a second later? The body won’t just hold itself in position. Posture alignment targets the core muscle groups; it trains them so that a good posture becomes second nature.
It doesn’t matter how old or young you are, whether you are slim or fat. It actually doesn’t matter whether you believe in what you are reading or not. There are no esoteric fitness or religious beliefs required, no fitness guru needed. Posture works the same for every human being on the face of the earth. The bottom line is that when our muscles are used, they get stronger, when they are stretched, they become more flexible. When we are properly aligned, we feel better and we are capable of moving around more.
The only catch here is that you are going to have to put the work in. You picked up this book because you hate your rounded shoulders, or you know someone who has got rounded shoulders and you are sick of looking at them. Whoever the book is for, it is going to take at least three weeks of consistent daily workouts to see a noticeable improvement in your posture.
I don’t know about you, but I wish my body could be taken in for maintenance once a year, (similar to a car) and forgotten about for the rest of the year. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case; you are going to have to get heavily involved in the process. Don’t worry, you are not going to be subjected to waking up at 5am and jogging around a race track, but it will take some effort on your part. Before you start, there are two things you will need to do:
- Change the way you think about exercise.
- Decide that you are going to take action.
While your goal might be to have the perfect posture, anything you do to move you in the direction of improved alignment will benefit you. Everything you do is going to be worth the effort on this journey. One slight change in the alignment of your body can be enough to get rid of a nagging pain you may have had for months.
THE BASICS OF THE BODY
Just how does the body work anyway? That’s a good question and you should want to know how it works. The more you know the more you can do to improve it.
Our skeletal design hasn’t changed, who knows how long the first human being has been on the earth. But science shows that the basic elements of the human body have not changed. Unlike most other products, there are no design flaws with the human body. It wasn’t randomly thrown together and expected to work. Whoever came up with the marvellous idea to create human beings did so very strategically. Our wrists, shoulders, backs, and knees are sophisticated mechanisms. There is nothing wrong with the way our bodies have been designed, the fault lies with the way we choose to treat our bodies.
So before you jump to the conclusion that your knees are going to automatically start falling apart when you get to a certain age, why don’t you consider changing your point of view. Could it be that there is something that you are doing or that you are not doing that is making your knees hurt? Our alignment, flexibility and strength have deteriorated over time which is not why our knees are not working properly. So what happened? If there is nothing wrong with the design? How did we get out of alignment?
The answer is actually really simple, we spend too much of our time sitting down. When we do move, our movements are the same; we are not using the full range of our movements. Neither are we doing anything that requires the muscles to use any strength. There are certain muscles such our walking and sitting muscles for example that get plenty of stimulation. There are other muscles that we rarely use. Because some muscles end up stronger than others, our bodies end up out of alignment.
The world is definitely a busier place than it was fifty years ago. Unfortunately, most of what we do now involves sitting down. As a nation, we are no longer physically active, and as with anything, if it is not used it looses its flexibility. In all fairness, this isn’t entirely our fault; technology has made it so much easier for us to just sit down and get what we need done with the click of a button. Everything from grocery shopping to paying the bills is done online; we don’t need to leave the house anymore. I’m sure when all this technology was being designed it seemed like a futuristic dream, but it looks like it’s turned into a nightmare for many of us.
The fact remains that despite our ingenious technological advances and our super intelligence, human beings are animals! Just as machinery requires lubrication to operate, and plants need light to survive so does the human body need movement to maintain its health. One hundred years ago everything we owned or used demanded physical strength to operate. Everything required hitching, pounding, grinding, pushing, yanking, pulling, clipping, screwing and turning. In the kitchen it was kneading, beating, skinning, grating and grinding. In the garden it was hauling, lifting, shovelling, raking and swinging. I’m sure you get the idea; it’s interesting how the majority of devices required turning something by using the shoulders and hands. Now the only thing I can think of that needs turning are roll up car windows, and a manual can opener – both of which are soon to be obsolete.
Our ancestors used a great deal of physical strength throughout the day. But for us, it gets physically easier to do everyday tasks. The majority of things that we do on a daily basis don’t require any movement at all. Where there used to be stairs, there are moving walkways, elevators and escalators. Where there used to be graters and knives and mixing bowls there are food processors. Where there used to be handheld clippers, there are weed wackers. Can you see how things are continuously getting physically easier and easier to do?
Devices that were invented as aids to assist people, to go faster and to make things easier are now a threat to our existence. Things that were once luxuries have now become necessities. God forbid if the remote control was no longer manufactured, we would have to get up and move every time we wanted to change the channel. Most people find it difficult to walk up multiple flights of stairs; they have to take the escalator or an elevator. We can’t pull open a heavy door, it has to be automatic. This is not an age problem we are talking about here, the young and old are struggling with these tasks.
I am in no way anti-technology or anti making life easier, and neither am I suggesting that we turn the clock back and start living in the stone ages again. I’m a definite advocate of labor saving devices; however, if we can’t recognize how they are a hindrance to our health they will destroy us.
It’s not that human beings are inherently lazy; it actually might be that we are too intelligent. I mean, why walk when you can drive and get to your destination faster? Why stand up when you can sit down? Why cut the grass with clippers when you can use a lawnmower? It makes perfect sense not to do anything more than we have to. The majority of people wait until things get really bad before they take action and do anything about it. This is why exercise is a discipline, its energy that we don’t want to use. It’s now more important than ever for us to exercise so that we can maintain a basic level of fitness.
