Dear Desk Warriors, Here’s Your Guide To Fix Rounded Shoulders

As it turns out, shoulders are the 5th most attractive part of the male physique. (Spoiler alert: the most attractive was the glutes, anyone surprised?)

Yes, a post on rounded shoulders starts from the bottom.


Despite their subtle role in aesthetics…

The shoulders have been represented in humankind’s history as a symbol. You can look at how significant their role is… Simply by examining the language we use regarding this body part.

Isaac Newton once said, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

“To square one’s shoulders”. This phrase means one is preparing to face adversity. Or what about this? “To shoulder responsibility”.

In Greek mythology, Atlas carried the heavens on his shoulders – literally a monumental task.

Do titans have shoulder aches though?


Heck, even Eminem sang, “Sometimes, it feels like the world’s on my shoulders. Everyone’s leanin’ on me…”

If that isn’t enough… You can simply conjure up the image of a loving father carrying his 2 year old daughter on his shoulders and go “aww”.

Shoulders are pillars of strength. Symbols of courage and responsibility.

They even imbue a sense of trustworthiness in others toward you.


Science Supports Your Endeavor In Getting Good Shoulders

Recently, the importance of good shoulders has even been backed by science.

It all sounds nice and ideal. Yet how many people do you know possess square shoulders that stay sturdy under all sorts of pressure?

Chances are, you would have a slight hunch or worse right now as you’re reading this article. This is especially if you’ve been hunching forward at work without realizing it. You may even have accumulated years of damage from sitting poorly and sitting for too long.

Fret not. We’ll show you how to fix rounded shoulders with these methods and claim back the good set of shoulders you were born with.

Let’s get started, shall we?

The TWO tests to find out if you have rounded shoulders

There are 1,037 methods to do this (a number I just made up).

But I shall share with you the TWO most easily done methods. And they both require no equipment at all.

They are both fairly simple tests, but they require your honesty. That means you have to do exactly as shown, and no cheating or sudden alterations in your posture. (While these tests are common symptoms of rounded shoulders, they are by no means 100% accurate. It’s just like how sneezing a lot could be symptomatic but not indicative that you have a cold.)

You ready?


Method 1 (Inward shoulder rotation)

I need you to do two things for me right now.

Step 1: Stand up if you aren’t already, and stand as how you normally do. Arms down (so if you’re reading this on mobile, put this on the table or in your pocket later).

Step 2: With your hands by your side, I want you to notice your thumbs – are your thumbnails pointing forward, parallel to each other? Or are they non-parallel? What angle are your thumbs forming right now?

Make a mental note and remember how your thumbs look like based on their angles.

Or simply use the mirror to help yourself recall what you look like.


You have rounded shoulders if…

Your thumbs are “naturally” pointed toward each other!

Congrats if your thumbs are parallel – it’s not always easy to maintain a good posture for your shoulders.


Method 2 (Tight chest, weak shoulders)

Quick! Observe your side posture right now.

How do you do that?

Got a mirror? Or a boyfriend/girlfriend/SO who takes your selfies? Yeah, use those as your reference points. And do the following.

Step 1: Get a good look at your side profile (take a picture if you have to, or turn 90 degrees to either left or right). If you can’t get a picture, see step 2.

Step 2: Observe your cheekbone-collarbone alignment. Simply draw a vertical line down from your cheekbone. Does this line hit your collarbone? Or is it in front of the collarbone?

You *probably* have rounded shoulders if…

Your cheekbone is ahead of your collarbone! *dun dun dunnnnn*

While this is a sign of the “forward head” posture, your shoulders are also often pulled forward.

According to Alan Thrall, a competitive strongman,

“Once your shoulders are not in proper alignment, your thoracic (middle) spine is not in alignment. This leads to your cervical spine not being in proper alignment either.”

Some people develop this rounded shoulders problem thanks to fitness. Roughly speaking, some lifters focus a lot on the front of their torso – especially the chest. They overdevelop the front, under-develop their back, and voila! They tend to adopt the forward slouch.

Sh*t, is it legs day already?


Others? Quite the opposite. They lack exercise – the computer-phone usage in a day can “encourage” poor posture.


Okay… Which method is more reliable?

When it came down to research, we didn’t find any paper that did extensive studies on the visible symptoms of rounded shoulders.

So we turned to the next best thing – good old visual indication.

While both methods are visually indicative of rounded shoulders, Method 1 (the parallel thumb method) has been more reliable.

Furthermore, it’s easier to look at your thumbs than to get a side view of yourself!

And it seems that having a forward head posture doesn’t necessarily lead to adopting a rounded shoulder posture… Even though they often appear together.


You may have rounded shoulders (or shoulders that aren’t healthy now).

But don’t worry. This article will guide you step by step, in simple yet actionable ways. Let’s begin with a basic understanding of what it takes to fix these shoulders.

Can rounded shoulders be fixed?

Obviously that was a loaded question.

