How To Fix Rounded Shoulders 2023: Effective Exercises & Stretches

Reviewed by Dr. Drew Sutton, MD

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how to fix rounded shoulders

After going to the gym and lifting weights for a few months, I realized that my posture and shoulders started to round and cave in. This was giving me problems, like headaches and shoulder/back pain. With the advice of a personal trainer, I discovered that my training program was chest and front-shoulder dominant, which was a causal factor for my problem.

I changed my training program by reducing chest and shoulder work then included a few posture-specific exercises and stretches. HEY PRESTO! My problem was cured within a few months. For this reason, we want to share some important insights regarding the rounded shoulder posture and highlight 7 interventions that could fix it

What Is Rounded Shoulders Posture?

Without getting into unnecessary detail, the rounded shoulder posture is where the shoulders and neck appear to roll forward[1]. This is usually accompanied by a thoracic kyphosis[2], more formally understood as the back slumped forward. 

Rounded shoulders come with a whole host of problems as you will learn shortly. Nevertheless, poor posture can be overcome with specific interventions that will discuss in a reasonable amount of detail. 

how to fix rounded shoulders

Why Postures’s So Important?

Injury Risk

Poor slumped posture is unnatural and puts an excruciating amount of stress on the muscles, bones, tendons, and ligaments. For this reason, it can put one at risk of injuries like shoulder sprain and spinal damage[3]. By maintaining a healthy posture, you can reduce the risk of these injuries


Poor posture puts tension around the areas that connect to the head. This can cause exertion-type headaches. We can easily avoid this problem by maintaining good posture. This can be through exercise and maintaining good sitting and walking habits. 


When the posture is not aligned with a neutral shoulder, neck, and upper back position (rounded upper), the pathway of air can be obstructed to some extent. This is because the pathway of air starts from the nose and mouth and patches through the throat to the stomach area. Another great reason for highlighting good posture.

Common Causes Of Rounded Shoulders

There are a couple of reasons why the shoulders may become rounded which have been stated below. 

Incorrect Resistance Training 

Lifters usually present overactive and overgrown anterior muscles[4] like the chest and front of the shoulders. This coupled with weaker posterior muscles like the back of the shoulders, upper back, and outer back can make shoulders roll forward.

Incorrect Seating Position 

It is very common for people to slouch over[5]at the workspace for extended periods. Over time this can cause a poor poster and the rounded shoulders from becoming overactive. Stay tuned and find out how you can adjust your seating position to maintain a healthy poster.

How To Fix Rounded Shoulders FAST: 7 Effective Exercises

Rounded shoulders can be addressed through posture exercises. We have highlighted some simple exercises that can be performed.

Thoracic Extension

The thorax is the upper spine. By performing thoracic extensions you will draw movements like scapular retraction (pinning shoulder blades backward) and upper arm extension (pulling upper arm backward).

These movements would likely target the muscles of the trapezius (middle upper back) and 

posterior deltoids (back of the shoulder). Strengthening these muscle groups may help correct rounded shoulders and poor posture. 

One of the most common variations of the thoracic extension is from the pronated position. So basically, an individual would lay on the ground flat on their stomach and chest, then pull the upper back backward while keeping the rest of the back and lower body static as possible. 

Another key focus during the exercise is to pin the shoulder blades together and squeeze the upper arm back. In terms of reps, my general recommendation is 15-failure for 3-5 sets depending on your exercise level. 

Band Over-And-Backs

Another exercise is the band over-and-backs. The movements during this exercise are shoulder abduction (bringing the upper arm away from the body) external rotation of the shoulders (twisting backward) scapular elevation, retraction, and depression (moving the shoulder upwards, back, and down).

All in all, these movements would stimulate the muscles of the middle shoulder muscles, rotator cuff, and whole trapezius. Strengthening these back muscle groups can help balance the frame and address the rounded shoulder posture. 

So if you are interested in trying this exercise out you would stand up with the feet shoulder-width apart and the core muscle braced. Grasping a resistance band from each end you would pull it outwards around hip height. From here, keeping the band close to the body, lift it above the head. 

