Today’s challenge is a very effective postural exercise. I love this one because it is quite simple and looks easy, but it involves moves that your shoulders and arms rarely make in today’s sit-down, forward-leaning society.
The Rounded Shoulder Corrector And Preventer directly targets the scapulae (shoulder blades) and shoulder girdle, and expands the chest, using muscles that grow slack, weak, or too tight when you slump. And it feels great at the end of a long day when your shoulders are tight.
In addition, today’s challenge uses hand weights, and we’re going to take a look at a study that reveals the bone-building effects of weighted exercise in postmenopausal women.
So let’s get started with a look at the chest muscles, which are seldom considered with regard to posture.
Tight Chest Muscles Destroy Your Posture
When we speak of a slumped posture, we usually say “rounded shoulders” or “hunched back.” We rarely refer to a “tight chest” or “weak pectorals.” But your chest muscles play a significant role in posture.
Tight, weak, tense chest muscles draw the shoulders forward, causing the upper arm bones (humerus) to rotate inward at the shoulder joint. There are many muscles in the chest, but for our purposes, we’ll look at some of the main ones.
The pectoral muscles are the main chest muscles everyone knows about. They are the focus of body builders and other fitness gurus, but are rarely linked to good posture. Yet they are of utmost importance in maintaining a balanced, relaxed stance.
The “pecs” are composed of the pectoralis major and pectoralis minor. The pectoralis major begins at the breastbone (sternum) and collarbone, and attaches to the humerus. This is directly related to posture, as the rotation of the upper arm bone determines in large part the shape of the shoulders.
The pectoralis minor attaches at one end to a thumb-shaped “bump” on the shoulder blade called the coracoid process. At the other end, it attaches to the ribs in the top of your chest. When the pectoralis minor contracts, it draws the shoulder down and forward. So you can see how a tight pectoralis minor would contribute to hunched shoulders.
The pectoralis minor is relatively small, but it is a significant contributor to postural problems because of the amount of leverage it exerts on the shoulder.
Two other muscles that are often overlooked with regard to posture are the brachialis and the corachobrachialis. Located in the upper arm, the brachialis works with your biceps to bend your elbow. The corachobrachialis brings your arm inward toward your body (adduction). Together with the pecs, the brachialis and corachobrachialis determine the position of your upper arm bones and shoulders.
Today’s exercise stretches those important chest muscles, and also targets the upper arm muscles to make them stronger and more supple. This allows your upper body to fall into alignment so you’re neither hunched forward (which can lead to kyphosis, or Dowager’s Hump) nor are you stiff-backed in an attempt to force a military-style posture.
Of course, working these muscles not only improves posture. It also strengthens the bones involved as per Wolff’s Law, which states that the action of muscle and gravity on bone stimulates bone growth in the stressed areas. With the Rounded Shoulder Corrector And Preventer, the uppermost ribs, humerus, breastbone, scapulae, and clavicle (collar bone) are all targeted.
In a moment, we’re going to take a look at a study that reveals the bone-density benefits of working out with weights, specifically for post-menopausal women.
But first, let’s get ready to correct your posture and prevent hunched shoulders with today’s exercise!
You will need a small weight for this exercise. Feel free to use a water bottle or soup can if you don’t have dumbbells.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. You could do this exercise while seated, too, if you prefer.
- Holding the weight in one hand, bring your arm out to the side and bend your elbow downward at a 90-degree angle.
- Bring the weight up and back slightly past your ear; your shoulder and elbow should stay at approximately the same angle throughout.
- Bring the weight back down to the starting position, and repeat.
- Perform this motion 10 to 12 times as long as you are comfortable. Switch sides for another 10 to 12 repetitions.
This is a good exercise to perform every other day or so to keep rounded shoulders at bay (and to correct them). You need not limit yourself to just 10 to 12 repetitions per arm; you can do several sets of 10 to 12 on each side if you like. In addition, feel free to combine it with another Weekend Challenge, such as the Dowager’s Hump Corrector And Preventer.
Putting various exercises together provides a well-rounded workout that enhances bone health and density.
But you may be wondering if it’s “too late” to build bone density with weights. After all, if you’re past a certain age and your bone density is declining, can you really do anything to help it?
The answer is an enthusiastic “yes”! There is a great deal of research that points to the bone-building effects of exercise, but the following study specifically looked at the bone mineral density of post-menopausal women in response to weighted exercise.
Confirmed: Weighted Exercise Increases Bone Density In Older Women
In this comprehensive review, researchers evaluated the data contained in 20 studies spanning the decade and a half between 1990 and 2005. These 20 studies were chosen because they met the strict criteria for quality and methodology.
After going over the studies, the researchers found that the data:
“…revealed evidence to support the effectiveness of weight training exercises to increase BMD [bone mineral density] in postmenopausal women.”1
The increased bone density was found in specific areas that were targeted by the weighted exercise, particularly the spine and hip. Their final conclusion:
“Weighted exercises can help in maintaining BMD in postmenopausal women and increasing BMD of the spine and hip in women with osteopenia and osteoporosis. The exercise program must be incorporated into a lifestyle change and be lifelong…”1
This last point is very important. Keeping your commitment to exercise means incorporating targeted, bone-building moves into your daily routines.
That’s where the Densercise™ Epidensity Training System comes in. When I developed this exercise routine specifically for building bone, I knew that simplicity and brevity were key elements in producing an exercise plan that could easily be incorporated into your daily life and activities.
Because Densercise™ takes just 15 minutes a day, three days a week, you’ll find it’s easy to fit it in to your schedule. To make Densercise™ even more “user friendly,” it does not involve a lot of specialized, expensive equipment. Even when weights are used, they can easily be substituted for something you have on hand, such as a water bottle. And of course, Densercise™ can be performed any time of the day in your home or even your office; you don’t need a huge gymnasium or large area to do your “Densercises.”
Many of the 52 moves target the shoulders and upper back, so you’ll find plenty of posture-related exercises. Densercise™ makes it easy to build your bone density and improve your posture at the same time.
How did you like this weekend’s challenge? We’d love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below if you’d like to share your thoughts or experiences on today’s workout.
Enjoy the weekend!
1 Zehnacker, Carol Hamilton, PT, DPT, MD, and Bemis-Dougherty, PT, DPT, MAS. “Effect of Weighted Exercises on Bone Mineral Density in Post Menopausal Women: A Systematic Review.” Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy. 30. 2.07. (2007). PDF. http://web.missouri.edu/~brownmb/pt415/case/nunez/osteo/Zehnacker-BMD-WBex-SR-JGPT-2007no.2.pdf