Let’s just say that people who move will tend to keep moving, and people who move in a variety of ways will tend to keep moving in a variety of ways. Gravity is our constant relentless companion; we will never get rid of it. Pretend for a minute that you were a ball of silly putty, if the putty were left to its own devices; gravity would leave you as a puddled heap on the ground. Our bodies are no different; gravity is always pushing us down. Any area that we don’t hold up will lose the battle against gravity.
Or think about being in a wind tunnel, you know one of those tunnels where cars and other objects are tested for aerodynamic stability. So you’re standing in the wind tunnel and there’s a large fan at the other end blowing in your face. You put your hand up to protect yourself and it gets caught in the wind and the wind tries to push it backwards. Now, imagine that the fan is placed on the ceiling above you. If you are standing up straight, the wind will split and pass by on either side of you. If you tilt your head forwards, you will feel the wind pushing down on the back of your neck. If you push your buttocks out slightly, you will feel the wind try and push you to the ground. The only difference between the wind tunnel and gravity is that gravity is silent. It doesn’t make a whole lot of noise so we forget that it’s there. If we could feel what gravity was doing to our bodies on a day by day second by second basis we would fight against it the way we would when we felt the wind in the tunnel.
What holds us up against gravity? It’s not our bones, if you go to any history museum you will find that all skeletons are held together by metal rods. Bones have a job to do, but it’s not to protect us against gravity. The answer is our muscles. It’s our muscles that hold us upright, that’s why people who suffer from conditions such as multiple sclerosis and muscular dystrophy have to sit in a wheel chair because their muscles can’t hold their body up. So if our muscles won’t hold us up we start to fall downwards, which is where we are going to end up eventually when we die but our aim is to avoid entering our grave before our time.
Let’s return to the wind tunnel example for a minute. Once we try and fight against the wind by sticking out a part of our body, it requires muscle strength to hold it there. Gravity wants to push it down and we are fighting to hold it up.
The muscles that hold our heads up get tired because they weren’t designed to hold 15 pounds of weight (that’s the size of an average head) out at a continuous angle. It only makes sense that you feel tension, strain and stress in your shoulders, upper back and neck if you are hunched over a desk staring at a computer screen all day. It’s the same if we are always leaning to the side, backwards or forwards. We have to use our muscles to hold us there. It takes energy to align the correct posture.
You’ve probably got a vendetta against gravity now, since I’ve spent the last few pages describing it as your evil companion who is constantly trying to bring you down. But there’s a good side to gravity, if it didn’t exist we would all be weightless floating in the sky!
Think about this for a second, a builder isn’t going to build a building with one part leaning out to the side and no support. That would place an unnecessary amount of stress on the structure of the building and eventually it would collapse. Our bodies know this, if for example our head is leaning too far forwards, we compensate by adjusting our hips and backs to re-align ourselves with gravity. But there are going to be problems with this compensation. Let’s go back to the builder, so he builds a building with a portion of it sticking out to one side, instead of fixing the problem he shifts a section of the building over several yards to make up for it. This would be detrimental for the building and equally as detrimental for our bodies when we compensate by adjusting a part of our body.
When we compensate in one area, it leads to excess stress and strain in another area. We then open ourselves up to become victims of the downward spiral of decline because the original problem was not addressed.
Imagine a box made out of wires and sticks, two sticks at the bottom and two at the top held together by flexible metal wires. When one corner of the box is pushed, the other corners change position. Because the wooden sections are not able to bend, the entire structure has to bend slightly by going either up, down, forwards or backwards, but it can’t remain in the same place.
The human body is like the flexible box. Our bones are similar to the sticks and the tendons, ligaments, muscles and other connective tissues are like the flexible metal wires. The bottom of the box is like our pelvis and the top our shoulder girdle. If one shoulder is lifted or held higher than the other, the entire body has to move to compensate. If you lean one shoulder forward slightly and pay close attention to what your body is doing, you will immediately feel your hip on the same side move and your opposite hip and shoulder move backwards.
When this happens, people become stuck in this unnatural alignment of the body. When the shoulders and hips are not symmetrical it leads to pain and strain in one or both hips or shoulders. Another way of looking at it is to see it as a rotational abnormality. The body is slightly twisted around its axis, one part goes backwards and another forwards. Imagine twisting a wet towel, what do you do? Twist one hand forwards and the other backwards.
Regardless of the analogy used, it is essential that this altered position is corrected. In posture alignment, it is the areas that appear unrelated to the problem that we have to correct. It may not make sense to do an exercise for your shoulders when it’s your hips that has the problem. But your hips can only come back into alignment to the extent that your shoulders are realigned. This isn’t going to happen at once, it will take some time. The muscles that are holding the shoulders out of place have to open up a little, this will enable the hips to move back a bit, which then allows the shoulders to start moving in the direction of the correct alignment.
This is the reason why it isn’t possible to simply hold your shoulders back if you suffer from rounded shoulders. You can try until you are blue in the face but they will keep rolling forwards. This is also the reason why many attempts at correcting your posture have failed. Until one piece of the puzzle that doesn’t appear connected to the problem has been resolved, the other piece can’t get brought back into alignment. This is another reason why people struggle to gain flexibility in certain areas despite their persistent efforts. I suffered from this for a while. In a yoga class I was unable to get my hips to open up. No matter how much I tried I just couldn’t do it. I got so desperate that I would place large bags of concrete on one of my thighs in the hopes of pushing it down. (I wouldn’t advise this!) It wouldn’t budge, until other muscle groups were realigned, my hips weren’t moving.
