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Forward head rounded shoulders (FHRS) is a fairly common condition.  In fact most of the human population would be categorized under this. FHRS refers to the upper body pertaining to head and shoulder positioning.

Normal, or what we call desirable upper body positioning would be where, if you looked at a subject directly from the side facing either the right or left shoulder, the medial section of the deltoid would be facing directly at you.  The deltoid muscle is composed of three separate heads, the anterior head, medial head, and the posterior head. The medial head is the middle part of the deltoid between the anterior and posterior heads.

Desirable head positioning would be while looking straight ahead and your cheekbone, (zygomatic process) would be in a straight line directly superior of your clavicle, and just slightly anterior of it.

A FHRS posture would be when the posterior head of the deltoid is facing more anterior and the shoulder appears rounded forward.  As a result of this, the individuals head is pushed more forward than what would be considered normal, giving the appearance of a “turtle” like posture.

In most cases this is correctable.  If you or your client fall into this category then you want to perform a 2:1 or 3:1 pull / push ratio for back and chest exercises while weight training. In other words you want to do more back than chest exercises.  Focus on strengthening all the areas of the upper back, such as the scapular area, rhomboids, and posterior deltoid.  Generally overhand pulling motions recruit upper back musculature, such as front neck pull downs, and overhand seated rows.  Do scapular retraction exercises, and perform reciprocating movements, like tin soldiers, and quadrupeds to elongate the musculature of back and spine.

You will be surprised at how many people have difficulty with scapular retraction exercises.  They either can’t do it, or use too much of the trapezius to pull the weight.  For all pulling exercises you want to minimize the recruitment of trapezius muscle group.  While performing pulling exercises, keep the shoulders depressed as much as possible, and don’t push your neck forward as you pull.  With practice your pulling technique will get better.  When you understand how your scapular muscles work, then all upper body exercises will become more efficient.

In the end you should have about a 1:1 back to chest strength ratio. Too much chest work and volume will actually pull your shoulders forward.  Many athletes, especially men are guilty of doing more chest than back work while weight training.

One of the basic foundations of creating a strength based training program should be based off of your postural needs.  You certainly don’t want to make your posture worse as a result of a poorly designed program.  Maybe you are in need of a postural assessment, and an overhaul of your program design work ratios.

Jon Torerk, CSCS