Do you see one shoulder rolled forward when looking yourself in the mirror?
Or perhaps just one shoulder rolling/rotating more forward than the other one?
Forward rotating shoulders (rounded shoulders) is a common problem that is very often due to poor posture. Learn more about all this below!
We spend an incredible amount of time sitting in a forward leaned position focusing on thing in front of us like computers, tablets, phones, and books.
If you are not very mindful of your posture while sitting in this position, then you easily end up slouching.
A cool way to think about your posture is that it is basically a reflection of what kind of position you are in most of the time.
Sitting in a forward leaned position / hunched-over position for a long time will over time give you that kind of posture.
Put simply, muscles in front of your upper body become shortened and tight and the back becomes elongated and weak.
If you have just one shoulder rolled forward it is most likely not any different from both shoulders rolling forward. Only that it is either affecting / more dominant on one side.
If you unsure about determining if your shoulder is really rolled forward, then you can check this quick read on determining if you have rounded shoulders.
Why Is It Only One Shoulder Permanently Rolling Forward?
While there are many reasons why you could end up with one shoulder rotating forward, the cause is most likely that the frontal muscles in your upper body are tight in the side where your shoulder is rotating. E.g. chest and trap muscles.
Here are some different reasons that could explain why you have one shoulder rotating forward:
- Sports or exercise with a lot of throwing and/or pushing on just one side.
- Manual labor where you mostly work one side. E.g. if you are right handed you probably use that side more.
- Bad ergonomics, posture or movement patterns sitting at a desk over a long period. E.g. you spend a lot of time in front of a computer while leaning either right or left.
- Holding or carrying your baby (or an object) on one side. It is for a good reason why rounded shoulders is also called “mom posture”.
Some time ago I injured my shoulders. The problem was a small joint called the AC-joint that connects neck and shoulder. I had a problem with both AC-joints and it created a lot of tightness and pain on each shoulder but it was especially my right one.
The result was that my right shoulder rotated more forward than the left one.
How To Fix It
In order to fix your one rounded shoulder you basically have to do the same as when both shoulders are rounded.
You need to do both stretching and strengthening exercises in order to stretch tight muscles and strengthen weak muscles.
I like to use either a wall corner or a doorway to stretch my chest by placing my arm on the wall forming a 90-degree angle at the elbow and then lean into the wall or doorway.
You can play around with the angle a little bit to get stretches in different directions.
Any kind of row will work great to strengthen your upper back, but it might be wise to avoid bend-over rows in this case.
With a bend-over row, the weight is pulling the shoulder forward towards the floor.
To maximize the posture correcting effect of this exercise you should put a lot of focus on squeezing those shoulder blades together as you are on the top of the movement fully contracting.
It is a good idea to go a bit lighter so you can focus on this. I personally like to do seated cable rows because I feel it is easier for squeezing the shoulder blades.
Resistance Band Retraction
Rows can work well to strengthen your back in general, but what I have found that works well to “counteract” the shoulders rotating forwards is working them with a resistance band.
More specifically strengthening the shoulder blades and I think it works so well that it is enough reason by itself to buy a resistance band for your home.
The trick is to use a light resistance band and do a lot of reps because the muscle at your shoulder blades (rhomboids) respond much better to this kind of stimulus.
If you are at a gym and can’t find a resistance band, you can also use a cable machine.
You grab the resistance band with straight arms in front at about shoulder width. Your grip should be so your thumbs are pointing towards each other.
Now pull the band with straight arms as if you want to pull the band apart. Pull until the band reaches your chest and your arms are straight to each side.
While pulling slowly do an external rotation of your shoulders so when your arms are at the sides your thumbs are pointing backward.
Try to synchronize the retracting movement with the rotation.
This is such a great exercise because you are working your shoulders in the exact opposite way of what causes your shoulder to rotate forwards and inwards.
If you want to see fast improvements you can go crazy with this exercise. Do it 3 times per day every day for about 20-50 reps. Like I said above, you have to use a light resistance band.
If you are interested in more exercises, you can check out this post on fixing a hunched-over posture.
Giving It Some Extra Work
Besides general stretching and strengthening exercises for your upper body, I would say that going a bit tougher on your chest muscles is probably a good idea.
There are two things I would recommend.
1. Therapeutic Chest Massage
Use a lacrosse ball or something of similar shape and density (tennis ball might work) to massage your chest. You can either place the ball on your chest and use the palm of your hand to roll it, or you can put the ball on the floor and gently roll your chest into it.
It works really well and after some massage you should feel relief. But don’t overdo it as you can end up bruising your bones.
2. Pinch And Stretch
You can make the chest stretch more effective (also more uncomfortable) if you first pinch the tight chest muscle and then stretch.
In this video, the guy uses the metal handle on a dipping rack to first pinch his chest and then stretch by externally rotating the shoulder.
If you are at home you can do a modified version of the door stretch to get a similar stretch for your upper chest.
Instead of putting your elbow with a 90 degrees angle in the doorway, put your shoulder in a doorway and lean in so you are pinching the part of the chest closest to the shoulder.
Now slowly slide your arm upwards along the wall until you can feel a nice stretch. You will probably hit an angle of 70 – 60 degrees.
Fixing your shoulder requires effort and a long time.
How long it takes to “fix” bad posture is asked often, and while this question makes perfect sense to ask it is very hard to answer.
I have dedicated a whole post to answer this question as best as I can. The short answer is that will probably require you to do exercises several times per week for somewhere between a few weeks to several months depending on the severity of the issue.
But to truly fix a bad posture you need to get good posture habits and consider the ergonomics of your surroundings.
If that sounds tough you might want to consider buying a product that can make things easier and potentially shorten this long process.
I recommend getting a posture corrector which is exactly what it sounds like. They come in different shapes, sizes and price.
You can check out my guide on how to choose the best product to alleviate rounded shoulders.
While these products can make things easier for you, for best results you will also have to do the exercises.
You can check out this article if you wondering whether doing exercises or wearing a posture corrector is best to improve posture.
Taking advice on the internet is easy and convenient, but it does have its limits.
Sometimes poor posture can lead to complications which require a professional assessment.
If you have a hard time putting your shoulder in the right position even with force, e.g. stretching feels very uncomfortable and/or you experience weird tingling sensations then it could be that some nerve is trapped due to your tight muscles and imbalances.
If you feel something like that I would highly recommend you see a professional e.g. a physiotherapist or chiropractor.
They will be able to do a full assessment of your body and give you a personalized solution.
You can read more about nerve entrapment and shoulder pain here on the authoritative site Healthline.com.