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has anyone evened out their shoulders through weight lifting?

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
Right now, much to my tailors' chagrin I have un-even shoulders that are also pitched forward. I've been working my traps with shrugs and I think I'm starting to see them even-out a bit but it could just be placebo effect at this point.

Has anyone corrected a fairly big asymmetry by lifting weights? This also got me thinking that maybe they will help to pull my shoulders back as well.

I always stretch my chest after I lift to avoid my shoulders being pulled forward even more, but I've read that one reason for forward shoulders is that people that sit at computers all day over-stretch their connective tissue and so there's no resistance to hold their shoulders back. Consequently they have to consciously think about it all the time. As i build back muscle I was thinking that if I don't do stretches for my back muscles, my shoulders might gradually be pulled back as the muscles tighten.

Any thoughts?
post #2 of 9
As much as you probably don't want to hear this, I would suggest seeing a doctor.

While not a doctor myself, I am an avid weightlifter, and have seem multiple individuals with skeletal issues resulting in asymmetry. For instance, a good friend of mine, also a gifted powerlifter had a significant imbalance which resulted from one leg being slightly shorter than the other. With time and a special insole, this problem was solved.

Regarding the pitched forward element, Eric Cressey wrote one of the better articles that I have seen on T-nation.

Here is the link to the fourth part, which includes links to the other three sections.
http://www.t-nation.com/readTopic.do?id=472224
post #3 of 9
My right shoulder is , for a lack of better term, jacked. Has been getting worse and I have noticed that with time it is starting to slouch forwards and down. Frankly I don't know what to do about it. Will need to go for a third time to a doctor and ask for help. Last two responses were "well, you probably have over-elastic joints, do light weights but don't pull it out" and "exercise it because it your muscles are too weak". Easier said than done. Every kendo and iai practice session is painful and uncomfortable for me at this point. My advice would be that if you have any sort of problems in your shoulders that look like they could be getting worse, check them out. Edit: I mean what Sartorial Sheepdog mentioned. Doctor.
post #4 of 9
Thread Starter 
awesome link. thanks man.

Skalgore, that's a typical doc response. I just saw an athlete friend of mine who missed the 2004 olympics 5000m by 1 second and who is also a physiology masters student and he said that when it comes to this sort of thing, most doctors are pretty useless. He said he doesn't even listen to them anymore. He came to that realization after going through 5-6 of them before finding one that knew what he was talking about.

Anyway, I have a doctors appointment next week so i'll ask about seeing a physiotherapist while I'm there.
post #5 of 9
I would ask your doctor to refer you to a physio or better yet an athletic therapist (they specialize in sport injuries and can give you much better suggestions on exercise). I dislocated my right shoulder a few years ago and subsequently my right arm is slightly longer than my left. A program suggested by my physio (who deals mostly with athletes) helped ensure I returned to my preinjury strength and any issues I have are minimized.

A.
post #6 of 9
GQgeek, having one shoulder lower than the other is a result of stretched ligaments and usually shows up on the dominant side (i.e. the right shoulder is lower for right-handers). I don't think it can be corrected by weightlifting, but perhaps by stretching (overstretching) the shoulder ligaments on the other side ( joking, this is not something you want to do). Having shoulders pitched forward is, however, something that can be corrected, but it takes dedication, hard work, and I would recommend the help of a medical professional.

The basic strategy for the shoulders is to strengthen the muscles that hold them back (the trapesius and rhomboid muscles), stretch the opposing muscles (the pectorals) and train yourself to sit and walk with shoulders held back *and down*. And when I say train yourself, I mean that eventually the posture with shoulders back should be your relaxed, most comfortable posture, achieved without effort.

I'm not a medical doctor, so how do I know this? Because I have similar issues and I'm working on them with a very good osteopath. Here's what I've done:

Since I'd been developing various pains for a number of years (low back, right hip, under the right shoulder blade) and they were getting progressively worse, I saw an osteopath in June 2005, on the recommendation of two different friends who were treated by him. He took X-rays to show me the asymmetries of my skeletal structure, including shoulders rounded forward. He had me fitted for orthotics (shoe inserts) to level my hips and began manipulations much like a chiropractor (except unlike a chiropractor, an osteopath is an MD). He also prescribed daily stretching and, later, weightlifting. After weekly manipulations and 1 to 1 1/2 hours of daily stretching for about 3 months, I began to see miraculous progress (straightening of the lower spine, no hip pain, etc.). Then he started me on a weightlifting program, primarily to strengthen my back muscles. After slightly more than a year, my lower back is straighter than it's been since I was about 13 (I'm now 45), my hip pain is gone, my shoulders are less rounded, the pain under my right shoulderblade is usually gone and when it recurs I have a stretch that gives me relief. I still have low back pain, primarily because I'm aggressively stretching my very tight lower back and hips. I've made tremendous progress, but I still have a long way to go before my shoulders (and upper back) are straightened.