Now start thinking about pinning the shoulder blades back and twisting the upper arm back so the band is in line with the lower back. Rep to this movement as many times as possible for 3-5 sets. I understand that with bad posture, flexibility can be a big issue, so not everyone will possess the flexibility to maneuver this exercise.

Band Pull-Apart

For those who do not have the flexibility to perform the previous movement, you could always opt for the band pull-apart. The band pull-apart also extends the upper arm and retracts the scapula. As you know, these movements will stimulate the trapezius and posterior deltoids. 

Without a doubt a brilliant exercise to fix rounded shoulder posture. 

Grasping a resistance band at each end around chest height, you would simply pull it apart horizontally and stretch as far as possible. I usually recommend holding and squeezing at the shoulder blade with the arms in an extended position for 2-3 seconds. This may activate more muscle fibers. 

Overhead Band Pull-Apart

A similar exercise is the overhead band pull-apart. This exercise works around the shoulder blade and upper arm movements. So there is no surprise that it will draw the muscles of the back and back of the shoulders. 

We already know that strengthening these muscles can correct posture. What’s unique about the overhead band pull-apart is that it adducts the upper arm (pulling the upper arm closer to the body). This will activate the latissimus dorsi or lats for short (outer back muscles). Strengthening the lats can also help promote good posture.

Simply grasp a resistance band over the head and pull it apart as far as possible. Personally, I pull it so that my hands are in line with my hips. 

Wall Slides

The wall slide is another exercise that is great for the mobility of the shoulder. It typically strengthens the rotator cuff muscles. To perform this exercise you would simply press your back against the wall and rotate the arms outwards in a shoulder press position with the knees bent. You would then slowly slide the arms up and down the wall. 

Trigger Point Release For Chest Muscle

Trigger point therapy is a great method for addressing muscle imbalances by loosening tight muscles. In the case of presenting a rounded shoulder position, it is possible that the chest muscles have become overactive and tight, overpowering the muscles of the back. 

Using an object like a tennis ball or a foam roller, an individual can put pressure on the most tender area and press into it to release the tissue. Laying flat on top of the object (front of the body), find the most painful spot and press and roll into it for 30-40 seconds. Once the trigger point has been released, stretch the upper arm/chest for 30-40 seconds. Repeat this exercise 3-4 times per session. 

Doorway Stretch

The doorway stretch can help loosen out the muscles in the chest and can work great with trigger point therapy. Simply stand in between the doorway and place the forearms on the frame and slowly stretch the chest. 

Tips For Improving Posture

Keep Your Back Straight And Shoulders Back

The walking position would be to stand in a natural upright position with the shoulders pinned back with the chest out. A simple intervention like this could go a long way in maintaining a proper posture.

Use Your Phone Or Computer At Your Eye Level

If you recall that most cases of shoulder rounding are due to poor seated positions. While working on your computer or phone, make sure that you are sitting upright against the chair, with the shoulder pinned back and the device at eye level. This is considered the correct position. In the long halt, this may prevent the posture and shoulder joints from caving in from overactivity.  

Are There Exercises And Workouts I Should Avoid If I Have Rounded Shoulders?

If you already present rounded shoulders, you should avoid the following. 

Poor Bench Press Form

A lot of lifters tend to press from the front of the shoulders. Not only does this overwork the front of the shoulder it also takes the tension away from the chest muscles. To fix the bench press form to prevent overworking the front of the shoulder, you could pin back the shoulder blades/shoulder joint and arch at the back slightly. This will take most of the tension away from the shoulders and put it on the chest muscles.

Too Many ‘Push Days’

Many of the ‘gym rats’ (frequent lifters for strength and size gains) put extra focus on the push days, which include working muscles of the chest, shoulder, and triceps. This can cause a muscular imbalance between the front and back of the trunk. In turn, creating rounded shoulders. 

My general suggestion would be to not neglect the muscles of the back and not overemphasize the muscles of the front. Now I understand that some individuals may need to focus on the push-based muscles due to possessing weaker genetics in those areas.

