Do you see one of your shoulders “rolled forward” when looking at 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 muscular imbalances and/or poor posture. Learn more about all this below!
Every single day, we spend an incredible amount of time sitting in a forward leaned position focusing on things in front of us.
E.g. 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 essentially a reflection of the position you are maintaining most of the time.
Sitting in a forward leaned position / hunched-over position for long periods will over time give you that kind of posture.
Put simply, muscles in front of your upper body become shortened and tight and muscles in the back become 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 are unsure about whether your shoulder is really rolled forward or not, then you can refer to 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 a “muscular imbalance”.
I.e. the frontal muscles (typically chest, traps, biceps) in your upper body are tight and this rotates/pulls your shoulder forward.
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 are also called “mom posture”.
Some time ago I injured my shoulders. The problem was a small joint called the AC-joint that connects the 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. It also made a lot of “crunching sounds” when rotating it.
How To Fix It
In order to fix one rounded shoulder, you basically have to do the same as when both shoulders are rounded.
You need to perform both stretching and strengthening exercises in order to 1) stretch tight muscles and 2) strengthen weak muscles.
Below I have listed various exercises that should be very helpful to you.
I like to use either a wall corner or a doorway to stretch my chest. Place your 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. It should feel great
Any kind of row will work great to strengthen your upper back, but it might be wise to avoid heavy bend-over rows in this case.
Because 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 while 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 I have found that using a resistance band can work extremely well to “counteract” this specific problem.
I think it is enough reason to buy a resistance band just for this purpose. Then you can go crazy at 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.
Using the resistance band in 3 steps:
- Grab the resistance band with straight arms in front of you 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 a while, you should feel some relief. But don’t overdo it as you can end up bruising your bones.
Alternatively, if you are willing to spend some money you could get one of these percussion massagers.
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 a question I see asked often, and while it makes good sense to ask, it is really 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 the right postural habits and to be mindful of the ergonomics of your surroundings.
If that sounds tough you might want to consider buying a product that could 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 prices
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 the best results you will also have to do the exercises.
Taking advice on the internet is easy and convenient, but it does have its limits.
Sometimes poor posture can lead to complications which require 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.
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.