One of the most frequent questions I get is why I do not include heavy chest exercises in my workout plans for women.
There are a couple of reasons for this:
1. Most clients I come across already have mild to severe upper crossed syndrome, which is essentially tightness in the chest and neck ( pecs,traps and Levator) and weakness in some of the posterior chain muscles ( cervical flexors , traps , rhomboids and serratus anterior ) which creates a forward head posture and rounding of shoulders; typically caused by sitting at computer all day, using smart phones, driving a lot, watching TV or even poor training habits. Upper cross can cause several problems – from headaches to poor posture to neck/ spinal injuries and even lead to lower crossed syndrome creating issues with hips etc.
The last thing you want to do is strengthen the chest more without first addressing this issue.
2. Unless you are a female body builder it is not necessary to “ build“ the chest. Super heavy chest lifting can cause issues with some under the muscle breast implants, too.
Now, this isn’t to say we don’t have clients do exercises like push-ups, planks and burpees which also work the muscles of the chest but we typically avoid heavy strengthening work until the aforementioned issue is corrected.
To fix upper crossed, you want to first address the tight muscles in the chest by either myofascial release and/or stretching. Once muscles are released a bit you can then start working on stabilizing and strengthening the weak muscles to get the pairs working in synergy again.
Here are some of my go-to exercises to address this :
- Resistance Band Pulls
- Band External Rotations
- Band Rows
- Superman Holds (aka Prone Shoulder Blade Squeezes)
- Chin tucks
- Daily mobility exercises i.e: Arm Circles
So, is there anything that can be done to prevent Upper Crossed Syndrome?
A lot of it comes down to being conscious of your posture. Most of us can’t stop working at a computer or on our phones, but we can pay attention to how we use them and take frequent breaks from our desks and devices.
Here are some other ideas:
- Be aware of your body and activities that put your head in a forward position. When you notice your head is forward, intentionally move it back ( this is the perfect time to do a chin tuck!)
- When working out, ALWAYS maintain proper form. This includes keeping your core engaged , chest out, shoulders open and your head in a neutral position. this means ears should be directly over shoulders at all times As I tell my clients, relax your shoulders and stick your boobs out lol
- Make sure your computer, book, steering wheel and TV are sitting at eye level. they even have desks now that elevate higher so you can stand and don’t have to look down or you can just prop up on a box or stack of books.
- Use a headset for phone calls.
- Make sure for every 3 hours in front of a screen or in a car you do at least 10 neck tucks and band rows if possible.
Once proper movement and balance is restored – only then should you start increasing weight.
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