The pelvis is what helps the rest of the body to pivot. If the pelvis is aligned, so is the rest of the body. The second major area is the shoulders. The difference between a building and a human being is that a building can’t fix itself when it gets bent out of shape, every element of the building will stay the same because they are static. This isn’t the case with the human body. Not only do our bodies have the capacity to correct themselves, they also have the ability to adapt and to change shape. We can step in and out of postural alignment at will.
In 1892, a German surgeon by the name of Julius Wolff identified several laws related to bone. The premise of his theory was that bones will change strength and shape dependent upon the size of the load that is placed on it. This is the reason why bone spurs occur, broken bones heal and bony protrusions called osteophytes are found on X-rays. Like everything else in the body, bone adapts to the strain and the stress that is placed on it. This is why to some degree, the effects of osteoporosis can be mitigated by weight lifting because it allows new bone to grow. What’s true for the bone is also true for the muscle. Muscles develop, adapt and increase or decrease in strength dependent upon the load that is placed on them. This is common knowledge, if you lift weights the muscles get stronger. The same is true for tendons and ligaments, they respond and adapt to the loads placed on them. The opposite is also true, if these parts of the body are not used and there is no demand placed on the tendons, ligaments, muscles or bones they will lose their strength.
If you have ever been sick and immobilized for an extended period of time you will know that once you recover, simple things like taking a few steps or getting up to brush your teeth can be extremely difficult. Here are some facts about what happens when the body becomes immobilized:
- It causes a loss of strength and muscle mass. When the body is immobilized it looses strength at a rate of 1-1.5% per day.
- When the body has been immobilized as a result of a plaster cast, it looses 22% of its strength in the first seven days.
- It causes the muscle tissue to grow more rigid.
- Leads to a loss of strength and bone density.
- Causes all connective tissue (fascia, ligaments, tendons and joint tissue) to lose their elasticity as a result of chemical changes to the structure.
- Leads to reduced efficiency and function of the bodies major organ systems: Endocrine, digestive, respiratory and circulatory.
What is particularly discouraging about these facts is that it takes a significant amount of time to recover from this type of degeneration, sometimes it can take years. Doctors are aware of this, and it is one of the main reasons why they encourage early mobilization for all surgeries and injuries.
So why have I mentioned immobilization? One reason is to encourage you not to become immobilized. Even if you do get sick or injured, try and start moving around as soon as you can. Another reason is that when we live a sedentary lifestyle it immobilizes us. Whether it’s to a lesser or a greater degree we experience a similar decline in function. The bones that have no stress placed on them lose strength and mineral content. The muscles we don’t use become more rigid and lose strength. The joints we don’t use become less flexible and tighter.
After the age of 35 certain things start to happen to the body, here are some of those facts:
- There is an automatic but gradual loss of strength and muscle mass. If you don’t take steps to prevent this from happening you will lose 5-7 pounds of muscle mass every ten years. Muscle mass is also the main determinant of resting metabolic rate. When muscle mass is lost, there is a decrease in resting metabolic rate, in other words getting fat becomes a very real possibility.
- There is a gradual loss of bone strength and bone mineral density which worsens for women after menopause.
- There is a reduction in water content in connective tissue which causes them to become more and more rigid.
The facts about aging don’t sound too promising do they? We can’t escape it; each one of us is fighting an uphill battle. However, these facts also point to the fact that when we don’t use our bodies we accelerate the aging process. Studies have found that you can reverse the effects of aging by exercising. If you are up in age, and living a sedentary lifestyle things are not looking good for you.
The capability of any organ system to tolerate the demands placed on it is referred to as functional reverse. When any of our organ systems are at their peak, they are unable to take additional stress. This is the reason why when the elderly get sick, it quickly turns into something far worse. For example, a common cold can turn into pneumonia. A heart that is working to its maximum will experience heart failure if additional pressure is placed on it. This is why we all die eventually, we run out of functional reverse and our bodies are unable to fight any threats.
The musculoskeletal system works in the same way. To maintain the body, the muscles have to work at their maximum strength every day. Which means that if there is any additional demand placed on them there is nothing left to fight back. If we have to do anything outside of the norm, we end up injuring a joint or pulling a muscle.
One of the main aims of postural alignment is to build up reserves in our flexibility and strength so that our bodies don’t become overwhelmed when it has to do something outside of its normal capabilities.
HOW OUR MUSCLES WORK
In the simplest terms, muscles work in teams or pairs. For every muscle at the back of the body there is a corresponding muscle at the front. For every muscle on the side of the body, there is one on the other side. Because of the way the body is shaped, the muscles on the front or the back might not look the same. The muscle that pulls a bone backwards may be narrow and long, but the muscle that pulls the same bone forwards may be fan-shaped and short. The fancy names for these muscle pairs are antagonists and agonists. So when we want to move a joint, the agonist contracts and the antagonist relaxes and the bone they are controlling changes its position. The names antagonist and agonist sound as if they are fighting against each other, but they are not, they are working together as a team of muscles.
