What Upper crossed syndrome is, why it's important, and specifically how to help your clients with it. Upper crossed syndrome, or UCS, is a muscle imbalance caused by weak, lengthened upper back and neck muscles on the posterior of your body, and tight, shortened chest and neck muscles on the anterior of your body. The symptoms of upper crossed syndrome can include shoulder pain, upper back pain, neck pain, rounded shoulders and a hunched posture, and headaches. The author of this article provides a 5-step plan for correcting upper crossed syndrome and helping restore proper posture.
“Human are supposed to move; we’re not adapted for a sedentary life.”
Do your clients have excellent posture? If they have a desk job, go to school, and/or spend lots of time in front of the computer or TV every day, then the answer is probably no.
So it’s no surprise that so many people show signs of muscle imbalance patterns, such as rounded shoulders, a forward head posture, and excessive anterior pelvic tilt. There’s a mismatch between our ancient physiology and the modern lifestyle. Humans are supposed to move; we’re not adapted for a sedentary life.
The two most common postural problems I’ve encountered when working as a personal trainer are anterior pelvic tilt and upper crossed syndrome (UCS).
Most trainers/coaches have probably experienced the same, and while some might have found effective ways of dealing with these postural deviations, many never seem to pay much attention to these types of syndromes.
It’s essential to be aware of and able to correct muscle imbalance patterns, as they often lead to poor exercise technique, compensation patterns, and injuries.
Treating UCS is also necessary for achieving peak athletic performance, as protracted shoulders will make it hard to train optimally (e.g., getting your chest up in the bench-press), and depression of the sternum could make it more difficult to breathe. Finally, correcting UCS will make you look better, as it will pull your shoulders back and make your chest/breasts look bigger.
1. Learn how to “set” the shoulders and tuck the chin
Many with UCS don’t know how to correctly retract their scapula and pull their shoulders down, so the first step when correcting this muscle imbalance pattern is to learn to “set the shoulders.” In a standing position, tuck your chin and pull your shoulders down and back by thinking about sticking your shoulder blades in your back pockets.
Having problems? There are a couple possible solutions
– Place a tennis ball under the chin. This forces you to tuck the chin.
– Place your hands on your clients shoulders to initiate the movement.
Begin by performing scapular retraction in a push-up position (pinch the shoulder blades together) or standing position with hands against the wall (think about pushing the wall).
Some people have to stay on this step for a while before they get it, while others get a grasp of things quickly. It’s important to memorize this movement, as it lays the basis for correcting UCS.