Yes, your rounded shoulders can be fixed. But these shoulders of yours can only be corrected, rectified, brought back to good health with gradual, consistent effort.

Often times, people have tried to fix rounded shoulders. But habits take over more often than we realize or that we want to.

Based on this study, at least two muscle groups have been associated with “forward head and rounded shoulder posture”. They are:

  • Serratus anterior AND
  • Upper trapezius

The serratus anterior is a muscle group responsible for your breathing and shoulder blade movement.

Your upper trapezius, on the other hand, is part of your upper back-lower shoulder area. It’s also in charge of extending your neck, while helping to stabilize and move your shoulder blades too.

So you see how these are directly related to your posture, right?

Meanwhile, this other study has shown that elastic band (AKA resistance band) exercises reduce the extent of forward head and rounded shoulder postures. And these are done through scapular stability exercises (which you’ll see later below!).

Existing methods to fix rounded shoulders: the pros and cons

The methods that I’m sharing with you today require no equipment at all…

Only a handful of them require a resistance band (if you don’t have that, skip those and jump to the next segment, no harm done).

The principles of today’s exercises are simple and intuitive to understand:

  • To extend or lengthen the chest muscles
  • Reactivate some upper back muscles AND
  • Create external shoulder rotations (as opposed to your inward rotation)

Of course, there are many sub-muscle groups that we are talking about. To keep it straightforward, follow through the nuances of each exercise below.

NOTE: These are NOT strength exercises, it’s not about how hard you do it, unlike what you do for physical training or even at the gym. It’s about following the correct form with sufficient repetitions.


Stretches And Exercises To Fix Rounded Shoulders

Floor angels

How to do it:

  1. Lie in a prone position, arms extended forward (like Superman)
  2. Gently raise your arms off the ground, and bring your elbows as close to your waist as possible
  3. Your hands should remain parallel and facing the front at all times
  4. Bring down your arms
  5. Lift them up and bring them back to the Superman position
  6. Repeat for 15 reps, 5 seconds per rep

Who else recommended this:


Wall slides

What this exercise does: SQ (our demonstrator above) mentioned this was especially effective in helping him feel and activate his shoulder muscles. You are forced to tense your muscles in such a basic position, and it corrects your spinal posture as well!

How to do it:

  1. Stand shoulder width apart, with full body contact against the wall (ankle, butt cheeks, shoulder blades, deltoids AND back of head)
  2. Bring your elbows, wrists and back of hands up and against the wall, forming an L shape with your arms
  3. Without losing ANY wall contact, slide your arms up and hold them up
  4. Slowly slide back down
  5. Repeat for 10 reps, 3 seconds per rep (up and down counts as 1 rep)

Who else recommended this:


Scapular squeeze + Reverse prayer pose

What this exercise does: This is an exercise that targets the muscles surrounding the shoulder blades. The scapular squeeze is considered a more basic version, where the reverse prayer pose requires some shoulder flexibility to begin with.

How to do it:

  1. Are your arms flexible? No? See Step 4. Yes? Try to bring your hands behind your middle back
  2. Slowly clasp your palms together, bringing in from your last finger to your thumbs
  3. As your palms come together, push your chest out a little and squeeze your shoulder blades
  4. You can try the scapular squeeze instead: imagine a pencil is between your shoulder blades – try and grasp that pencil with your back muscles
  5. Repeat either exercise for 10 reps

Who else recommended this:


The Wide Superman

What this exercise does: With this exercise, you expand and stretch your chest muscles…. All while you strengthen your upper back muscle groups too. This is another exercise that kills two birds with one stone.

How to do it:

  1. Lie in a prone position, facing the floor
  2. With arms extend to the side, raise your chest, arms and abs away from the floor
  3. Repeat for 10 reps, 3 seconds per rep

Who else recommended this:


Wall corner stretch

What this exercise does: It’s an exercise that’s so easy and simple to do. You can do this stretch anywhere in order to stretch your chest and trapezius together. And the best thing about this? It definitely feels good if you’ve been working 8 to 10 hours everyday.

How to do it:

  1. Find a corner in the room (or an open door)
  2. Stand about 1 to 2 feet away from the corner or doorframe
  3. With arms straightened and parallel to the ground, place your palms against the surface of the walls or door
  4. Lean forward and bring your chest and head out as far as possible
  5. Hold for 30 seconds

Who else recommended this:


Cobra pose

What this exercise does: Not only does this exercise undo the damage from sitting too long… You get to stretch muscles you’ve not used the entire day – especially the front of your body. The cobra pose is essentially the opposite of sitting down.

How to do it:

  1. Lie in prone position, facing down
  2. Bring palms next to your chest, as if you’re about to do a push up
  3. Extend and straighten your arms, while relaxing your body from the abs and below
  4. Tilt your neck back as far as you can as you extend and straighten your arms
  5. Repeat for 10 reps, 3 seconds per rep

Who else recommended this:

Resistance Band Exercises To Fix Rounded Shoulders

Do you have a resistance band? Yes? Good. Scroll down for your first exercise.