Now imagine a muscle pair on opposite sides of a joint, one muscle on the left side, the other on the right side. In an ideal situation both sides are balanced evenly in terms of strength and length and the joint is held in equilibrium with no added tension or compression on either side.
Now, think about what happens to the same joint when one muscle is overdeveloped, when one muscle is stronger and tighter than its partner. This is typically seen in the weight lifter who has worked more on his biceps than on his triceps. Don’t think that this can’t happen to you just because you don’t lift weights. This happens to all of us, our posture is a blended picture of all of these muscles. Some of them are too weak, some too tight and some just right.
Getting your posture into alignment is not just about getting stronger; it’s about bringing alignment and balance to the body’s structure by making the weak areas stronger and the tight areas more flexible so that everything lines up the way it’s supposed to.
While it’s convenient and useful to talk about the function of each individual muscle, the body simply doesn’t work like that. Even some of our everyday simple movements are extremely complex. Requiring several muscles to work in harmony by releasing and contracting in a coordinated manner. That’s why it’s not a good idea to isolate and develop a single muscle. If the other muscles are not being trained along with it, they won’t be able to do their job properly.
ROUNDED SHOULDERS AND SLEEP
When you are exhausted and tired the last thing on your mind is what position you are going to sleep in. Think about this for one minute, when you woke up this morning, how did you feel? Refreshed and rested, or uncomfortable and sore? The majority of people don’t spend time thinking about their posture when sleeping; it’s just not on our list of priorities. If you suffer from rounded shoulders, or any other posture deficiency you might want to reconsider your sleeping position. Here are some helpful hints and tips to get you on the right track.
Sleeping on your back is the ideal position unless you are a snorer. If you snore, you might want to avoid it but it’s great for the back because it keeps the neck and the spine in a neutral position. Elevating your knees by placing a small pillow underneath them will further assist in making sure that your back stays in a neutral position throughout the night.
Most people have a preference for sleeping on their side; this is good news because overall, it’s a fairly healthy posture to sleep in. The spine is elongated when you sleep on your side; it also has the added advantage of preventing snoring.
However, it can have its disadvantages, as you know we don’t stay still when sleeping, when the body twists it causes the your upper leg to rest on the mattress, rotating in this way can cause strain on your lower back and pelvis which can lead to lower back pain in the future. You can avoid this by wedging a small pillow in between your knees. This will prevent your upper leg from rotating to rest on the mattress.
Even though this is a really comfortable sleeping position, and reduces sleep apnoea and snoring, it actually places a lot of strain on the body. According to the Mayo Clinic, sleeping on your stomach makes it almost impossible to keep your spine in a neutral position. It also places additional strain on your muscles and joints which can lead to numbness and pain in your legs, pelvis and back.
Additionally, you place a tremendous amount of stress on the neck by keeping it turned to one side for so many hours. Twisting your neck to one side puts your spine and head out of alignment. You really don’t want problems with your neck, especially a herniated disk! This is when the gelatinous disk between your vertebrate ruptures causing fluid to leak from the disk which causes nerve irritation.
As mentioned, many people who sleep on their stomachs experience some type of pain. Being in pain is no fun and it will probably wake you up in the middle of the night meaning you will be stressed out and aggravated in the morning.
Some people find it difficult to sleep in any other position apart from their stomach. If you are one of those people, don’t threat! Here are some tips:
- You can place a pillow under your lower abdomen and pelvis to support your lower back and limit how much your spine curves. If you find that this places strain on your back and neck, try taking the pillow from under your head or use a really thin or flat pillow.
- Stretch when you wake up. Stretching for a few minutes will help to realign your body and strengthen supporting muscles.
ROUNDED SHOULDERS AND SITTING
Unless you’re a hermit that doesn’t get out much you’ve probably heard the latest about the evils of sitting down for too long. Several studies have concluded that people who sit down for the majority of the day increase their risks of diabetes and cardiovascular disease! If this is new to you, yes, it’s shocking I know, especially since the majority of the world spends most of their day in a chair.
As technology continues to advance at an accelerated pace, electronic devices and computers are keeping us strapped to our chairs for longer periods of time and our health is being compromised because of it. While you might not be able to trade in your desk job for one that keeps you active and on your feet all day, there is something that you can do immediately, and it’s as simple as learning how to sit properly.
To avoid premature death (sounds extreme but that’s what it’s come to) from spending your life in a chair, keep reading to find out how you can maintain a good posture. Additionaly, I am going to provide you with information on the best gadgets to get that will keep your bones from future wear and tear.
WHAT IS THE CORRECT SEATING POSITION?
There are a couple of simple instructions you will need to follow to find the correct seating position. Every time you sit down, repeat these directions to help your body adjust into its best position.
- Sit on the edge of your chair.
- Roll your neck and shoulders forwards so you are in a full stooping position.
- Slowly pull your shoulders up so that you are sitting in an upright position.
- Curve your spine by pushing your lower back forwards and hold the position for a few seconds.
- Slightly release this position, and that is the position you should maintain for a good sitting posture.
- Push yourself backwards into the chair so that your back is resting against the chair and your hips are in the crease of the chair.
This is just the beginning, there are other things you will need to do to help out your posture, keep reading to find out.
Invest in an ergonomic desk chair to support your back. They are designed to reduce friction and stress on the muscles and bones to properly support your body. They are not cheap and will cost you over $100. If you are on a tight budget, don’t worry, there are other things you can do.
