The Pain Free Athlete: Is Strength Training Ruining Your Posture?

The Pain Free Athlete

Is Strength Training Ruining Your Posture?

If you’re lifting weights without addressing postural disparities such as one shoulder higher than the other, a hip that is rotated forward or rounded shoulders then yes, your unbalanced posture is becoming stronger and more engrained with every repetition performed.

I’m not saying don’t resistance train if you have postural disparities, but rather use your resistance workout to improve your posture and muscle balance.

Many of my clients are particularly concerned about the rounding they are seeing in their upper back and shoulders. This posture is a consequence of our lifestyle habit of reaching out in front of us to do things ─ drive, type, cook, write, etc.

Our bodies respond to this repeated stimulus and change its alignment with the upper back muscles becoming overly stretched and the chest muscles becoming overly tight. The shoulders blades move apart, the head goes forward and we look at ourselves in the mirror and feel old. If we maintain this rounded position while performing resistance exercises we will only become stronger in this posture.

To correct this, regardless of what exercise you are performing  –  bench press, seated row, squat, biceps curl or abdominal crunch –  pinching your shoulder blades down and together is imperative to improving your upper body posture. An aligned upper body will also help you recruit your muscles more fully and build greater strength.

Shoulder position may seem unrelated to the mechanics of a lunge, but remember the whole body is connected. A rounded shoulder affects the pelvic position which can change the knee angle and the foot contact on the floor.

Pinching the shoulder blades prior to lifting, stretches the chest muscles and strengthens the upper back muscles both of which are needed for improved upper body alignment. Additionally, pinching the shoulder blades also stabilizes the shoulder joint and confines the range of motion for the exercise to prevent injury.

Shoulder position is only one posture to be concerned with when lifting. Additional positioning tips are listed below.

General Guidelines for All Exercises

  • Pinch the shoulder blades down and together.
  • Align the feet straight forward and hip-width apart.
  • Start on the machines until you have mastered proper muscle mechanics for the exercise.
  • Use light weights to avoid compensated movements, train the muscles you intend.

Bench Exercises: Relax your lower back without pushing it flat or over-arching.

Sitting Exercises: Roll your pelvis forward to a neutral position with your sit bones pointed straight down and your lower back slightly arched.

Abdominal Crunches

  • Place your hands behind the head with your fingers interlaced. Pull and hold your elbows and shoulders back to reduce the pressure on your head and neck.
  • Look straight up or slightly back, keeping your chin off your chest.
  • Allow natural pelvic movement, do not flatten and hold your back down.

Jessica Kisiel is a posture, fitness and resistance training certified professional. She offers classes for all ages and abilities. Her next session of classes starts this week including a new class, Aligned Core Conditioning at CrossFit Gym. Check out her offerings at