Exercises to improve posture are needed due to our current habit of spending hours each day hunched over a desk and slouched in a chair lead to rounded shoulders, a forward drooping head and a rounded back. We call this postural distortion Upper-Crossed Syndrome, or rounded shoulders. If left unchecked the Upper Crossed Syndrome can lead to shoulder and neck pain. Sitting at a desk for long periods of time leads to tight traps, lats and chest muscles, and can cause weakness in the rhomboids and rotator cuff muscles. The rhomboids are a key muscle group because they help pull your shoulder blades together.

In order to fix rounded shoulders, we need to relax the tight muscles with a combination of rolling and stretching and also strengthen the muscles that are weak.

Six Exercises to Improve Posture

1. Foam Rolling Your Lats and Chest

Demo Video: How-to Foam Roll Lats and Chest 

Purpose: Relaxing the lats and chest muscles

Execution: To roll your lats, lie on one side on the floor. Place a foam roller just under your armpit nearest the floor, and reach your arm above your head. Roll back and forth, pausing when you find a tender spot. Hold pressure from the foam roller on that tender spot for 30-60 seconds until it's no longer uncomfortable. Switch sides and repeat.

To roll your chest: Lay face down on the floor. Place a foam roller under the right side of your chest. Extend your right arm out to the side. Roll side to side looking for the tender spot.

Hold pressure on that tender spot for 30-60 seconds until it's no longer uncomfortable. Switch sides and repeat.

2.  Pectoral Stretch

Demo Video: Pec Stretch

Purpose: Lengthen the muscles in the chest

Execution: Stand next to a wall (a bookshelf or other sturdy object will work as well.) Place your right forearm on the wall so that your elbow is in line with your shoulder, your fingers are pointing toward the ceiling, you elbow pointing toward the floor.  Step your right foot forward. Rotate your torso toward your left side until you feel a gentle stretch in your chest. Hold the stretch for 30-60 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

3. Lat Exercise

Demo Video: Stability Ball Lat Stretch

Purpose: Lengthen the lats.

Execution: Kneel on all fours in front of an exercise ball (a chair or bench will also work for this). Place both hands on the ball and roll forward until you feel a gentle stretch along your back and sides. Be sure to keep your back flat. To intensify the stretch, you can sink your chest toward the floor. Hold for 30-60 seconds.

4. Back and Shoulder Exercise 

Demo Video: Stability Ball Back and Shoulder Combo

Purpose: Strengthen the traps, rhomboids and rotator cuff muscles

Execution: Lie on your stomach on a stability ball with straight legs, toes on the ground. Holding a light dumbbell in each hand, squeeze your shoulder blades together and row your arms, driving your elbows up toward the ceiling. Next, rotate your shoulders and arms so that your hands are in line with your ears. Now drive your arms straight ahead. Bring your hands back down to ear level and then rotate your shoulders inward so that your hands are pointing down to the floor. Return your arms to the starting position.

Repeat for 12-15 reps

5. Shoulder Exercise

Demo Video: Resistance Band - Extensions

Purpose: Strengthen rhomboids, traps, rotator cuff and rear shoulder muscles.

Execution: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and grab a resistance band with both hands. Lift your hands in front of your chest, level with your shoulders, palms facing the floor. With straight elbows, stretch the band by moving your arms out to your sides, squeezing your shoulder blades. Pause and return to the starting position. Be sure you're not bunching your shoulders up to your ears to complete each movement.

Repeat for 12-15 reps

6. Back Exercise

Demo Video: Floor Cobra Exercise

Purpose: Strengthen rhomboids and lower back

Execution: Lie face down on the floor with your arms by your side and palms flat on the floor. Keeping your nose pointed toward the floor, squeeze your shoulder blades together and lift your torso up off he floor. Ease back to the floor and repeat.

Repeat for 12-15 reps

Article by Andrae Delaney, a Fitness Consultant with 2nd Wind Exercise Equipment as well as a Certified Personal Trainer, certified through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Andrae holds certifications in Weight Loss, Fitness Nutrition, Corrective Exercise, Group Training and is currently working toward a Master Trainer Certificate.