Some chairs are not made with a lumbar support, but you can make your own by placing a small pillow between your lower back and the chair. This will help you to maintain the right posture.
Your arms and legs should be parallel to the ground and your knees in line with your hips. You will need to move your chair either up or down to find this position.
Never leave your feet dangling; they should sit comfortably on the floor. If not, you will need to use a footstall to rest your feet on. Your feet should be flat on the floor, so if you are wearing heels, if possible, take them off. It is also advised that you don’t sit with your legs crossed. This can cause muscle strain and reduce blood flow.
YOUR COMPUTER SCREEN
Your screen should be kept at eye level at all times. Once you are seated properly, move it so that the screen is right in front of you. Stretch your arms forwards and position the monitor so that it’s approximately an arm’s length in front of you.
You will then need to adjust the height of the monitor. There should be no more than 2 inches between the top of your computer screen and your eye level. You will strain your eyes and neck if you are continuously looking at a computer screen that is either too high or too low.
An easy way to adjust the height of your monitor is to use a stack of books. If you want something more professional looking you can purchase an adjustable monitor stand.
Your keyboard should be positioned right in front of your computer. There should be a 4 to 6 inch gap between the desk and the edge of your keyboard so that your wrists have somewhere to rest as you type.
If you have a high keyboard and you find that your wrists are tilted at an angle when you type, purchase a padded wrist rest. This will help with the correct position of your hands when you are typing. Strain caused when typing can cause pain as well as muscle fatigue.
Your mouse and your keyboard should be on the same surface, and you should be able to reach it easily. Continuous stretching to reach for your mouse can cause fatigue and muscle strain. Your wrist should be straight while you are using your mouse. Your upper arm should rest by your side and should be just below your elbow.
You can prevent wrist strain by purchasing an ergonomic computer mouse. They fit the natural shape of your hand.
FREQUENTLY USED OBJECTS
Items such as a notepad, phone or stapler should be no more than arms length from where you are sitting. Continuous stretching to reach items can cause muscle strain and joint pain.
USE A HANDSET
If you spend a lot of time using the phone at the same time as writing or typing, you might want to invest in a speaker phone or a headset. Cradling your phone by bending your neck can cause pain and stiff muscles. Over time it will cause ligament damage.
A long length of time spent in the sitting position can restrict blood flow and cause muscle burnout. You will need to take breaks often to prevent this, stand up and take a walk. If you can do some squats or lungs to get the blood flowing again.
Get into the habit of taking several short breaks instead of one or two long breaks. You should aim to take a two minute break every 30 minutes. If this isn’t possible, every hour.
The modern workplace is very restrictive; most employees spend 8 hours a day sitting down staring at a computer. This can have severe consequences for your health. By improving your posture, you can improve your health. Learning to sit properly and investing in some ergonomic products can greatly assist in reducing wear and tear to your bones and muscles over the long run. The average career lasts approximately 40 years; it only makes sense to protect yourself during this time.
ROUNDED SHOULDERS AND WALKING
The position of your body is an important factor in being able to walk easily and comfortably. A good posture will also enable you to walk faster and longer distances. If you find it difficult to enjoy walking because you are in pain afterwards, you might need to check your posture.
The benefits of a good walking posture include making you look leaner, longer and fit. Here are some steps to assist you in improving your walking posture.
- When you are walking, stand in an upright position and don’t arch your back.
- Don’t lean backwards or forwards, this will put stress on your back muscles as you walk. Try not to lean at all, except when you are on a hill.
- Look straight ahead and don’t look down. Keep your focus on something that’s 20 feet ahead of you. This way you can see what’s in front of you and anything else in your peripheral vision.
- Keep your chin up; it should be parallel to the ground. You reduce the strain on your back and neck when you keep your chin up. It is a common walking mistake to walk with your head down.
- Keep your shoulders relaxed and pulled backwards. Lift your shoulders up and then let them fall down and relax and pull them back slightly. Tension is relieved when your shoulders feel lose, and it puts them in a better position for effective arm motion when walking.
- Pull your stomach in, good posture is maintained with your core muscles, it also helps to prevent leaning and slouching. Slightly pull your stomach in at the same time as taking full deep breaths will help you to maintain a good walking posture.
- Tuck in your buttocks and slightly rotate your hips forwards. This will stop you from arching your back. Your butt should not stick out when you are walking.
MAINTAINING A GOOD WALKING POSTURE
Once your posture has been aligned, you are ready to go for a walk. The trick is to make sure that you maintain that posture when you are walking. Each time you stop, for example you are waiting to cross the street, do a posture check. If you don’t stop, check your posture each time you take a sip of water or at some other type of regular interval.
If you realize that you continue to have the same posture problems while you are walking, you will need to focus on that in particular. For example, you might find that your chin is always pointing downwards, or that your shoulders are always tense.
WALKING AND CELL PHONES
I can already hear you saying, “What’s my cell phone got to do with the way I walk?” The answer is, a lot! Resist the temptation to engage with your phone while walking because it will force you to look down which puts you into a bad posture. If it’s an absolute must that you look down at your phone, be sure to regain a good posture afterwards. Also. It’s a good trick to set a reminder on your phone screen, so when eventually you look at it, it reminds you to keep a good posture.
