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Can strength training improve posture? Why muscle weakness could be the cause of your hunched shoulders

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Why strength training could be the most effective way to get rid of hunched shoulders. 

Our posture is a huge part of our overall body language, expressing when we’re feeling bold and confident or shy and inward. However, thanks to our desk-bound jobs, most of us have rounded shoulders or tight chests that don’t express our excitement and openness.  

Right and wrong posture is different on everyone, but there are long term health impacts to constant slouching, including poor circulation and chronic pain. But a fix is possible, and it lies in the gym. 

What causes bad posture?

“A lot of the reason our posture goes wrong is because we’re not strong enough through our posterior chain, which is the back side of the body,” says personal trainer Tess Glynne-Jones. That’s because we spend a lot of time at desks where our back muscles are lengthened and the front side is shortened, so we have a rounded shoulder position. “When you’re on the tube, at home, at work, we never stand up. We don’t need to hold ourselves up in the same way that we used to so our muscles are weaker than is ideal.”

Personal trainer Caroline Bragg agrees that our lifestyle could be to blame. “Weakness can cause poor posture as the muscles can’t properly support the skeleton. For example, if your shoulders slump over at your desk, you’ll shorten your chest muscles, which will in turn make it even harder to keep your shoulders back.”

Can strength training improve posture?

“Strengthening the weakened muscles is really important to have a better posture. Doing compound lifts and working on your strength means your muscles will be strong and activated so you can sit and stand more upright,” says Glynne-Jones. 

Bragg adds that “by strengthening certain areas and lengthening others we can achieve postural changes. Poor posture can lead to poor bone density as we’re not using our skeleton properly, and the best way to increase bone density? Strength training. So it’s a real winner for correcting posture.”

What exercises should I do to improve my posture?

“Targeting the posterior chain is really important,” says Glynne-Jones. She recommends moves like deadlifts to strengthen commonly weak muscles like our glutes, hamstrings and back. “Also think about doing moves that force you to sit upright, like a Z Press, which involve sitting on the floor and pressing a barbell overhead. It will train you to pull your core.”

Bragg also adds that lengthening the shortened chest muscles is crucial. “Working on those chest muscles helps, so add in chest stretches and chest flys to work the muscles in a lengthened positions.”

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Images: Getty

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Chloe Gray

Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).