As we may all be aware we spend a lot more time these days in a rounded shoulder position. Whether it is at the office hunched over our computers, checking our phones or tablets or even reading an old-fashioned book. I notice this most when I am riding the bus from work, the majority of people I see are hunched over their phones scrolling through their social media accounts. With the increase of this hunched and rounded position, we need to spend more time working the postural posterior chain muscles in the upper back and shoulders.1

The Cause of Poor Posture

Sitting exacerbates pre-existing dysfunctions that often lie dormant in even the most active of populations. Fit or not, the cell phone, tablet, laptop, etc. have all taken a toll on our posture.

Weakness, stiffness, and general immobile muscles in the posterior shoulder girdle secondary to sitting can be a recipe for disaster when people do not account for these postural disturbances in their daily maintenance and more importantly their training programming.

Think of the many muscles of the upper back as postural stabilizers. The larger muscles of this group, most notably the posterior deltoid, teres major, mid and lower trapezius, and rhomboid complex are often neglected in the average person’s exercise program. And those who do make it a point to train the upper back can often do so incorrectly.2

By dedicating some time to strengthening the mid and lower traps as well as the rear delts we can improve the health and longevity of our shoulders. This will also lead to better and stronger movements elsewhere in the gym.

The most effective ways to improve your lower and mid traps is by using light dumbbells and an incline bench to perform the following movements: 

Incline Y Raise 

Set-up: You are face down on an incline bench holding a pair of light dumbbells at full extension. As shown in the picture, depress your shoulder blades down along your back then raise your arms into a Capital Y position before lowering back down. This completes one rep.

BatWing Row

Set-up: You are face down on an incline bench holding a pair of light dumbbells at full extension. Depress your shoulder blades down along your back, then row the dumbbells back up towards the bottom of your chest, not letting the dumbbells drop. “Punch” the dumbbells out to the side and lower down. This completes one Rep.3

Mountain Dog Rear Delt Complex

Set-up: You are face down on an incline bench holding a pair of heavy(ish) dumbbells at full extension. Depress your shoulder blades down along your back then slowly extend the dumbbells out to the side 10-15cms for 60 reps. Then lower the weight and repeat for 30 reps before finishing with 10 full range of motion rear delt raises with a lightweight.4

By completing two to four sets of each of these movements two times per week you can bulletproof your shoulders by strengthening the shoulder girdle and the lower and mid traps. This along with being more aware of your position at work and while using devices or reading will lead to a happy and healthy posture for years to come.5

For those with prior shoulder injuries or conditions that may become aggravated by these movements, you should consult with a Physiotherapist before attempting these exercises. Additionally, for those who are beginners why not try a TRX class. The movements are often very similar in postural awareness and are core focused, or seek help from one of our Personal Trainers.  This will ensure that you receive the best possible advice and programming to achieve your goals. 

Ben Weber, Elite Personal Trainer, Habit Vero


1. John, D. (2011, April 19) Reawaken your Rhomboids. Retrieved from URLhttps://www.t-nation.com/training/reawaken-your-rhomboids

2. Rusin, Dr. J.(2015, September 8) The Posture Cure. Retrieved from URL https://www.t-nation.com/training/posture-cure

3. Editors, Men’sHealth. (2016, July 6) The Exercise That Adds Muscle Mass to Your Rear Shoulders.Retrieved from URL. https://www.menshealth.com/fitness/how-to-do-the-batwing-row

4. Rusin, Dr J. (2018, January 3) Mountain Dog Sets. Retrieved from URL https://www.facebook.com/drjohnrusin/videos/901856089963261/

5. Rusin, Dr J. (Unknown) 6 staple movements for bigger healthier shoulders. Retrieved from URL. https://drjohnrusin.com/6-staple-movements-for-bigger-healthier-shoulders