PRACTISE MAKES PERFECT
If you pay attention to people when they are walking, you will begin to notice how common bad posture is. Spending the first minute or so setting up a good walking posture will give you a better workout.
Before going for a walk, whether you are walking on a treadmill or around the house, always make sure that you check your posture, before you know it, checking your posture will become a habit.
ROUNDED SHOULDERS AND EXERCISE
Do you want the elegant stance and the lean look of a Pilates or a yoga instructor? Improve your posture! Rounded shoulders make you look older and shorter than you actually are. Although posture doesn’t get as much attention as exercising and eating right, a straight spine is important to your overall health. Rounded shoulders are just one of the many consequences of a bad posture
A confident and bold stance is one that is positioned upright. You can improve your posture by focusing on core strengthening exercises. These are the lower back and abdominal muscles that connect to your pelvis and spine.
Some muscles are responsible for moving your torso, they do so by extending, flexing or rotating your spine. The other muscles stabilize your spine and pelvis in a neutral and natural position. Pilates, yoga and other core fitness programs target every area of your core using controlled, slow movements to make your workout more effective.
These exercises are easy to perform and neither do you need much equipment. This means that you don’t have to invest thousands of dollars in trying to fix your posture, you can do it right in the comfort of your own home.
YOUR EXERCISE PLAN
If you are determined to get rid of those unsightly rounded shoulders, you will need to make the following posture enhancing workouts a regular part of your workout program. It’s important that while performing the exercises you exhale deeply and suck your core muscles inwards as you move. This is a key principle in both yoga and Pilates.
1: STABILIZE YOUR CORE: SINGLE LEG EXTENSION
BENEFITS: Your pelvis is stabilized by your core muscles working together.
- Lie on your back and bend your knees
- Place your feet flat on the floor
- Place your hands behind your head
- Push your lower back into the floor and roll your head upwards off the floor
- Exhale deeply and suck your navel inwards and upwards
- Keep your lower back pushed into the floor and pull one knee into your chest
- Extend your other leg so that it is lifted off the floor at a 45 degree angle
- Keep your abdominal muscles tight and your lower back pushed into the floor
- If your lower back starts to arch off the floor, lift your leg up higher towards the ceiling
- Perform 5-10 extensions on both legs
- To increase the intensity, pull both knees upwards at the same time and extent them at a 45 degree angle at the same time. Keep your lower back on the floor by using your core.
- Or, extend both arms over your head at the same time as you extend your legs
2. THE IMPROVED CRUNCH
BENEFITS: If you want a six pack, you better get crunching because they are the muscles that are worked during this exercise. The obliques, (the muscles that help to rotate your torso) and the rectus abdominis (the six pack muscle).
- Lie with your back on the floor
- Bend your knees upwards
- Keep your feet flat on the floor
- Press your lower back into the floor
- Position your hands behind your head or stretch your arms out towards your knees
- Exhale deeply, and pull your navel inwards and upwards
- Slowly curl your shoulders and head off the floor
- Hold the position for 3 seconds and then slowly roll back down
- Repeat three times
- To increase the intensity lift one leg up towards the ceiling at a 45 degree angle
- Or lift both legs off the floor, bend your knees so that your shins are parallel to the floor
3. YOGA SIT-UP/PILATES ROLL-UP
BENEFITS: This move works the transverse abdominis, obliques and the abdominis rectus (these are deep core muscles that provide a hold on the waist similar to the corset pulling the abdomen inwards and upwards towards the spine).
- Lie with your back on the floor and your legs stretched straight out and your toes pointed forwards
- Stretch your arms back over your head resting on the floor
- Push your lower back into the floor
- Exhale deeply and pull your navel inwards and upwards
- In a slow motion, roll your body upwards, start by lifting your arms off the floor, followed by your shoulders and then your head until you are sitting upright. Make sure you keep your abdominal muscles pulled in
- Roll back down slowly
- Repeat the move three to five times and increase as you get stronger
- To increase the intensity, roll upwards with your arms across your shoulders
BENEFITS: The focus is on the obliques and it works all core muscles.
- Lie on your back and place your hands behind your head
- Lift your chest off the floor
- Pull your knees in towards your chest
- Keep your lower back pushed down towards the floor
- Exhale deeply and pull your navel inwards and upwards
- Pull your knee up into your chest; keep the other leg straight at the same time as rotating your torso towards your bent knee
- Switch legs slowly and repeat the move
- Repeat five to 10 times, increasing as your core gets stronger
- Increase the intensity by keeping your straight leg as close to the floor as possible
5. COBRA POSE: BACK EXTENDER
BENEFITS: This exercise strengthens the low back muscles and the erector spinae (the muscles that prevent slouching by extending your spine).
- Lie on your stomach and position your palms near your ribs flat on the floor
- Stretch your legs out behind you and push your toes into the floor
- Exhale deeply at the same time as pulling your abdominal muscles inwards and upwards
- Stretch out your spine and use your lower back muscles to slowly raise your chest and head off the floor. Make sure you don’t raise yourself up by pushing down into your arms
- Keep your hips on the floor relax your neck muscles by looking downwards
- Lower yourself back down slowly and repeat three to five times increasing as your lower back gets stronger
- Increase the intensity by reaching your arms out beside your head at the same time as keeping your elbows straight
6. PLANK POSE
BENEFITS: This exercise strengthens the back and shoulder muscles, as well as the transverse abdominis.
