Many people today have desk jobs and are constantly hunched over, which causes a lot of stress on the front side of their bodies. Even if you don’t work a desk job, you’ve probably leaned forward to read something off the computer monitor. If the setup isn’t ergonomically friendly, your shoulders could start to round in.
There are many reasons why people develop rounded shoulders. However, the main reason is a tightness and/or weakness within your muscles.
First off, if you’re slouching forward to read this article, and/or finding that your keyboard/mouse placement is uncomfortable, this could be the main reason why you have this muscle imbalance.
Rounded shoulders are simply just a muscle imbalance, with your anterior (front) being too tight, and your posterior (back) being too weak. A quick way to find out if you have a case of rounded shoulders is to stand in front of a mirror relaxed with your arms by your side. Your hands should be facing each other.
A tightness in the shoulder would mean your palms are facing behind you. If your palms are facing each other, then you have nothing to worry about.
The Anatomy, and Cause
Let’s look at the anatomy of the shoulder joint and what muscles and biomechanics can cause the rounding of the shoulders.
One of the tightest muscle that is responsible for this condition is your chest (specifically the Pectoralis Major). If you are doing a lot of chest exercises such as working out on a Bowflex 5.1 weight bench or core strength training with a weighted vest, this could be one of the causes of rounding in.
Stretching is crucial after a workout to help release tension and relieve stress on that particular muscle. If you notice that your shoulders rounding in, it is highly recommended to stretch the chest.
Although the chest plays a huge factor on rounded shoulders, there are also muscles such as the Latissimuss Dorsi (muscles on the side of the back) as well as the rotator cuff (Subscapularis) that can lead to the rounding. All these muscles come into play and should be stretched, especially if you are on a serious muscle-mass routine that includes a lot of bench pressing and flies.
Why Should I Be Aware of This?
When your shoulders start to round in, other joints could tag along with it. For instance, if somebody has a severe case of rounded shoulders, chances are they may have a protracted shoulder girdle (shoulder blades and moved forward) and could end up developing to Kyphosis in the cervical region (upper back) that gives the “hunch back” look.
Something as simple as rounded shoulders could cause a major impact on the other joints around it, and those joints could impact other ones, and so on. This condition could lead to severe shoulder pain and possibly the risk of frozen shoulder, if not properly treated. The condition can also limit your range of motion of the shoulder joint, which is a VERY important joint.
Correcting Rounded Shoulders
The theory behind correcting rounded shoulders is pretty simple–strengthen the weak muscles, in this case, the posterior muscles (back), and stretch the tight/strong anterior muscles (front).
If you do not correct rounded shoulders, you will end up with a poor posture. As a result, you may need a posture brace to stop the bad posture.
If you notice you are working your chest out a little too much, reduce the volume/intensity, and focus on your back workouts a bit more. Be sure to stretch after a workout when the body is still warm and the joint capsules are lubricated (you will notice a larger range of motion if you stretch post-workout).
In our opinion, we would highly recommend incorporating one day a week to focus on rehab and work on all the weaker muscles that are rarely targeted in your routine.
Here is a list of what should be strengthened and stretched to properly correct rounded shoulders.
Strengthen (posterior muscles):
- External Rotators (Teres Minor/Infraspinatus)
- Rhomboids (Major & Minor)
- Trapezius 2 & 3 (Middle)
Stretch (internal rotators of the humerus):
- Pectoralis Major (Clavicular & Sternal)
- Latissimuss Dorsi
- Subscapularis (Internal Rotator Cuff)
- Anterior Deltoid (optional)
The most important factor is incorporating the stretches after a majority of your workouts. Better yet, you could devote a day for rehab.
As for strengthening the posterior muscles, your workout routine should consist of rowing exercises to help bring back the shoulder blades in the proper position (strengthening the Rhomboids & Trapezius). Strengthen both External Rotators by externally rotating the shoulder joint at different angles (depending on what external rotator you would like to target) with a very light dumbbell.