Overcoming Round Shoulders
Very few persons, man, woman or child, have good posture. Man should be an upright creature, but few indeed are those persons who maintain the body in the proper upright position. During the stage of most rapid growth, from 14 to 18 years of age, habits of proper posture should be acquired. Unfortunately during this period most fellows assume a slouchy, careless carriage with the shoulders thrust forward, the chest sunken, the abdomen protruding and the upper back rounded so that the shoulder blades stand out like a pair of incipient wings. It is too bad that young fellows will stand this way and it often comes about because other members of his groups if they see him trying to stand in the military position, while recognizing that he looks better, still will “kid” him about his position. And most young fellows being unwilling to explain their reasons for standing straight with the shoulders back and the chest up, the abdomen in, to avoid the attracting of their comrades’ attention or perhaps their ridicule will permit themselves to grow in these careless, slouching positions. This position not only looks badly, but it is definitely unhealthy. The internal organs are congested, compressed and hindered in their work by this too common but unnatural position.
When the time of life comes that there is a better realization of the importance of carrying the body in the proper position, the young man will find it difficult to straighten up, the bones and muscles will have grown in these faulty positions and when first he endeavors to carry himself properly there will be some pain and discomfort. It will be necessary to practice some exercises to loosen and strengthen these muscles, to force them into their proper position. There is a reason for every part of the construction of the human body, and in these faulty positions the muscles can not properly operate. So if you wish to be very strong you also must have good posture. If you have the opportunity to see the best weight lifters of the nation in action, the strongest men, you will notice that without exception they have splendid posture. The two famous Yorkers, Stanko and Grimek, possess most exceptional bodies and always carry them with perfect posture. Standing, sitting, eating, reading, playing cards, either of these famous strength figures is constantly in a position of perfect posture. It has had an important bearing on the building of their great strength, and in the applying of this strength. To be as strong and as well built as you desire to be, to be super healthy, you can well follow the example of these two men who are destined for immortality in the world of strength and development.
If you who read this are round shouldered you certainly wish to overcome this condition. You can do it by practicing the exercises which are offered in this book and by forming habits of good posture. One of the first movements to practice to overcome round shoulders should be the press behind neck. While the ordinary press, or press from the chest to overhead, is an excellent shoulder developer as well as strengthening the action of many other muscles, it carries the arms forward so the muscles of the upper back, notably the trapezius which should draw the shoulders back, are not fully contracted. In practicing the press behind neck, in which the barbell is pressed overhead from a position resting upon the shoulders, you must stand in an erect position with the shoulders held well back. The trapezius as well as the deltoids will obtain a greater share of benefit from this press behind neck.
The alternate curl and press with dumbells is most excellent for flattening the upper back and squaring the shoulders. When we talk of square shoulders we mean shoulders that are square because the back is flat. Not the type of square shoulders described by the usual novelist as follows: “John Raleigh was tall, handsome, athletic, his thick curly hair crowned a well chiseled, manly featured face. His broad SQUARE shoulders tapered to a wasplike waist and slender hips. What a figure of a man he made. No wonder he was admired by men, loved by women.” The type of square shoulders most people talk about are square because they are underdeveloped, because the trapezius muscles are not sufficiently developed to impart the slope to them. The well developed shoulders should slope considerably when viewed from the front, should be square because the upper back is flat, when viewed from the side.
To perform the alternate curl and press, start with a pair of fairly heavy dumbells, a pair of 25’s should be enough for the average barbell man to begin with, the champs easily and correctly use a pair of 50’s. The bells are placed perpendicular to the front, the backs of the hands out. Now curl first one and then the other to the shoulders, press first one and then the other to overhead, lower first one and then the other to the shoulders, lower first one and then the other to the starting position. With practice, this exercise will be performed as a continuous movement. You can vary this exercise by curling and pressing two dumbells with both hands, curling pressing and lowering simultaneously. Full movements such as these employ the trapezius muscles to a considerable extent and as this large and powerful muscle covers the entire upper part of the back, the prominent shoulder blades are covered, the entire back strengthened, the muscles thickened and the shoulders squared.
Perhaps the best single exercise for squaring the shoulders is the regular rowing motion. As this movement is performed the legs are usually kept locked at the knees, the body bent forward at right angles to the legs. The weight is pulled up to the chest and lowered the desired number of times. I perform this exercise with legs slightly bent at the knee. By assuming this position strain is taken away from the lower back, transferred to the upper back, which this movement primarily develops. Furthermore instead of just holding the weight in the low position before starting the pull to chest I allow the weight to hang, at arm’s length. This hang permits a much greater range of movement, there is a drag to them at the low position and when they are pulled upward to the chest the upper back and of course the shoulders are spread to the fullest extent.
As in all other movements the weight should be pulled up and lowered with moderate slowness so that it can be felt every inch of the way. It is necessary to use heavy weights in this movement, little can be expected of a barbell which offers no challenge. A man of ordinary strength would soon acquire the ability to use 100 pounds or more in rowing. And when heavier weights are employed, much more rapid progress is made. The best men employ form 150 to 200 pounds and up in this most excellent shoulder squaring, upper back building exercise.
The alternate rowing motion in the bent over position is an excellent movement for developing the upper back and the shoulders. Start this movement with each dumbell at the hang, then pull up first one and then the other, lower first one and then the other, keeping the elbows turned will out and drawing the weight up to the chest, not the stomach. In this manner the most possible spread is given to the shoulders. If you wish to obtain the most benefit from your exercises you must operate every muscle over the longest possible range. From the extreme of contraction to the extreme of extension. Particularly in those exercises which are being practiced to banish round shoulders, to square your shoulders by developing your upper back.