Shoulder and Neck Posture

These exercises are aimed at helping with shoulder and neck posture. They strengthen and stretch your neck and shoulder position into neutral. You can repeat these exercises daily.

1. Neck retraction (beginner & advanced): hold 10 seconds, several times.
2. Wall W’s: 10 repetitions, repeat 2x
3. Neck mobility stretches (Yes, No, Maybe): repeat each movement several times
4. Funky chicken (clockwise, counterclockwise): repeat each direction several times
5. Levator Scapula stretch: hold 10 seconds each side, repeat several times
6. Resisted External Rotation (use a resistance band): repeat 10-15 times.
7. Lacrosse ball soft tissue work: work the shoulder blade muscles 30-60 seconds
8. Foam roller midback: 3 arm positions, 10 seconds each = about 30 seconds total.
Note: Make sure you’re using a smooth, medium or low density (soft) foam roller. Not a rumble roller or a highly dense foam roller.

These are some exercises to help with posture in the upper half – so working on getting the neck retracted over top of the shoulder and working on getting the shoulders retracted back and on top of the center of gravity. So first of all I’m going to show you what’s called a neck retraction. I recommend doing this with something behind the head. I’m going to show you with a wall. You can also use the headrest in your car is an easy way to do it whenever you hit a red light but you’ll be up against something sturdy so head rest in your car or a wall or you can even use your pillow when you’re sleeping in bed. You’re going to take your chin and use your muscles to pull it straight back into the wall. Now, it doesn’t look like much. I’m just activating the muscles as I pull my head straight back into the wall. I recommend holding that for five to ten seconds and you can repeat that several times. Once you’ve got that one down there’s an advanced version. You bring your feet just out from the wall set up in the same position and retract your chin straight back into the wall, and you’ll notice my shoulder actually comes off the wall. I’m using my body weight as additional resistance. So this one of course you’ll have to use a wall for. Hold for a few seconds and then release. Don’t overdo this one (you can give yourself a headache with this one!) so that’s neck retractions and then advanced neck retractions. Same thing using a wall – just be a few inches out from the wall with your heels form a “W” on the wall while retracting the chin. Try to keep your hand flat to the wall as well as your wrist and elbow tight to the wall – so that external rotation pressure into the wall is where the magic happens. Going to slide up into a “Y” and back down to a “W” while forcing your body into this external rotation and scapular shoulder blade retraction (which helps counter this position we’re in all day). The other thing I would recommend next is neck mobility exercises. These are super simple but you’re going to use “yes, no and maybe” as a reminder for what the positions of your neck are for this movement. So gently explore your range of motion for the end range of your yes don’t go beyond pain just go to the point where you feel a stretch and stop there so yes no back and forth and maybe. And I would repeat each of these movements several times and then repeat the whole cycle again so yes no maybe for neck mobility also you’re going to go forwards and backwards with what’s called “funky chicken” (clucking optional). So clockwise counterclockwise same thing just exploring your full range of motion gliding the joints in your neck. Don’t go into pain. If you feel pain pull back a little bit (in how much motion you’re using). Lastly you’re going to do a stretch for this muscle that attaches your head to your shoulder blade – it’s a muscle called levator scapula. Put your hand down behind your back you can also sit on it if you’re sitting on a chair but put your hand down behind your back and then look down and to the same side that your fingers are pointing to. So if my fingers are pointing left I’ve got my right hand down. I’m going to look left. Basically, I’m going to look down into my armpit towards the fingers that I have pointing out here, and then same thing on the opposite side. And hold this stretch for 10 to 15 seconds. That’s called the levator scapula muscle stretch. Next we’re going to move to some things you’re going to need to have on hand: so here’s a theraband (if you don’t have one of these let me know and we can offer you one). You’re going to have your hands here in neutral. Your elbows tucked into your body and your shoulders are going to come back and into this nice neutral position while you externally rotate. Hold for a second at the end. So this is just resisted external rotation pretty much any band will do if you want a little more resistance you can obviously double it up. So you’re here hold for a second at the end and aim for 10 to 15 repetitions of that. Nice and slow and controlled with your shoulder blades back and tucked down – the shoulders stretch and strengthen. Another one you can do is a lacrosse ball (or a tennis ball works as well). If you can’t get it right where you like it you can put it in a sock. I like the lacrosse balls because they’re nice and rubbery you can get them where you want them. That same muscle that we were working on before (that levator scapulae muscle) as well as the upper portion of your trap muscle (trapezius muscle – this big guy here) put the ball right in there. Don’t put it right on the muscle that’s on top of your shoulder blade or right on top of your spine – that just hurts. So put it in the soft stuff get into a wall and just work the soft tissues in there. I would recommend working this for 30 to 60 seconds as long as kind of feels good. Don’t go too crazy with the pressure. Use moderate pressure when you’re doing this and you can do this on both sides both shoulder blades again just into the wall there takes a bit of practice to kind of get it figured out. I recommend putting it into the wall bending your knees just a bit and then if you stand up and then crouch down you can move it around just to the spots that you like. And lastly foam roller for your mid-back. So these foam rollers are medium density that I recommend – meaning: if I push my thumbs in it’ll leave a little mark. If it’s too hard to push in then it’s not the right roller for your back. And you want it to be smooth. Don’t use the ones that have knuckles in it -those are called rumble rollers those are for larger muscle groups not so much for your spine. Use this just from the bottom of your ribs up to the top of your shirt collar and this gets that middle back (your thoracic spine). Don’t use this in your low back or your neck – it just can be a little bit of an aggravator to those areas in the body so I recommend just spending about five to ten seconds in this position with your hands in neutral five to ten seconds going back and forth with your hands in a big hug (this is my favorite position). It gets deep into the joints and then this one gets more superficial on the muscles on top. So those are the three positions for the foam roller and just spend around 10 seconds in each arm position and you’re done. So these are the exercises that you can use to help correct that forward hunched, head forward posture and work on getting your shoulder blades back down, that middle back loosened and your neck stronger in this neutral position and stretched out.