No longer necessarily a sign of age, a rounded upper back is increasingly common. Phones and tablets, not to mention the stress of everyday living, are all taking their toll on our posture and leading to a host of associated injuries. Take a look around and see how many people, young and old, have a chin that juts out, a neck that is compressed at the back, shoulders which fall forwards and an upper back that is rounded.
I have worked with a number of women who were dismayed to see the shape of their body changing, impacting on their self esteem and immediately making them look and feel older. Left unchecked the situation gets progressively worse, often accompanied with restricted movement and pain.
Although there are other causes such as osteoporosis and certain medications, the most common culprit is our lifestyles. The way we sit and the length of time we are sitting, together with the ‘tools’ we use, lead to shortness across the chest, back muscles which become weak and a shoulder girdle that is tight and limited in its movement. There is good news though: in many cases, with the right exercises and some small changes in lifestyle, good posture can be restored and pain alleviated.
Here is my 5 favourite exercises for you to try that will help correct the dreaded ‘hump’ by opening up the chest, strengthening the back and restoring mobility to the shoulders:
Stand in a doorway or near the corner of a wall, elbows at 90 degrees and arms at 90 degrees to your body, making sure your shoulder blades are drawn back and down.
Gently ease the body weight forwards until you feel a stretch across the chest.
Breathe full and wide into the ribcage, gently easing a little further forward on each outbreath.
Hold for 20-30 seconds. Rest and repeat 3 times.
Bring the arms straight out in front at chest height, palms face down. Link the thumbs.
Reach over your head on the inbreath, taking care not to hunch the shoulders.
On the outbreath, release the thumbs, open the hands, and circle the arms with the palms facing upwards to return them to your side.
Watch that you are not holding any tension as you move, especially in your neck and upper shoulders.
Repeat 10- 15 times, feeling the shoulders release as you do.
Hold a light weight (or use an exercise band), with your elbows at 90 degrees and tucked into your waist, palms face up.
Pivoting around your elbow, take your lower arms out to the side, squeezing behind your arms at the back as you do.
Keep the shoulders down and the neck long throughout.
Take care not to flare through the ribs. Only go as far as your range of movement will allow while keeping the elbows tucked into the waist.
Work up to 3 sets of 10
Start with arms out in front at chest height, palms down and shoulders relaxed. You can use a light weight or exercise band or simply work without either to get used to the movement initially.
Pull back, bending the arms to 90 degrees at the elbow, squeezing from between the shoulder blades.
Keep the elbows and hands at the same level throughout.
It is likely that the upper part of the shoulder will try and take over as you start to move but think about initiating from between the shoulder blades at the back ie much lower down.
Work up to 3 sets of 10.
Lie face down with your forehead on your hands and your arms in a diamond shape.
Push the arms into the floor, draw the shoulder blades down the back as you lift the head and shoulders.
Keep the chin nodded and the neck long. Imagine someone is lengthening your body by pulling from the top of your head.
You are trying to work into the upper back, and encourage it to ‘scoop’ ie the opposite position to the rounded one it is normally in.
Take care not to lift too high so the lower back is not compromised.
Hold for a few seconds at the top and repeat 6 – 8 times.
Let me know how you get on!