Rounded and slouched shoulders, so called shoulder-rolled-forward effect, are a common sight these modern days. We sit too much, hunched over the keyboard, iPad, laptop, phone, book, driving, or just chilling in the sofa. Even when we sleep on the side, our shoulders are rolled forward and together. This is tremendously detrimental to your athletic performance. Besides the visual, it also have many mental and emotional consequences.
Shoulders and your Mood
We will look at the physical problems in a moment, but something that you wouldn’t expect from having slouched posture and rounded shoulders is:
- Depression. According to a study at San Francisco State University in 2012, the scientist decided the slouched shoulders increases feelings of depression and anxiety.
- High stress levels. According to the researchers at the Harvard Business school, who have found that people who keep their posture slouched and rounded have higher level of cortisol and lower level of testosterone compared to people with straight, more erect and powerful body postures. These are signs of stress and they are counterproductive to your athletic performance, and wellbeing in life.
- Low confidence. Again, the Harvard researchers determined that all the fluctuations of hormones with high stress hormones and low testosterone thanks to the slouched posture lead to low self-esteem and low confidence.
Body postures that are straight and erect, with shoulders rolled backward, and hands on the hips, even for as little as two minutes, create positive changes in mood and decrease the stress levels. The testosterone increases by about 20% and the cortisol levels decrease for about 25%.
This is huge. When you feel stressed out, anxious or overwhelmed, rather than getting into more of the fight-or-flight position, which is leaning forward, rounded shoulders, tight jaws, short and fast breathing, try to stand up tall and straight, take in a few deep breaths and see how your mood changes for the better.
When you sit for prolonged periods of time at your desk, computer or tablet, try to stand up for a minute or two, stand straight, elongate yourself to be super talk and breathe. Those little breaks will make a huge difference in your productivity.
Shoulders and Athletics
When you perform sports with forward rolled shoulders, the proper range of motion is compromised and the shoulders do not work correctly in all the planes of motion. Shoulders are complicated structures with many muscles and tendons, and if some muscles (especially the front) are overactive and tight, while the other (backside of the shoulders) are underactive and weak, there is a bigger chance to overuse injuries because of limited range of motion. Injuries happen not just in the shoulders, but also other joints in the kinetic chain, such as elbows, wrists, hips, knees or ankles.
Your goal should be to have shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles perfectly aligned above each other in all planes. Then the movements you perform on the court or in the gym will be more mechanically correct, you will perform better and there is a less chance of an overuse injury.
The ability to stand straight and tall depends on the strength of the shoulders, back, core and hips.
The majority of people have the back side too weak and underactive. Therefore, in your training, start focusing on strengthening the backside as much as you can:
- Do many different rear flies, with dumbbells, rubber bands, cables and machines.
- Do rows, in machines, with barbel, dumbbells or cables. Wide grip, close grip, reverse grip.
- Include strengthening of the lower back as well.
- If you think you have done enough, do some more, because we generally pay much more attention to the front of the body and not enough to the backside.
- Also include some extra hamstrings and glute work. They are on the backside too!
- Do some myofascial release for the front (chest)
- Do arm curls, cats and dogs, and arm circles… simple exercises that bring big results.
After a few weeks of increased focused on the muscles of the back chain, pay attention how your athletic performance improves. You will run faster, you will feel more stable when you arrive to the ball and when you hit it, you will be quicker… Your posture will automatically look better and from reading the beginning of this article, your mood will improve, your stress levels will go down, and you will feel like a stud (and “studess”) in general.
Stop slouching and start working that backside. Feel good, and perform even better.