Look around your office, gym or even in the mirror and you’ll see many individuals that could be mistaken for a hunchback Parisian who hides away in a cathedral and rings bells for a living. Today I wanted to discuss why people end up looking like this and most importantly how to heal your hunchback, look better and stay injury free.
Sadly this day in age, means an extreme accumulation of inactivity, sitting at desks and driving. All of which are a major contributor to this forward rounding position of the mid-upper back. It’s technical name is kyphosis, but can often be referred to as “hunch back” or “rounded shoulders”.
Not only is it unsightly and can give people body confidence issues, the real problem arises when you train and workout with a hunchback. It can encourage loading into the lumbar (lower) spine, which is a back tweak or ejected disk waiting to happen. The shoulders, particularly rotator cuffs, will also get fried which can lead to a whole host of other issues such as tendonitis.
There’s two main causes that will contribute to a typical hunchback. Firstly we need to travel a little further downstream and look at the hips. With extended periods of sitting the hip flexors at the top of the quads get very short and tight. This causes an anterior pelvic tilt (pelvis rocked forward). This created an excessive arch in the lower back meaning the upper back (thoracic area) will have to round forward to compensate.
Extended sitting will naturally cause the chest and shoulders to round forward. Tight chest and shoulders will then emphasise the rounding of the shoulders and dragging the spine forward to.
I’ve gathered together six exercises or mobility drills you can perform as part of your weekly exercise routine. They will help offset the hunchback hell that will follow if you continue to spend your days revolved around desk bound work and driving.
Scapula Wall Slides – This movement aims to improve scapula mobility and strength the external rotators and upper back muscles. To perform, stand with your back to a wall and place your arms above your head, like a shoulder press. Run your hands down the wall until you reach end range and then press back to the top. Perform 3×10 reps. Rest 30 seconds between sets.
Rope Face Pull – The rope face pull is a brilliant move for strengthening the upper back, particularly the rhomboids, traps and rear delts. It will really help encourage the shoulders to sit back into a better position. Set yourself a rope up on a cable stack set at head height. Grab the rope with both hands and pull it in towards the head. Be sure to squeeze the upper back muscles before returning to the starting position. Go for 3×12-15 reps, resting 60 seconds between rounds.
Move More – Simply moving more will go a long way in improving posture. Don’t allow yourself to spend longer than 30 minutes sitting in one position. During a work day I encourage my clients to abide by a 30:5 ratio if possible. That is for every 30 minutes spent sitting, spend 5 minutes walking around. Setting a timer on your phone is a great option to remind you to get up and move!
T-Spine Foam Roll – By rolling the mid to upper back on a foam roller you can help to unlock the stiff joints and reverse the forward curve position. Don’t roll to fast – an inch per second is good. Aim for two minutes in total.
Lacrosse Ball Chest SMR – Release off tight chest muscles and shoulders that are dragging those shoulders forward. Grab a lacrosse ball or massage ball and stand up facing against a wall. Place the ball into the upper chest and go on an exploring mission. Hunt for any tight spots. Remember to keep breathing and spend at least 60 seconds per side.
Modified Hip Flexor Stretch – Lengthen those hip flexors and set the pelvis back into a better position with this stretch. Take a normal kneeling hip flexor stretch, but intensify it by elevating the back leg. For an extreme version, try performing it with the back leg up against a wall. Spend 1-2 minutes each leg.