Do you slouch in your office chair at work? Are you starting to notice rounded shoulders with your neck protruding forward? Do you stand up at 5PM and feel like your back resembles a question mark?
If you answered “Yes” to these questions, you are part of a growing trend of people who experience postural problems from working in an office.
Slouching all day in an office chair forces your chest muscles to tighten, which pulls your spine forward and rotates your shoulders inward, while at the same time weakening the muscles of your upper back that aid in posture.
In other words, you start looking like a hunchback and may experience pain in your neck, lower back and even arms and legs. However, the good news is the 5 corrective exercises below can relieve chest tightness and strengthen your upper back muscles to help you look more like a superman and less like a hunchback.
1. Chest Stretch
Facing the corner of a wall, extend your right arm and put your hand against the side of the wall. Turn your body left and lean forward as you feel the stretch in your chest and shoulder. Be sure to keep your arm in line with the plane of your shoulder as you complete the stretch. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds and complete on both sides for 3 sets.
2. Chest Compression with a Massage Ball
In addition to stretching, deep tissue massage using a tennis, or massage ball can help restore muscle flexibility in your chest.
Holding a massage ball with both hands, press the ball and slowly roll it around the side of your chest. As you move the ball around, apply steady pressure to areas of tightness to relieve tension. Massage for 30 seconds on each side of your chest and complete for 3 sets.
3. Upper Back Foam Rolling
Foam rolling is another massage technique that can improve your spine mobility and correct rounded shoulders. Lay the foam roller across the spine in the middle of your back right below your shoulder blades. Your knees should be bent, feet firmly planted against the ground, and hands comfortably behind your head.
Lift your hips off the ground and roll forward so the foam roller travels down your back an inch, then drop your hips to the floor. Repeat until the foam roller is hovering a couple inches below your neck, and then slowly roll back down following the same pattern. If you feel any areas of stiffness, stay roll back and forth on top of the area for 10-15 seconds.
Complete this exercise for 3 sets going up, down, and up again. You may feel some pain and discomfort the first few times you complete this exercise, but over time, your upper back mobility will improve.
4. Prone Y Extension
The Prone Y Extension accomplishes a lot in one exercise: it rotates your shoulders outward, stretches your abdomen (which is normally flexed), stretches your chest, and strengthens your lower back extensor muscles, along with the upper back muscles associated with posture.
Lie flat on the floor with your legs shoulder width apart and your arms extended in a “Y” over your head. Lift your torso off the ground while simultaneously externally rotating your shoulders so that your palms are facing upwards. Hold this position for 5-10 seconds, and then lower down. Repeat for 3 sets of 8 repetitions.
5. Close Grip Row
The Close Grip Row can be completed seated using a cable machine, or standing using a resistance band demonstrated.
Wrap the resistance band around a stable object at chest level and walk back a few feet until you feel moderate tension on the band. Your arms should be extended with a slight bend in your knees and feet placed shoulder width apart. Keeping your head up, shoulders back, chest out, back straight, and abs tight, slowly pulls the bands toward the sides of your torso while squeezing your shoulder blades. Slowly resist the band until your arms are fully extended. Complete 3 sets of 15 repetitions.
To ensure long term changes, it is critical that you become more conscious of posture when standing and sitting. Needless to say, human beings are not designed to sit in an office all day. We are built to move. Getting out of your office chair to walk around several times throughout the day can go a long way!