What Causes Rounded Shoulders and How to Fix It

If you’re reading this, then there is a good chance that you have rounded shoulders!

Not only is it a common problem, but the fact that you are searching for an answer proves that you have given it some thought.

If you have been nursing this issue for some time, then chances are that you are really interested in solving this problem.

Luckily, it is not “so hard” to fix rounded shoulders.

All it takes is consistency over a longer period of time.

You should do various exercises for strengthening and stretching different muscles, but you can also buy some t-shirts that helps correct posture.

woman with rounded shoulders and bad posture

What Are Rounded Shoulders?


Rounded shoulders is an awkward posture that puts stress on your shoulder joints and is usually characterized by both rounding forwards and inwards of the shoulders and an excess curvature in the upper region of the back.

You can read more about what it is and the common issues here.

As more time is spent in this position, your muscles and connective tissue becomes tight and shortens.

There are various reasons why rounded shoulders can develop, all of which are categorized under one major problem: poor posture/slouching

Why Do You Get Rounded Shoulders?


As mentioned there can be many reasons why rounded shoulders develop, but the major cause is the same.

The cause is extended periods of time spent in a position where muscles and joints in the upper back and neck are in forward stretched position.

This is essentially slouching or you could also call it a hunched-over position.

Your body is litteraly adjusting and adapting all the time and you can simply think about posture as a reflection of how you spend most of the time.

If you maintain a slouching position most of the time, then that is the posture you will get.

Here are some examples of common reasons of what causes rounded shoulders.

# 1 Sitting
The majority of people spend most of their time sitting down every day. With that many hours every day, poor sitting posture can quickly cause your shoulders to round forward.

Learn more about good sitting posture here.

#2 Poor Sleeping Posture
A good portion of your time is spent sleeping right? So like sitting down, sleeping posture can potentially have a big impact.

So if you feel like it is time to think about how you sleep, then you should check out this short article.

#3 Historical Injury Count
If you have a history of shoulder injuries, you run the risk of developing rounded shoulders as well.

I injured both my shoulders, and I got a terrible posture as a result. You can read more about that in a guest post I wrote for Cuttystrength.com.

#4 Driving
Whether the car is expensive and have a good interior design or not, if you often drive that might negatively impact your posture.

While poor design can have an influence, I suspect the act of focusing on the road and obstacles ahead that driving requires is the biggest “culprit”.

When we focus on things we tend to lean forward and forget about our posture. But that is a hard problem to solve, I mean you don’t want to focus less on driving.

Maybe the self-driving cars of the future can also help solve our posture problems.

#5 Cycling
Cyclists have to bend/ lean forward over long periods of time.

Not surprisingly this can lead to rounded shoulders.

#6 Throwing/Pushing Dominated Sports 
If you do sports that involve a lot of throwing or pushing without balancing it out with pulling and/or external rotation exercises, then you are likely to develop muscular imbalances leading to rounded shoulders.

#7 Puberty
Teenage girls who begin to grow breasts experience a bit of what you might call an “awkward phase”.

Rounding the shoulders forward is a way to make the chest appear smaller and might help reduce some of that “awkwardness”.

You can read more here.

two guys sitting down in a way that causes rounded shoulders

Can you guess what might the cause of these guys having rounded shoulders?

How to Fix Rounded Shoulders


When it comes to solving rounded shoulders, it is important to know that exercise alone might not fix your problem.

It could even make the problem worse.

The problem is that if you are not focusing on externally rotating your arms and shoulders and perhaps some other pulling exercises like rowing or pull-ups, then you are not doing much to reverse the rounded shoulders.

I like weight training. I think it is a great type of exercise with many benefits not only related to health.

Because of that, I use weight training as an example very often. So, for this time let me make another example.

A lot of people enjoy swimming and it is also a great type of exercise. Rounded shoulders happen to be a common issue with swimmers because of the dominant use of particular muscles.

Swimmers are able to develop their upper back muscles (known as the latissimus dorsi), which rotates the bones on the upper arm internally.

However, when it comes to external rotation, swimmers often don’t do that as much (obviously it depends on the swimming technique).

