A rounded upper back, sometimes called a slouch, is correctly called hyperkyphosis. Hyperkyphosis can be caused by a number of factors including tight chest muscles, weak upper back muscles, an imbalanced exercise program with too much emphasis on pecs development or spending too much time sitting at a desk or driving. Correcting a slouch requires a combination of stretching, mobility and strength work. An uncorrected slouch may become fixed and develop into a condition called a dowager's hump which is often seen in older people.
Use a foam roller. A foam roller can help reverse a slouch. Lie on your back on an exercise mat with your feet flat on the floor and your legs bent. Place a small- to medium-diameter foam roller behind your shoulders. Push with your feet and roll the foam roller down your upper back. Move one inch at a time and exhale as you work the roller down your back. Let your neck relax and allow your head to hang gown towards the floor. Use a comfort pillow if necessary. When the roller is in the middle of your upper back, stay in position and relax for two to three minutes or until you feel your upper back is extended.
Stretch your chest muscles. Tight chest muscles can pull your shoulders forwards and cause you to slouch. Stand in an open doorway and place your forearms vertically on the door frames. Your upper arms should be level with your shoulders. Bend your elbows to 90 degrees. Keep your arms in place and step through the doorway to stretch your chest. Relax, don't hold your breath and hold the stretch for 30 to 90 seconds. The longer you hold the stretch, the more beneficial it will be.
Perform wall angels. To strengthen your upper back, especially the muscles between your shoulder blades, stand six inches from a wall and lean back against it. Raise your arms to your sides and place them against the wall at shoulder height. Bend your elbows to 90 degrees and place the backs of your hands against the wall. Keep your hands flat against the wall and slide your arms up as far as you can. Really squeeze your shoulder blades together. Slowly lower your arms and then repeat for 8 to 12 repetitions.
Perform bent-over rows. Grasp a barbell with an overhand grip and your hands placed wider than shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees slightly and lean forwards at the hips until your upper body is almost parallel to the floor. Let your arms hang straight down from your shoulders. Keep your wrists straight, lead with your elbows and pull the bar into your chest. Slowly extend your arms and lower the bar back to the starting position. Repeat for 12 to 15 repetitions.
Repeat steps 2, 3 and 4, resting 60 to 90 seconds between sets.
- "Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance"; Stuart McGill; 2004
- "Stronger Abs and Back"; Dean Brittenham and Greg Brittenham; 1997
- "Anatomy of Exercise: A Trainer's Inside Guide to Your Workout"; Pat Manocchia; 2009