- Start on your hands and knees, your palms should be level with your shoulders
- Extend both of your legs behind you and tuck your toes under. By this point you should be in a push up position
- Hold your stomach muscles inwards and look down towards the floor
- Hold the position until you start to feel tired
- Take a 10 second break and then repeat
- Make sure you keep your abdominals sucked inwards and upwards so that your lower back doesn’t cave in when you exhale
- To increase the intensity, don’t balance on your hands, balance on your forearms
7: DUMBBELL SIDE BENDS
BENEFITS: This exercise targets the oblique muscles.
GETTING STARTED: You will need at two light dumbbells, if you don’t have any weights you can use cans of soup.
- Pick up your weights and stand upright with your feet in line with your shoulders. Relax your shoulders
- Lean to one side slowly and then bring your body back up to the original position
- Repeat the process on the other side
8: SWIMMING PILATES
BENEFITS: This exercise strengthens the back muscles and helps to ensure the proper sitting and standing posture.
- Lye on your stomach with your legs straight and your arms straight over your head
- Lift your right arm and your left leg off the ground making sure that you keep your knee and elbow straight
- Go back to the starting position and then do the same with the opposite arm and leg
9: FLY REVERSE DUMBBELL
BENEFITS: This exercise will help to strengthen the upper back
GETTING STARTED: You will need two light weights for this exercise. If you don’t have any dumbbells, two cans of soup will do.
- Grab hold of the two weights in each hand, your palms should be facing each other and your feet should be shoulder width apart
- Bend forward at the waist slightly and soften your knees
- Keep your head up and your eyes facing forward
- Lift your arms up to your sides until they are parallel with the floor, your elbows should be slightly bent
- Lower your arms slowly to the start position
- Do three sets of 10 reps
10: SEATED DUMBBELL ROW
BENEFITS: This exercise strengthens the upper and the middle back.
GETTING STARTED: You will need two light dumbbells, if you don’t have any, two cans of soup will do.
- Sit on a chair and hold one weight in each hand. Your palms should be facing each other
- Slightly bend forward from the waist
- Start by squeezing your shoulder blades together and push your elbows out behind you
- Pause for a second or two and then lower the weights back down to the starting position
- You can start by doing three sets of 10 reps
11: SEATED TWIST
BENEFITS: This is one of the most effective posture exercises and you can do it anytime anywhere.
- From a seated position, take a deep breath and then use the left arm of the chair to twist to the left
- Your chest and your abdomen will now be facing the left arm of the chair
- Hold the position for a few seconds and then return to the starting position
- Repeat the process using the right side
12: KNEELING STRETCH
BENEFITS: The kneeling stretch fights tightness in the iliopsoas muscle. (This is the muscles between the spine and the hip) It will help you to keep your spine straight as you sit and stand.
GETTING STARTED: You will need a padded mat.
- Stretch one leg out in front of you as if you are doing a lunge
- The knee of your other leg should rest on the padded mat
- Rest your hands on the lunging knee
- Push your hips forwards gently so that you feel a stretch in your iliopspas muscle
13: CHEST STRETCH
BENEFITS: The chest stretch helps to loosen the biceps and open up the chest.
- Face the corner of a wall and extend your right arm so that your hand is flat against the side wall.
- Turn your body to the left and lean forwards; you should feel a stretch in your shoulder.
- Make sure that you keep your arm in line with the plane of your shoulder while completing the stretch.
- Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat for 3 sets on both sides.
14: MASSAGE BALL CHEST COMPRESSION
BENEFITS: Deep tissue massaging using either a massage or a tennis ball can help to restore the flexibility of your chest muscles.
GETTING STARTED: You will need a massage ball or a tennis ball.
- Hold the ball with both hands and press it, then roll it slowly around the side of your chest
- Apply steady pressure to tight areas as you move the ball around. This will help to relieve any tension
- Massage on each side of your chest for 30 seconds, completing 3 sets
15: UPPER BACK FOAM ROLLING
BENEFITS: This exercise improves spine mobility
GETTING STARTED: You will need a foam roller.
- Place the foam roller below your shoulder blades in the middle of your back across your spine
- Plant your feet firmly on the ground and bend your knees
- Your hands should be positioned comfortably behind your head
- Lift your hips off the ground, roll forwards so that the foam roller rolls down an inch and then let your hips rest
- Do it again, but this time roll further so that the foam roller is a couple of inches below your neck. Roll back down slowly and then let your hips rest
- If there are any areas where there is extra tension and extra stiffness, stay in that area for 10-15 seconds
- Repeat the exercise for 3 sets
16: PRONE Y EXTENSION
BENEFITS: The prone Y extension is a simple move but it accomplishes a lot. It strengthens your upper back muscles and your lower back extensor muscles. It stretches your chest and your abdomen and rotates your shoulders outwards.
- Lie with your stomach on the floor and your legs shoulder width apart
- Extend your arms over your head in a Y shaped position
- Raise your torso up off the ground at the same time as rotating your shoulders so that you your palms are turned upwards
- Hold the position for 5-10 seconds and then relax
- Do 8 repetitions 3 times
17: CLOSE GRIP ROW
BENEFITS: The exercise strengthens the upper back muscles.
GETTING STARTED: You can either do this exercise seated or standing. You will need a cable machine.
