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Improving Posture Exercises to Fix
The Hunchback of Body Building
By Wesley James
Anyone, other than other bodybuilders, that spends time around bodybuilders notices that many bodybuilders have unusual posture. The most commonly recognized peculiarity is the Inflated Chest/Arms-away-from-sides strut. We all know that this is an affectation that many bodybuilders use to show off their Chest and Lats. It is artificial posturing, not really a problem, other than psychologically. What is a problem is what happens to many bodybuilders when they're not inflating their chests. They relax, their shoulders roll forward and downward; it becomes clear that they're round shouldered. This postural deformation results from disproportionate development of the shoulders and back. More specifically, greater anterior deltoid development than posterior deltoid and/or trapezius. This is compounded by under developed rhomboids and insufficient flexibility around the shoulder capsule, better known as the rotator cuff.
The problem arises, most frequently, because early in most bodybuilders training they do a lot of bench pressing and military pressing. Later they add flat bench flyes and incline bench presses. Only much later in their training do they add behind-the neck presses, upright rows, shrugs and, perhaps, bent laterals. Behind-the-neck presses are uncomfortable for many individuals because they require considerable shoulder flexibility. Upright rows and shrugs are popular with some trainees but they can cause muscle cramping and stiff necks for many others. Finally, bent laterals, while an excellent movement are difficult to perform strictly with significant poundage. Ego prompts many to sacrifice form for weight, reducing the effectiveness of the movement. Moreover, the posterior deltoids do not respond quite as readily to exercise as the medial and anterior deltoid. The reason for this is part genetic and part the fact that the other large muscles of the back can and do assist the posterior deltoid in most non-targeted actions. In sum, many, if not most, trainees, particularly younger trainees, have a strong tendency toward round-shoulderedness.
Some afflicted individuals, once they get past the denial stage, will recognize themselves in this description. Accepting the diagnosis, they will likely decide to perform more work on the under developed muscles. This will not, by itself, solve the problem. Finding the problem unresponsive, they will either reject the diagnosis or fault me for the ineffectiveness of their attempt at a solution.
The problem is actually more complex than my opening discussion makes clear. I've limited the explanation to what I believe is useful. There are many additional factors relating to the relative strengths of opposing muscles that interact with equilibrium, spinal alignment and curvature, flexibility and arguably even psychological/emotional factors. Fortunately, these issues need not be understood to rectify the problem. The solution is straight forward, if not easy. The avenue of solution was provided to us by Moshe Feldenkrais, a brilliant Israeli physicist, judoist and student of human physiology. The specific technique was developed by me and tested by a small group of rehabilitative therapists. It was tested over a period of some five years. It works through a little known corrective mechanism related to the Specific Adaptive Drive and the balancing of strength and tonus between muscles and their antagonists that was discovered by Feldenkrais. This mechanisms when applied through my adjustment technique causes the shoulders to naturally re-align. This combined with increased strength, cross-section and tonus in the under-developed muscles will resolve the problem fairly quickly (generally within six weeks or less depending on the severity of the problem). A complete description of the technique and some exercise suggestions follow.
The Feldenkrais-James Shoulder Balancing Stretch
The other thing you'll need to do to correct this problem is adjust your training to more equally develop the deltoid heads, the trapezius and the rhomboidal muscles. Each individual will have his/her own preferred exercises for these body parts but at least one from each list that follows should be part of each shoulder training day.
- Anterior Deltoid (Non-Pressing Movements)
- Front Raise
- Underhand Laterals
- Straight Arm - Front Cable Raises
- Medial Deltoid (Non-Pressing Movements)
- Side Laterals
- Prone Laterals
- Machine Laterals
- Cable Laterals
- Posterior Deltoid (Non-Pressing Movements)
- Lying Laterals (Cross Body)
- Bent Laterals
- Reverse Flyes
- Nautilus or Hammer Machine Reverse Flyes
- Trapezius & Rhomboids (No Standard Shrug Movements)
- Wide-Grip Upright Rows
- Standing Calf Machine Shrugs
- Nautilus Shrugs
This combination of movements will help balance your development. You'll look better, both in terms of your physique and your posture. You should also have less tension in your upper back, shoulders and neck. Not a bad side effect from sensible training.
There are a few issues you should be aware of before embarking on this modified training program. I've avoided all pressing movements from the recommendation lists. Obviously, if you are a competitive lifter you will have to perform presses as part of your training. You will need to train under the supervision of a qualified lifting coach. You'll need to wear proper back support and to develop exceptional strength in the Spinal Erector, Quadratus Lumborum and other spinal support muscles, tendons, and ligaments. For bodybuilders, who don't compete in lifting sports (most), any pressing movements that you elect to perform should be performed seated on a bench that provides back support and should be performed with the target muscles in a pre-exhausted condition with the lighter weight one uses under such conditions. This helps to protect the trainee from compaction of the Dorsal Vertabrae. Shrug movements performed with weight held in the hands place tremendous stress on the origins, attachments and insertions of the muscles, ligaments and tendons of the shoulders, back and neck. The apex of the Clavicle and the Ligamentum Nuchae (along the neck) are most vulnerable. Limiting your shrug movements to those that can be performed without this undue stress is safer and ultimately more productive because they produce greater isolation of the target muscles.
If this strategy is followed and the cautions are observed, the problem of round-shouldered body builders can be rehabiliated. For those that were fortunate enough to avoid developing the problem, the recommendations on exercise choice are still well advised. No one needs shoulder, neck or back problems to complicate their training. With care you'll be able to follow the advice of W.C. Fields, "Stand up straight, my boy."Copyright © 1996 Physique Tools and Wesley James
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