Postures are being destroyed by a condition known as Upper Crossed Syndrome. This distortion, characterized by rounded shoulders and excessive upper body flexion, causes constant “slumping over” and can turn a compound exercise like the overhead squat into a complete train wreck. It can also lead to serious issues like rotator cuff impingement.
As troublesome as Upper Crossed Syndrome is, however, there are steps we can take to prevent it and correct it.
Regularly performing pressing movements without also performing pulling movements to balance out muscle groups is one of the main causes of the problem. Putting too much emphasis on exercises like the bench press while ignoring back-building exercises like the deadlift and the bent-over row is a common mistake, especially among those new to exercising.
Though an unbalanced program like this may build a powerful chest and set of anterior deltoids, it can also shorten those muscles while lengthening others, causing the upper body to round forward as a result. Build a resistance training program that includes exercises that work all major muscle groups to avoid throwing proper posture out of whack.
Sitting for prolonged periods of time can also cause Upper Crossed Syndrome among other postural distortions. The reality is most people lose all spinal organization upon sitting down, and this makes it extremely easy to let our shoulders and head drift forward, rounding our upper back. As drastic of a lifestyle change as it may be, we should all try to sit less. Keeping a conscious effort to keep our shoulders back and our heads up when we do have to sit down, however, can save us a lot of postural trouble.
If Upper Crossed Syndrome has already set in, it’s nothing a corrective exercise can’t take care of. Smashing muscle tissues in the chest, the upper back, and the fronts of the shoulders can help take care of any knots shortening those muscles. Lay on a foam roller, a lacrosse ball, or any other dense object and allow it to sink into knots to take care of any problems.
Focusing on strengthening the upper back can significantly help alleviate the problem. Barbell bent-over rows are perfect for targeting the muscles that are generally weakened by Upper Crossed Syndrome, and is a great exercise for balancing out bench pressing. Grip a barbell with a comfortable, overhand grip at around the same width used for bench pressing and pull it from the floor to the chest/upper abdomen while maintaining a straight back to get great benefits from this exercise.
Performing posterior deltoid raises, deadlifts and dumbbell rows can also help with the problem, as can doing more cardio work on indoor-rowing machines like the Concept Two Rower. In addition, stretching the chest after working it if you are prone to Upper Crossed Syndrome can help prevent the issue from recurring.