With our archives now 3,500+ articles deep, we’ve decided to republish a classic piece each Sunday to help our newer readers discover some of the best, evergreen gems from the past. This article was originally published in May 2015.
Earlier this year when I made a video about how to plan your week, several viewers commented on the Quasimodo-like hunchback I displayed. As a guy who spends much of his time sitting slumped over a laptop, I was aware I had developed a terrible slouch. And I wasn’t proud of it. Not only did it make me look unconfident and lazy, little did I know, my poor posture was also wreaking havoc on my upper body flexibility. I discovered this while filming another video — this time on how to do a low bar squat.
Me getting my slouch on.
Up until that point, I had never done a low bar squat; I had always performed the high bar variety. Getting the bar in proper position on the former requires a considerable amount of flexibility in the chest and shoulders. Your wrists need to be neutral, or straight, throughout the entire lift to avoid any of the weight being carried by your wrists or arms. If you have any wrist bend, you’re setting yourself up for a bad case of tendonitis in the elbow.
I looked like the guy on the left.
Despite ample gruff encouragement from my indomitable coach, Mark Rippetoe, I was never able to get my wrists straight while squatting, something plenty of YouTube commenters again made note of — much to my chagrin. The problem was that I simply didn’t have any flexibility in my shoulders or chest to place the bar in the proper position while maintaining straight wrists. My inflexibility was so bad that Rip even asked me if I had ever injured my shoulder or chest! I hadn’t — at least to my knowledge.
I started to investigate what would cause so much tightness in my chest and shoulders, and the one thing that kept popping up was chronic slouching. When you slouch, your shoulders turn in, which causes your chest to sink in as well. If you keep yourself in a slumped-over position day in and day out for hours at a time, you’re going to lose flexibility in your shoulders and chest in a big way.
But slouching has other pernicious effects besides slowing your squat gains. According to Dr. Jason Quieros, a chiropractor at Stamford Sports and Spine in Connecticut, “every inch you hold your head forward [while slouching] you add 10 pounds of pressure on your spine.” If you’re like most chronic desk slouchers, you’re likely leaning your head towards your monitor by 2 or 3 inches. That’s 20 to 30 pounds of extra weight that your back and spinal column have to endure for extended periods of time.
In the short term, this can cause jaw aches and headaches, but in the long term it can result in kyphosis, or a permanently visible Quasimodo-esque hump on your upper back. Kyphosis isn’t just an aesthetic problem, either. It can cause pain due to excess strain on the spine, as well as breathing difficulties due to pressure on the lungs from the caved-in chest that comes with a rounded back.
Not wanting to become the hunchback of Notre AoM, I started researching different stretches and exercises I could implement to undo the consequences of years of slumping and hunching.
Below I share six different exercises you can do to counteract the ill effects of slouching. They’ve helped me de-Quasimodo myself —