A common problem among most avid cyclists and triathletes is the tendency to an anterior rotation of the shoulder joint, otherwise known as rounded or hunched shoulders. This is so prevalent and can cause so many issues, I thought I might publish a few ways to counter-act this common problem.
Basically the issue springs from the fact that, while on the bike, you locked into a certain posture over protracted periods of time. Our body is a great adapter and it conforms to repetitive action. Rounded shoulders are, in very general terms, a restriction of a the pectoral muscle group as they connect to the shoulder area. This is one reason why this issue is also found in body-builders as they strengthen the pectoral muscle groups, but perhaps don’t balance out the muscles in the upper back as well. Seated rows are one way to strengthen the opposing muscle group in your back and therefore counter-act ’rounded shoulders’. But wait! There’s more…
Rounding in the shoulder area is also caused by lack of proper posture while working on your computer. If you cycle and work on a computer frequently: chances are you have rounded shoulders unless you are already addressing this with corrective action. Anterior rotation of the shoulder joint is not healthy for a number of reasons:
- Collapses your diaphragm and therefore inhibits the amount of oxygen you bring in to your body.
- Exaggerates the natural curve of the neck – causing headaches and neck pain.
- Causes tension in the upper back and may cause back pain.
- Can lead to limited mobility of the shoulder.
A great way to counter-act rounded shoulders are through the use of a Yoga Strap to remind your body to maintain proper posture while off of the bike. This is useful while seated, working on the computer, in the office (yes, you will get odd looks), or working around the house. I use this technique all the time and I find that it also helps me work my abs and lower back muscles which strengthen your core!
The yoga strap technique is shown in the picture below, but please do watch the video for full instructions.
Another great exercise with a yoga strap (or any strap for that matter) is in the following illustration:
While seated on your shins (or on a back-less stool) hold the strap between your hands in front of you, resting across your knees. As you can see in the picture, this lady has her strap fairly wide. If you have shoulder restrictions, chances are you will need to hold it about as wide. The goals is: to rotate your entire arm in the shoulder socket while holding the strap taught and keeping your arms straight.
You will bring the strap over your head and behind you as in the picture on the right. Keep your arms straight! If you cannot – then allow more slack in the strap until you can. Bring the strap behind you as far as your shoulders allow. Repeat at least 6 times and move with your breath. If you get a little ‘stuck’ during the rotation: move your chest up and forward (stick your chest out) and that may assist you in rotating the shoulder properly.
You might hear some interesting sounds from your shoulder and it probably won’t feel great. Stop immediately if you experience sharp pain or severe discomfort. The idea is to push yourself a little, not pull a tendon or muscle. Listen to your body while you do this, or any, exercise.
I’m all ‘strapped up’ right now as I write this! This technique has certainly done wonders for me and I hope that you find it helpful too.
Cheers and Cycle On!
Additional shoulder-opening exercises can be found here as well. Feel free to shoot me any questions you might have or contact your certified yoga instructor if you practice regularly.