The importance of good posture - The shoulders

One of the most common posture issues we see is hunched shoulders, this is such an easy trap to fall into because of the way that modern life is; when we sit at desks, walk with our hands in our pockets, and most relevant to competition fighters, when we train in grappling, hunching the shoulders forwards for long periods of time, this causes the muscles and tendons at the back of the shoulders to stretch more and the ones at the front to contract through lack of stretching, but also from being impacted whilst in the relaxed position.


If you think of an arm being held out, if you bang the hand really hard, the natural subconscious reaction is to pull the arm in for protection, this is also true of tendons and muscles in other areas of the body.  When this happens you need to stretch them out again in order to regain full movement, but if you train with hunched shoulders then never consciously correct this posture properly, these muscles and tendons will stay contracted and the body will never really go back to its correct posture.    So if a fighter trains in grappling, in which the natural position of the shoulders is hunched, and takes blows to the head and body which shorten the tendons, then in order to regain his correct posture he needs to stretch those tendons out again otherwise this becomes a problem.


Eventually over time the slight hunched posture will not only get worse but spread causing other problems like bad backs, neck aches, headaches and even hamstring tightness because of the pelvis tilt.


There is a knock-on effect also as other methods of training than fight practice will suffer because of this bad posture.   Weight lifting becomes almost dangerous as the bad posture means that bones and spine are not being stacked correctly putting huge forces on the muscles, running can be more tiring than it needs to be, and every-day life can get to be harder work than usual.  

We can’t ask grapplers to not train with shoulders covering them for protection, but what can you do to avoid the posture becoming permanent?


The answer is stretching out when warm and not just after training but anytime during the day.


There are a number of stretches you can do in order to help your shoulders go back into position.   Single arm stretches, double arm stretches and also partner stretches are all possible.


Minimal equipment is needed and you don’t have need have help although it’s better if you can get someone to help you with some of them.


Note:  All stretches should be held for at least 20 seconds.


  1. Wall Pushes.      With your arm horizontal, place the front of your body against a wall and turn your body away from the arm until it’s as far behind you as possible.You should feel a pull on the front of your shoulder.Repeat this with the arm low on the wall and again with it high on the wall.

  2. Resistance Band Stretches.       Tie a resistance band or bungee cord to a door handle or to the wall.Hold it in your hand with the arm held out to the side and pull the band tight and turn away from it as in Wall Pushes.This not only stretches the tendons at the front of the joint but it also opens the joint a little in order to help the stretch.

  3. Butterfly stretches.         Put your hands on the back of your neck and pull your elbows together in front while breathing in, then breathe out and push your elbows backwards.This is best done with the help of a friend who will gently pull the elbows back without jerking them until they are at the extent of their natural stretch and then put a little pressure on them.Repeat three times.


All these stretches will help, but remember to check your shoulder posture occasionally against the diagrams above by getting a friend to take a photograph while you are relaxing.You can also check by placing a flat ruler or pole across your chest and if you can touch it with both shoulders at rest, this means your shoulders are too far forward. Also look in the mirror and check if your head is slightly leaning to one side which shows you are protecting an injury or leaning towards a shortened muscle.


In any part of life, a hunched back means back problems later on, but with competition fighting, it can mean back problems now, and performance issues so it’s always best to sort it quickly.


Sports therapists see a large range of ailments, most of them resulting from either wear and tear or old injuries reoccurring, but a lot of them also result from bad posture.

© Total Therapy 2016.  Do not reproduce in any part on your own site without crediting and linking to this page.

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© Total Therapy 2016.  Do not reproduce in any part on your own site without crediting and linking to this page.