Front Delt Raises

Front delt raises isolate the front shoulder muscles, thereby making them overactive, especially if you are already working them from other exercises like the bench press, shoulder press, overhead press, etc. The last thing we want is to strengthen an already overactive muscle. 

High Incline Shoulder Press 

The incline shoulder dumbbell press puts extra emphasis on the front deltoid muscle. As mentioned, If they are already overactive, this exercise will only make them worse. Instead, you could place the bench in a more vertical position, which may put work on other areas of the shoulder like the mid-deltoid.

Overhead Press

During the overhead press, you are literally pressing a bar above the head from a standing position and from the front of the body. Regarding the bar positioning and pathway, the front deltoids would be the prime mover of the exercise. This is a no-go for those who have rounded shoulders from tight muscles.


The rounded shoulder is a common problem that can negatively affect the quality of our lives in many ways.  

It is usually caused by poorly put-together exercise interventions and/or poor sitting and standing techniques. 

Not to worry, as this problem can be addressed by the 7 interventions that we mentioned above. We must also make sure we observe proper sitting and standing techniques. 

The 4 exercises/exercise techniques mentioned above should be avoided if you present a rounded shoulder as they are the main culprits for worsening the issue and even causing injury. 

As a final message, avoid rounded shoulders at all costs. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use weight instead of a resistance band?

Yes! So any exercise that helps build the muscles of the back and back of the shoulder, i.e., machine rows.

What does training back do for the shoulder rounding?

Strengthens the muscles to fix any muscle imbalance and pin the shoulder back

Does a back brace improve posture?

Perhaps for the short term, but it can make the problem worse at times because they actually take the work off the postural muscles of the back, which need to be strengthened.

+ 5 sources

MIDSS adheres to strict procurement guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutes, and medical associations. We work mainly with peer-reviewed studies to ensure the accuracy of the information. We avoid the use of tertiary references. You can read about how we ensure the accuracy and timeliness of our content in our editorial process.

  1. Lee, D.Y., Nam, C.W., Sung, Y.B., Kim, K. and Lee, H.Y. (2017). Changes in rounded shoulder posture and forward head posture according to exercise methods. Journal of Physical Therapy Science, [online] 29(10), pp.1824–1827. doi:10.1589/jpts.29.1824.
  2. NHS Choices (2023). Overview – Kyphosis. [online] Available at: [Accessed 19 Jan. 2023].
  3. NHS Choices (2023). Overview – Kyphosis. [online] Available at: [Accessed 19 Jan. 2023].
  4. YAMAK, B. (2018). Egzersizin Vücut Duruşu Üzerine Etkileri. Journal of Turkish Studies, 13(Volume 13 Issue 18), pp.1377–1388. doi:10.7827/turkishstudies.13911.
  5. YAMAK, B. (2018). Egzersizin Vücut Duruşu Üzerine Etkileri. Journal of Turkish Studies, 13(Volume 13 Issue 18), pp.1377–1388. doi:10.7827/turkishstudies.13911.


Zaakir Shakoor, Nutritionist
Nutrition, Exercise & Health Specialist/Writer
Zack Shakoor Kayani was born and raised in the South East of England/London. Zack has attained a bolus of knowledge regarding biosciences through academia and his career experiences. In terms of his educational background, he has a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology (Hons.), a Postgraduate diploma in sports nutrition with the International Olympic Committee, and a Master of Science in Nutritional Sciences from Middlesex University. Zack has been fortunate enough to apply his Exercise Science and Nutrition Knowledge to aid Hundreds if not Thousands of Patients and Athletes, providing 1-1 consultation, Personal training, Information sheets, offering recommendations to collate nutrition and exercise programs, etc. Not to mention, in 2022, he authored a book called 'The 'Good' Coach Weight Loss Solution.


Drew is a retired ENT doctor who now lives in the Southeastern US. He was a member of the American Academy of Otolaryngology and a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons. He has a bachelor’s degree in Biology and Psychology and an MD degree. He completed his internship in General Surgery and Residency in Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and practiced for almost 30 years in all aspects of ENT, including a specialization in disorders of the ear and skull base. Drew is passionate about communicating his clinical experiences and making his knowledge more accessible to the general public by medical writing.

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