- Place the resistance band around a fixed object at the same level as your chest
- Take a few steps backwards until you the band has stretched and you can feel tension
- Your arms should be straight out in front of you, your feet should be shoulder width apart and your knees should be slightly bent
- Keep your head in an upright position, your abs tight, your back straight, your chest out and your shoulders back
- Pull the bands slowly toward the sides of your torso and squeeze your shoulder blades at the same time
- Resist the band slowly until your arms are extended fully
- Complete 15 repetitions and do 3 sets
PRECAUTIONS AND TIPS
- Keep your abdominal muscles pulled inwards and upwards whilst you are exercising.
- With controlled, slow movements, without holding your breath breathe evenly.
- Don’t try and do more than you can handle.
- If you suffer from mild back pain, you can improve your posture, prevent further pain and ease your symptoms.
- If you have been injured, suffer from severe back pain, if you are severely overweight or have any other medical condition, consult your doctor before staring an exercise program. Some exercises could make your condition worse.
- If any of the exercises cause you pain, stop immediately.
DAILY HABITS TO IMPROVE ROUNDED SHOULDERS
According to research, people with a good posture, that is those who stand and walk tall, are seen as more powerful. So sit up straight and keep reading because I am going to let you into a few secrets that you can do throughout the day to get you into the habit of correcting your posture and eliminating those rounded shoulders.
GO FOR A 30 MINUTE WALK
The time that you choose to take your 30 minute walk doesn’t matter; just make sure that you do it. The idea is to get you moving. I can almost hear you saying that you don’t have 30 minutes to spare. Well what time do you wake up in the morning? Most people roll out of bed an hour before they have to be at work and then complain that they don’t have time to fit exercise into their schedule. I challenge you to set your alarm clock 30 minutes earlier than usual and go for a walk. If you can’t do it in the morning, how about fitting it in during your lunch break instead of sitting in the canteen gossiping for an hour? Or do it as soon as you get back from work.
You don’t need anything to go for a walk; a pair of comfy shoes will suffice. So get walking for 30 minutes per day, you’ll feel a lot better for it.
That sounds terrible doesn’t it? But I promise you it’s not what it seems. You probably won’t be able to get away with doing this in the office so you might be better off doing this one at home. The aim is to find something that you can grab hold of, pull yourself up and swing from. I’m not talking about doing pull-ups; just literally hang with your bodyweight off the floor.
This is a great way to apply tension to the spine and give your body the opposite of what it gets 8 hours a day by sitting compressed in one position. Do this for 5-10 seconds or for however long you feel comfortable doing it. This is a great corrective stretch, and if you want to increase the intensity of it, hang off one arm!
REVERSE SHOULDER ROLLS
This is one of the simplest exercises you can do and it can be done anytime and anywhere. Sitting at a desk for long periods of time pulls your shoulders and upper spine forwards. So this is one of the many exercises you can do to correct this.
You can either do this sitting or standing up and your torso should be in an upright position:
- Allow your arms to hang down by your side towards the floor.
- Lift one shoulder up towards the ceiling.
- Pull the same shoulder down in a circular motion.
- Repeat with the other shoulder.
- Do this continuously in a slow, smooth motion.
- Roll both shoulders backwards at the same time.
This is a very simple exercise that you can do anytime and anywhere. It’s better to do it when standing but if not, it’s ok to do it when you are seated.
- Stand upright with your chest up.
- Position your palms on your stomach with your thumbs just underneath your rib cage and your pinky finger resting on your pelvis.
- Take a deep breath and feel your rib cage expand. You should feel your upper body rise and lengthen at the same time.
- As you exhale, don’t allow your chest area to go back to its original state, maintain the new space created during inhalation.
- Repeat the process 10 times.
This is more than just a breathing exercise; when you do it properly you are actually working out the intrinsic postural muscles. This is a great exercise because after sitting for such a long period of time your body goes into a state of compression. The decompression breathing technique does exactly what it says; you will feel refreshed and ready to continue with your day.
DOUBLE CHIN ILLUSION
Another strange sounding exercise but it works wonders! The point of this exercise is to do the opposite of what you are doing all day which is sitting with your head forwards as you type away and stare at a computer screen. Before you know it, your muscles have become so used to this position that you start looking old before your time. Give yourself a break and do this simple exercise every while you are working:
- While your head is in a neutral position, take a finger (anyone will do) and press your chin backwards.
- Hold the position for a few seconds and then release it.
- Do as many reps as you wish and then get back to work.
Thank you for purchasing my book. “Stand up straight!” Is the advise the majority of us heard when we were growing up. Its advice worth taking, as you have read, good posture is the key to balance; when you stand up straight, your weight is centered over your feet. It also helps you to maintain the correct form during exercise which leads to greater gains and less injuries. Working on balance can even improve your abilities in skiing, dancing, running, golf, tennis and just about any other activity or sport. Regardless of whether you are an athlete or not, you still need to have good balance. Simple everyday activities such as turning around to look behind you, walking up the stairs and standing up out of a chair all require good balance.
The good news is that you can improve your posture and your balance by strengthening your core muscles to keep your body stationed in the correct posture. Before I go, let me remind you that this is not a onetime event, once you have eliminated your rounded shoulders and gained a good posture you can’t revert back to your old habits. Daily exercise and posture alignment must become a normal part of your life, only then will you reap its full benefits.
Well that’s all folks! I wish you every success and longevity in life. Take care for now!