When busy at your desk, it’s easy to ignore shoulder posture. Work can take a toll on your shoulder mobility and function, but you can help offset it with these techniques.
If you’re like most folks, you probably feel stiff and tight when you leave the office after a long day at work. But what if you could devote a few minutes of your day to simple routines, done at the desk, and leave feeling more mobile and open?
That’s the goal of my Active Office Worker Series. If you’ve been following along, you know that these techniques don’t require a huge routine change or time commitment – they just require you to create a new habit and find a spare minute or two.
We’ve touched on the neck and the wrists, now it’s time to tackle a huge issue – shoulder posture.
Shoulder Posture Problems
Office life affects your shoulder posture in 2 major ways.
One is that when your shoulders are rounded forward most of the day to type and do work at your desk, they adapt to that hunched position. This makes it more difficult to do overhead activities, like overhead squats, shooting hoops, or even changing a lightbulb.
Secondly, we know that work often goes hand in hand with stress. Stress just serves to compound this poor positioning, further hiking your shoulders up and contributing to hunchback or thoracic kyphosis.
The 3 shoulder posture and mobility exercises I’ll teach you today will help combat these issues and improve shoulder flexibility and even functional strength by improving muscle activation patterns. So let’s get into it.
Active Self-Myofascial Release for Pecs
Your pectoralis major muscle runs from your clavicle (or collarbone) and sternum (breastbone) to insert onto your humerus (the bone of your upper arm). It serves to adduct and internally rotate your arm, as well as flex your shoulder .
This muscle often becomes shortened and inextensible and can contribute to your shoulders rounding forward and winged scapula – which means that dreaded hunchback may start to pop up.
This first is an Active Self-Myofascial Release (ASMR) technique that improves shoulder flexibility by releasing structural and/or neurological blocks that limit its extensibility.
You’ll start with the muscle relaxed and in a shortened position and move into a lengthened position as you use your fingers to release the muscle fibers. It’ll help release any scar tissue adhesions and improve muscle extensibility.
- Relax your left arm and cross it over your body and use your right fingers to press into the muscle just below the collar bone
- Lift your left arm and externally rotate it to reach behind you with the palm up as you sit up tall
- As you’re lifting your left arm, use your right fingers to run down the length of your pec muscles, until you reach your sternum
- Complete 3-6 reps on each side. With every rep, move your fingers to a slightly different spot on your pec
Hands Behind the Head Lift Off
The next two drills will help awaken shoulder musculature that can tend to get lazy and sleepy when you’re at a desk all day. This first exercise will specifically focus on activating the external rotators of your shoulder.
This exercise will help you activate your shoulder muscles to assist in performing overhead activities and other functional movements at the shoulder with strength and efficiency.
Believe it or not, research has found that sitting in the forward head, rounded shoulder posture (i.e. the position most of us assume when working at a desk) for just 5 minutes can cause temporary decreases in strength of the shoulder external rotators .
We want to build strength, not lose it just by typing away at our desks with poor shoulder posture. To help compensate for this time try to make sure you are sitting up straight and throw in this exercise.
- Lean back in your chair by extending through the spine
- Maintain that extension as you lift forward and away from the back of the chair
- Place your hands behind your head, tuck your chin in slightly, then lift your hands away from the back of your head
- Drive your elbows back and hold for 10 seconds as you breathe, focusing on expanding the ribcage in all directions
- Relax and sit back in the chair before repeating 3-6 reps
As you do this, make sure to pinch the shoulder blades together and keep your chin slightly tucked – we want to avoid that forward head posture we’re spending a lot of the day in!
Behind the Back Lift Off
This next technique is based off the same principles as the previous one and looks very similar. But this time around you’ll be firing up the internal rotators of your shoulder.
If you have to really round forward to place your hands on your back – they are probably too high. Lower them and only place your hands as high as you can while still sitting upright.
- Place your hands behind your back with your palms facing away from you
- Retract your scapulae so your shoulder blades draw together and enjoy a more passive stretch for a moment
- Next, begin to actively engage the internal rotators of your shoulder by lifting your hands off your back
- Keep your elbows pulling back and hold for 10 seconds, as you take those deep 360° breaths
- Relax and repeat 3-6 reps
Stick with these exercises and find a way to work them in every day.
You only need to commit a few minutes a day to improving your mobility while chained to the desk. I think it’s likely you’ll not only feel better and more mobile, you’ll probably work more efficiently too.
To learn more about improving your shoulder mobility and function, you’re gonna want to check out my Shoulder Control Program. It has helped a lot of people reduce their pain and get back to the activities they love.
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