Hunching over your keyboard for the majority of the day, your shoulders creeping up towards your ears. Sound familiar? We’re all guilty of it at some point or another. And while we should be more vigilant about sitting up straight, it’s easy to forget when you’re rushing towards that 3pm deadline. Building up your shoulder strength and mobility will help counteract that urge to hunch, even when you didn’t even realise you were doing it.
“The shoulder is the most mobile joint in the body, which means there are a lot of things that can go wrong with it,” says physiotherapist Mike Riccardi. “If your shoulders hurt, it’s probably from a combination of a few things, because the shoulder joint is complex. But the one overarching cause is poor posture.” (Did we just see you straighten up?)
Four moves for shoulder strength
The key to beating the hunch is to increase shoulder mobility and build shoulder strength. But you don’t just want to target your traps and anterior deltoids (the showy muscles that you obviously think of as ‘shoulders’). Remember how the shoulder is a complex joint? It also has a whole lot of muscles round back that help stabilise the joint and pull your shoulders back and down away from your ears. These four simple exercises from coach Lushwill Rossouw of CrossFit District Six in Cape Town will help you get there.
You need: Barbell, two medium to heavy dumbbells and a PVC pipe (don’t have one? A broom or mop will do too, as long as they’re not heavy).
1/ PVC Pipe Complex
Good for: Mobility Do: 3 sets of 5 reps of each move
This is a great warm-up to do before any upper-body workout that’s going to be using your shoulders because it targets different muscles around the joint. The first part hits the traps and anterior deltoids in the front and on top of your shoulders, while the next two hit the muscles at the back.
2/ PVC Pipe Shoulder Rotations
Good for: Mobility Do: 10
Another good warm-up, this move takes the joint through its full range of motion. The wider apart your hands, the easier it will feel. Your goal is to warm up, not become a contortionist!
3/ Push Press
Good for: Strength Do: 3 sets of 6-8
Lifting any weight above your head is an easy way to strengthen your shoulders. They difference here is that your stabiliser muscles have to work to control the clumsy barbell. Using your legs for a little boost helps you lift a heavier weight than you would with shoulder strength alone. The real work is controlling that barbell at the top and on the way down and that’s where those rear stabilisers come into their own. Bonus: It’ll also do wonders for your core and triceps.
4/ Dumbbell Press With Isometric Hold
Good for: Strength Do: 3 sets of 5
Pushing the weights overhead will sculpt those showy muscles at the front and on top of your shoulders, making them look seriously toned and sexy. But here’s the catch: Once they’re overhead, hold them up there, with straight arms, for a count of three. This brings your stabilisers into play to keep the joint, well, stable. Bye-bye hunch, hello toned upper back!