3 Mobility Exercises to Prevent Upper-Crossed Syndrome

STACK Expert Bryan McCall explains upper-crossed syndrome and how correctly this mobility and posture issue can increase strength and improve your performance.

Upper-Body Stretch

Many athletes suffer from upper-crossed syndrome, a forward rounding of the shoulders and back, which impairs skill technique, reduces strength and raises the risk of injury.

Tight chest and upper back muscles and weak mid-back muscles cause the poor forward posture that characterizes upper-crossed syndrome. Two of its common origins are performing excessive pressing exercises—like the Bench Press—without adequately strengthening the back; and sitting hunched over too often and for too long. (Learn how to eliminate back pain.)

When your upper body is tight, it seeks mobility somewhere else. For example, if you throw a ball with a tight chest and upper back, your shoulder may be forced to compensate and move out of its natural range of motion. Not only will you not be able to throw as hard or as accurately, it can eventually lead to a debilitating injury.

Correcting upper-crossed issues will ensure that you can throw, swing or shoot without your muscles restricting your technique. Plus, eliminating tightness and poor posture lets your muscles move through their full range of motion, which is key for maximizing strength.

Perform these three essential upper-body mobility exercises to stay mobile and prevent upper-crossed syndrome.

Quadruped Reach and Roll

Loosens muscles that extend the back, which are critical for maintaining technique when your arm is overhead for throwing or swinging.

  • Kneel on ground, sit hips back onto ankles and fold chest toward ground
  • Extend arms overhead onto ground and move head to ground
  • Rotate hands outward so palms face ceiling
  • Hold for one to two seconds
  • Repeat for specified reps

Sets/Reps: 2-3x8-12 each side

Bent-Knee Crossover

Improves upper-body rotation, a key ingredient for adding power to your game.

  • Lie on back with arms out to side
  • Bend right knee and hip to 90-degree angle, keeping opposite leg straight on ground
  • Drape right thigh across body and pull to ground with left hand
  • Keep right arm and shoulder on ground
  • Hold for one to two seconds
  • Repeat for specified reps
  • Perform on opposite side

Sets/Reps: 2-3x8-12 each side

Rotator Cuff Stretch

Releases tightness that occurs when the shoulders are rounded forward to decrease the chance of an overuse injury.

  • Lie on side with bottom elbow on ground and tight to side
  • Bend elbow to 90 degrees and allow forearm to fall naturally to ground
  • Push wrist to ground with opposite hand until stretch is felt
  • Hold for one to two seconds
  • Release pressure and repeat

Sets/Reps: 2-3x8-12

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