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Better Alignment – Improve Your Shoulder Position

Shoulder Position Examples

As promised, this week I am going to talk about a shoulder position.
I’ll start start with real life examples:

  • Shoulders on pictures 1 through 4 are misaligned.
  • Shoulder position on pictures 5 and 6 is still not ideal but much closer to a proper alignment.Shoulder-position-examples-01

Pictures 1 through 4 present very common deviations from a proper shoulder position:

  • Uneven shoulder level, when one shoulder is higher than another (pictures 1,2, and 4).
    Shoulders are even on picture 6.
  • Rounded shoulders. It means that an upper arm is rotated forward in a shoulder joint so much that we can now easily see the back of the hands (picture 2, front view). In some cases, from behind, we cannot see hands at all (picture 4).
    When shoulders are in a correct place, only a thumb and an index finger should be visible (picture 6). The hands are visible whether we are facing a person or from behind (pictures 5 and 6) .
  • Forward shoulders – picture 3. The back is rounded and big portion of the back is visible.
    In an aligned position, we should not be able to see a person’s back in a side view – picture 5.
    The top of the shoulder should be in line with a hip joint (picture 5, vertical yellow line).

I did not have a picture of another common shoulder misalignment. It is a habit of keeping one’s shoulders hiked up as in a perpetually shrugged position. I often see people driving or staring into a computer screen in this tensed state.

I had a really hard time finding examples of a better shoulder alignment. Most of the time we are holding our arms in front of us. Whether we are driving, working at a computer, cooking, or texting, we are moving them in a very limited “box” of space.

Our environment does not force us to extend our arms out to the sides, up, or back. We think that our lifestyle provides a desired level of comfort. What we don’t realize is that this very level of comfort is limiting our range of motion and affecting our ability to function. The limited range of motion is the reason why:

  • We push our ribcages out in a rare case of lifting our arms up. It is a compensation mechanism in lieu of a sufficient range of motion in shoulder joints.
  • Many of you cannot lift straight arms all the way up. You either start bending your elbows or push your chest forward (see above).
  • Your shoulders or upper back are killing you the next day after occasionally doing something that involves lifting your arms up: washing windows or playing basketball, for example.

What to Do to Improve Your Shoulder Position?

It is easier than you think. You don’t need an expensive gym membership or even a lot of time.
What you do need is to change your habits and incorporate some new motion into your DAILY routine. You will not succeed if you are going to work on your shoulders only occasionally.

Where to start? Self-evaluate your posture. Look at your shoulder position in a mirror front view and side view. Compare your shoulders to the examples above.

The ribcage exercises in one of my previous posts are very good for improving shoulder position. Start slowly and do them regularly.

To increase your range of motion you should modify your environment:

  • Place your favorite plate, bowl, or cup on the top shelf so you have to reach up every time you need them.
  • When you clean your floor, get on your hands and knees and reach under the furniture as far as you can with your arms. You will remove the accumulated dust and clatter and practice extending your arms.
  • When you carry your purse or a computer bag, try these modifications:
    • Let the shoulder drop down under the weight of the bag, do not hike up the shoulder.
      If done correctly, you will notice stretch in your trapezius, and maybe even in your pectoral muscles.
    • While keeping your shoulder down, gently move it back instead of rounding it forward.
      Do not push forward your ribcage.
    • Try not to lean to the opposite side when carrying your bag. Notice the difference between left and right. Try to keep you body straight
    • Switch your bag from one shoulder to another often.
      For more details, check this Gokhale Method post: Put Your Baggage to Work.

Every time you pass through a door frame, try to reach the top of the frame with your arms.
If it’s too difficult, press each of your lifted up arms into the side of the frame for a few seconds:


Word of caution – please keep your ribcage and spine in neutral:

  • Do not push the ribcage forward.
  • Do not arch your back while lifting your arms.

These small movements add up during the day.
Stay tuned – in my next post I’ll give you more shoulder exercises to improve your shoulder position. .

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Natalia Dashkovskaya

Natalia Dashkovskaya

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