Well, you can either:


  1. Skip this segment (no feelings were hurt in the process of reading this post)


  1. Get a cheap and portable resistance band (it’s probably around US$10)


The one you see in the GIFs below are from Domyos, and it cost us about US$9.20. Skip 2 lattes and you’ll have yourself a resistance band that could save yourself from a lifetime of pain.

(We’re not affiliated with them BTW, so choose whatever brand that floats your boat!)


The Basic T-Stretch

What this exercise does: It releases tension in your chest, stretches the muscles, and strengthens your upper back muscles (trapezius). The strengthening is especially true for your upper back muscles and those that surround your shoulder blade.

How to do it:

  1. Grab the ends of your resistance band
  2. Bring hands to chest level, thumbs pointing outward
  3. Pull hands away from each other as far as possible until band is across chest
  4. Repeat for 15 reps
  5. For stronger resistance, reduce the distance (of the band) grabbed between your hands

Who else recommended this:


The L-Arm Pull

What this exercise does: It teaches you to activate your upper back muscles, while opening up your shoulders to rotate outwards.

How to do it:

  1. Tie a basic knot around a STURDY pole
  2. Grab the resistance band, about shoulder width apart
  3. With elbows (and upper arms) parallel to the ground, raise the band to chest level
  4. Raise your forearms overhead, as much as you can (ensure shoulder blades remain neutral)
  5. Repeat for 10 reps

Who else recommended this:


Figure of 8 Pull

What this exercise does: This exercise is especially effective for your entire torso. It teaches you to tense your core while rotating your shoulders outward… And your upper back is still activated when you pull the band.

How to do it:

  1. Go through the loop of your resistance band, any excess band should be in front of you
  2. Bring the band to your waist (navel) level
  3. Twist the band once, such that there is a figure of 8 formed (your body is through one circle of the fig. 8)
  4. There should be a loop in front of you
  5. With thumbs point outwards and palms upwards, grab the band at shoulder width apart
  6. Extend your forearms outward as far as you can

Who else recommended this:


If you can’t decide… DO THIS INSTEAD.

Maybe there are too many exercises for you to choose from.

Or you just want the simplest, most convenient exercise that won’t embarrass you at work.

So here’re our recommendations!


If you have a resistance band, do:

  • 3 sets of 10 reps for T-torso Stretch

BUT if you don’t have a resistance band (which goes easy on your joints BTW)…

Or if you’re taking a break at work…

Or if you simply don’t know what to go with and just need a simple recommendation…

Here’s what we suggest:

  • Level 1: 2 sets x 30s Wall Corner Stretches
  • Level 2: Level 1 + 2 sets x 15 reps Wall Slides

You can do Level 1 anywhere you like, and you can replace the corner with a doorframe if you see one. The whole idea is to fix rounded shoulders anywhere you please.

There’s no real duration in fixing rounded shoulders

There you go. You now know the various effective exercises to slowly heal and fix your upper body and posture.


Don’t think of setting yourself a deadline.

Think frequency. At least until your shoulders look and feel better.

How often will you do those exercises? How many will you be doing?

Some experts recommend that you do the drills or exercises once a day.

Others recommend once in 2-3 days, as they claim your muscles take up to 48 hours to heal after using it for workouts.

To be honest, there’s no hard and fast rule to how often you ought to do.

If you’d like, you can start by doing the exercises every other day. It would be easier to adhere to since it won’t take up more than 5 to 10 minutes of your time, and it doesn’t feel as strict on yourself.

Speaking of which, that brings us to the last point…

The big truth: You can’t win without consistency

The action and steps to fixing rounded shoulders is simple.

But there isn’t a golden shortcut to take.

There aren’t any “hacks” here in this post – because we’ve tried finding it. And so far, there are none.

Go ask a therapist or a fitness trainer. They’ll tell you consistency is important when it comes to corrective actions. You are NOT a car that can be fixed in one session. Even surgeries have follow up sessions to ensure the patient is recovering well.

So be patient and forgiving with yourself. Try doing the exercises every alternate day.

And even if you forget to do it for 1 day, it’s okay. Start again the next day. The process counts as much as the results.

When you realize keeping track records are just for vanity’s sake… You’ll fall in love with the process of taking action.

And counterintuitively… You’ll watch yourself heal faster than you thought.


P.S.Download your free bonus tutorial video that goes in-depth in fixing rounded shoulders. It shows you how you can do this every (other) day in your life, and you can share this with someone you know!

About the Author: Karlton is the guy creating posts, graphics and videos in AiraWear. You can check out the IndieGoGo Campaign that he and the team are working on. If you want to develop healthy posture, here’s the AiraWear method of doing it (available as free download).


1 comment

[…] It sounds ideal, but who has square, firm shoulders that never ache? Learn how to fix rounded shoulders with methods that require little to NO equipment. – Read full story at Hacker News […]

Leave a reply