Dump the Shoulder Slump! How to Improve Hunched Shoulders with 2 Exercises!Oct 26, 2023
I’m headed out for a little mother/son cruise to the Bahamas tomorrow with my oldest. We are going with another family friend, a mother-son duo for their fall break from school. He is my easiest child by far and sometimes (especially in the last 2 years) he gets the last crumbs of my attention because of it. This cruise is going to provide some much-needed quality time for the two of us!
Another source of quality time for the two of us has been running together. We started running together last year around this time as he trained for a 5k through a school program called Run Hard.
On our first run together I noticed his feet slapped the ground very loudly as he ran. I pointed it out to him. He blamed it on his new shoes, but I wasn’t convinced. As I watched him run, I noticed he ran sort of hunched over from the top.
When seeing someone run that way the conventional wisdom seems to be to cue them to squeeze their shoulder blades back to help stand back up straight. I don’t agree and decided to dig a little deeper and answer how to Improve Hunched Shoulders.
First, why I don’t agree straightening up your back is the answer:
- We want a little bit of a forward lean as we run. We just want that forward lean to be a whole-body forward lean, starting from the ankles, not the shoulders.
- Cuing someone to squeeze their shoulders back causes them to close off their ribs in the back and we want those ribs to move so they can rotate efficiently.
Instead, I dug deeper into why he was hunching over in the first place. I know his body well and know that the shoulders rolled forward posture is a common one for him. So much so that his palms actually face backward while he walks. You can spot his stride from a distance! This tells me he has a lot of compression/tension on the front of his ribcage.
Telling him to squeeze his shoulder blades back would just be fighting tension with tension and creating more compression.
I asked him if he was up for a little experiment. I did not tell him why. Being the easy child he is, of course, he obliged.
I laid him down on his back on the ground by the side of the track and had him lay his arms out by his side like football goalposts and breathe there. As he exhaled, through his mouth with a forceful “ha” breath, I gently pressed his low ribs in. With each inhale through the nose, I held those low ribs in place, watching his upper chest wall rise a little bit more with each breath. We completed 10 or so breaths just like that. I’m glad no one else was there watching me pin him to the ground for a few minutes!
Then I asked him to get up and run again. Y’all this is the part I wish I got on video! His stride was nearly silent. He was in awe! I explained to him what we did and why. And he said…
“Mom, You are a mad scientist, but with running!”
His excitement about something that I love so much… That is a core memory for sure!
So what did I do? And why did it work?
I operated on the assumption that the reason his feet were making so much noise was because of his hunched-over posture and that the hunched-over posture (and rolled forward shoulders) was because of compression on the front of his rib cage.
The exercise we did (video below) helped to relieve some of that compression on the front of his ribcage so that he could naturally stand up straighter.
This 90-90 with Chest Wall Expansion is similar to the one we did that day.
Now the question becomes where did that compression come from in the first place.
An obvious answer (and this is definitely part of it) is his video game and iPad-loving posture. Another, deeper answer that has informed some of the training strategies I’m giving him for his warm-up is related to his development much earlier in life.
One interesting fact about him is that he never really crawled as a baby. He did this weird roll thing, then moved to scooting, and then walked (more like ran).
Crawling is a great tool to open the front of the rib cage! I can’t say for sure that not crawling is the reason for his posture but it really is an interesting connection.
Crawling is a great exercise for a lot of reasons. It is great for working that stack and connecting the core. It works your shoulders, your hips, your balance. It can’t hurt to encourage him to do it as part of his running warm-ups!
Try this with the challenge at the end to balance a block on your lower back.
… With that all said now time to finish packing!
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