Rounded shoulders—when your shoulders have the appearance of rounding forward due to your shoulders sitting forward and down—are incredibly common. “It can be caused by muscular weakness or muscular imbalance,” says trainer Astrid Swan. “It means the upper trapezius and levator scapula become strained while the major and minor pectoralis muscles are tight and shortened.”
Aside from making your body look like slumped 24/7, having rounded shoulders can also cause upper back, neck, shoulder, and arm pain. Especially if you’re not working out your upper body correctly. According to Sunny Lee, the trainer behind @sunnylee.fit, if you have rounded shoulders (like most people do), you shouldn’t train your upper body without first doing an exercise for rounded shoulders with towels under your arms.
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“With modern sedentary lifestyle, rotator cuff muscles involved in shoulder external rotation are easily weakened and not trained enough,” she says on Instagram. “Engaging in a pulling motion with your shoulders positioned forward can put your shoulders at a greater risk of injury.”
Doing pec stretches isn’t going to be enough to fix the problem. Instead, she says the key is strengthening your rotator cuff muscles on the backside of your body, which are involved in shoulder external rotation. And that’s where the towels come in. “Roll them and put them between your torso and your elbows,” says Lee. “Then hold a resistance band shoulder-width apart, roll your shoulders down and back, and keep them there throughout the whole exercise.”
While saying in position, pull the band apart, pushing your elbows against the towels as you do so. Then, resist the band pulling your hands in when you’re coming back. Just complete 3 sets of 15 to 20 reps before your upper body workout (or every day, no matter which workout you’re doing), and you’ll not only help banish rounded shoulders and better your posture, but you’ll also prevent pain or injury to your shoulders.
Next up, try this Pilates workout that can help better your posture even more:
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