So, if swimmers are not are doing something to specifically target external rotation, then they will likely develop rounded shoulders over time.

However, there are exercises that you can take to eliminate this kind of problem:

Strecthing

Anyone looking to get rid of rounded shoulders should look for a way to do some stretching. Stretching is easy to do and you can do it anywhere.

If you have rounded shoulders then you are probably also sitting down a lot. Basically, everyone is sitting down a lot.

So I would say stretching several places in the kinetic chain of your body could be useful to fix your rounded shoulders. After all, your whole body is connected.

You should stretch to relieve tightness in your quads, hamstrings, chest and hip flexors.

Chest Stretch (Door Strecth)

  • Stand at a doorway or wall corner
  • Bend your arm in about a 90 degrees angle and put at the doorway or wall
  • Lean forward and feel a stretch in your chest

Hip Flexor Stretch

  • With this stretch, just stand in a lunge position and place your right foot forward.
  • Put your left knee on the ground and push your hips forward until you feel your hamstrings begin to stretch.
  • Hold this pose for about half a minute, then switch your legs for one another.

There is a popular hip flexor stretching program by Rick Kaselj. I think it is really good and I have reviewed it here.

rounded shoulders can cause pain in neck and head

Rounded shoulders can potentially cause sore muscles and connective tissue. In serious cases, it lead to intense headaches.

Back Exercises

Stretching can help open up areas of the body that are stiff but you also need to do back exercises for strengthening the muscles of your the scapulae.

To help eradicate rounded shoulders, perform these exercises several times weekly:

Scapular Push-ups

This exercise goes straight to the upper back muscles, and it can help a great deal.

  • Start in a push-up position. Ensure your shoulders are free and that your body is straight.
  • Then you want to squeeze your shoulder blades together hold that for 2 seconds and go back to the start position.

It is going to feel weird in beginning and it is a rather small movement, but it will definitely a help a lot!

Scapular Retraction

This exercise is great for working the smaller muscles around your should blades. It might be challenging at first but you will get used to it.

If you have a cable machine available, you need to adjust so you are pulling from an angle around your waist level.

Don’t use too much weight and focus on squeezing the shoulder blades at the top.

If you are using a resistance bad, here is how to go about it:

  • Take a resistance band and loop it around a strong object at the waist level with your elbows at 90 degrees angles to your side
  • Pull the bands and focus on your shoulder blades
  • You’ll see that your shoulder blades are drawn together.

Yoga

Some yoga postures require you to be strong and flexible. These are especially awesome for improving your posture as they help strengthen weak body parts.

The following two poses are among my favorite and will definitely help out:

Cobra Pose

The cobra is a chest opener, and it also enlarges both the lower and upper back. The shoulder blades stay back and down, and the spine is bolstered as well.

  • To perform this pose, lie flat on your stomach.
  • Push off the floor with your hands, and keep your elbows aligned under your shoulders.
  • Tilt your head slightly to the back
  • Hold the pose for about half a minute.

Downward Dog

This pose also opens the chest, but it also strengthens the sine and strengthens the shoulders.

  • Start at a tabletop position, with your hands under your shoulders.
  • Keep your legs straight and lift your hips towards the ceiling.
  • Remember to keep your neck and head aligned as well.
  • Hold this pose for 20 to 30 seconds.

The Bottom Line


You can fix your rounded shoulders if you are consistent with your exercise and perhaps even buy a product that assists posture correction. 

But please know that there is no “quick-fix” or one thing you can do to completely resolve your rounded shoulders.

It it most likely going to take a long time.

First of all, you need to do exercises several timers per week and you will also need to understand what caused your rounded shoulders so you can avoid or reduce it in the future.

Here is one thing many people don’t want to hear:

Since we spend so much time sitting down focusing on things in front of us, we need to continuously work on maintaining a good posture.

In other words, if you truly want a good posture you probably need to do some kind of strengthening and stretching exercises forever.

It is not like you can fix the problem once, and then expect it to be fine the rest of your life.

Similarly, you don’t brush your teeth once and then expect them to be clean for the rest of your life right?

Do you want to fix your rounded shoulders? You can do a number of things, but it is important to understand what causes rounded shoulders in the first place.
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