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man with rounded shoulders at desk

Stretches and Exercises to Fix Hunched Shoulders

If you’re like most of our clients, your shoulders are rounded and your back is sore from sitting at a desk for several hours every day. When you fix hunched shoulders, you can breathe easier, walk taller, and feel less tension at the end of the day. We’re here to help!

First, pause for just a moment. Notice how you’re sitting right now. Is your neck leaning forward? Your head looking down? What are your shoulders doing? How straight is your back? Now, sit up taller. Pull your shoulders back. Feel how much deeper your breath can go and how energized you feel?

Let’s see how you can have that feeling more often, every day.

What causes rounded shoulders?

These activities can lead to poor posture and rounded shoulders:

  • Carrying a heavy bag regularly on one shoulder 
  • Being a student
  • Full-time office work
  • Long-haul trucking
  • Sitting in one position for long periods of time
  • Looking at a laptop, tablet, or cell phone for long stretches of time
  • Too much focus on training your chest muscles and not enough on training your back

You could also have poor posture due to:

  • Scoliosis
  • Kyphosis
  • Previous spine/neck injuries such as whiplash
  • Being overweight
  • Muscle imbalances caused by misaligned spine, improper training, or injuries

With so many screens to look at all day—whether it’s on your desk or in your hand—your body is faced with demands that can create weakness and muscle imbalance. For example, reaching or leaning forward for most of the day shortens your chest muscles, creating tightness across your chest and alongside your neck. Your back muscles will not be recruited as much and can atrophy over time, which only makes the problem worse. 

When you correct your rounded, hunched shoulders, you’ll do your other muscles a favor, too. 

Fixing your hunched shoulders could help you experience other benefits: 

  • Less frequent or less intense back pain
  • Improved circulation
  • Better breathing and more oxygen, leading to clearer thinking
  • Decreased risk of acid reflux and constipation
  • Decreased severity of tension headaches
  • More effective workouts
  • Improved mental health, especially self-confidence from better posture

The following exercises can loosen up the front of your body and strengthen your back. 

Stretches to open up your chest:

Set an alarm on your phone or watch to take a stretch break every hour. If your watch is already telling you to stand and walk around for a minute, use that time to stretch. 

  • Lay on a foam roller placed vertically under your spine. Allow your chest and shoulders to fall towards the floor.
  • In a standing or sitting position, clasp your hands behind your back, straighten your elbows and begin to gently lift your hands. 
  • Here is a helpful shoulder mobility video with detailed descriptions:

Exercises to strengthen your back:

Seated row with resistance band — simple to do at home, at the office, or at the gym
  • Rows are essential to building strength in your back. You can perform seated rows with a cable machine, standing rows, or bent rows. You can use TRX bands, barbells, dumbbells, or kettlebells.
  • Use a Steel Mace for rotational strength. This will strengthen the shoulder in all directions, including the back of the shoulder. (Our functional fitness classes often incorporate simple Steel Mace routines.)
  • Use resistance bands to do reverse flyes.
  • Hang from a pullup bar to engage your smaller back muscles.
  • Follow this at-home routine for exercises you can do without equipment: https://gmb.io/bodyweight-back-exercises/

If you’re new to strength training or mobility work, start with something small that is simple for you to do consistently. As you build strength and endurance, add more mobility and strengthening work to your week or day.

Our personal trainers are equipped to help you, too. We’ll make sure you’re using proper form, especially if you’ve had an injury in the past. We’re here to help you meet your resolution to improved health and well-being!

Schedule your functional fitness class — virtual or in-person — today.