So if you want to start down this road, I recommend you find a *good* medical professional such as an osteopath (Be forewarned that osteopaths are not held in high regard by the rest of the medical profession, but I consider them just another specialist. In contrast, two GPs whom I told about my pains were totally useless). I expect that I got lucky when I found my osteopath and you may need to visit 5-6 doctors before finding one who can help. Then take responsibility for your own rehabilitation (because that's what it is; I'm rehabbing from 25 years of sitting at a desk) and recognize that it may take years of stretching and exercise to get where you want to be. Since you're younger than I am, I expect the process will be easier and quicker for you, though.

For me, even though I studied martial arts for 8 years and consequently know how to stretch, and stretch aggressively without hurting myself, it may take me several more years of vigorous stretching and daily weightlifting (currently a 5 day split) to adjust my posture. In fact, I consider it a lifestyle change and a commitment I've made for the rest of my life. But I'll also tell you, I took care of my mother for the last 14 months of her life and I *do not* want to walk hunched over, unable to straighten up, as she did. On the positive side, I can now control muscles in my trunk that I never knew existed a year ago, I look better, feel better, feel better about myself, and I've gained 10 lbs. since I started weightlifting (and at 6'3" and now 170 lbs., I'm the very definition of a hardgainer). I only wish I'd done this 20 years ago; I'm convinced it would have been much easier.

I know this is more than you ever wanted to know about me, but I hope the information is helpful. Good luck!!
post #7 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by GQgeek
Right now, much to my tailors' chagrin I have un-even shoulders that are also pitched forward. I've been working my traps with shrugs and I think I'm starting to see them even-out a bit but it could just be placebo effect at this point.

Has anyone corrected a fairly big asymmetry by lifting weights? This also got me thinking that maybe they will help to pull my shoulders back as well.

I always stretch my chest after I lift to avoid my shoulders being pulled forward even more, but I've read that one reason for forward shoulders is that people that sit at computers all day over-stretch their connective tissue and so there's no resistance to hold their shoulders back. Consequently they have to consciously think about it all the time. As i build back muscle I was thinking that if I don't do stretches for my back muscles, my shoulders might gradually be pulled back as the muscles tighten.

Any thoughts?

I've got pretty strong shoulders and they're dead even in strength and appearance, took work...

but traps could possibly be because you're using DBs... if you use a bar, you'll even out more because that forces a bit more consistency. To get rid of the hunched look you'll have to do fly's to strengthen the back of your shoulders (rhomboids). It also comes from the common imbalance of chest vs back... what a lot of gym rats call "flamingos", people who just do bis and chest.
post #8 of 9
Thread Starter 
Thinman, it seems like you and I are a lot alike in our problems.

However, my shoulders are evening out with the weight-lifting alone. I had a 3/8" difference in drop on my right (dominant) vs. my left. It's almost imperceptible now.

I'm definitely going to try and see an osteopath. However, it takes forever to see specialists in canada. It sounds like you got lucky with yours because my pro athlete friend went through about six of them (osteopaths, not GPs) before finding a good one.

In the meantime i'm gonna continue building mass and then switch over to the t-nation program suggested above once i've achieved my weight goals. I exhibit a lot of the problems in the article and I think that it will help. It won't do anything for the uneven hips though.

Btw, how bad was your posture before you took corrective action, did you have really bad lordosis and kyphosis?

Anyway, I appreciate all the offers of advice. Hopefully in a years time I'll have this all straightened out.
post #9 of 9
GQgeek, I'm amazed that you've been able to even out your shoulders, even partially, by weightlifting! Good for you!! I hope you'll keep at it and also find a good osteopath.

No doctors have ever used the terms kyphosis or lordosis to describe my skeletal structure, so I don't think it was severe, but I could see in the mirror that I had both kyphosis and lordosis and, more importantly, the pain and stiffness were affecting my lifestyle (The osteopath did tell me while we were looking at my X-rays that I had a 55 degree pelvic tilt, whereas the average pelvic tilt is 45 degrees). As an example of my unbalanced musculature, I could put my palms flat on the floor with my legs straight, but I couldn't flatten my lower back against the floor while lying down. We also discovered during manipulations that the vertebrae in my neck and back weren't moving individually, but in units of 3-4. I still have work to do, but the relaxed position of my lower back is now much straighter, I can voluntarily straighten my low back completely, and my cervical and thoracic vertebrae move individually (Yay!!).

I've tracked down the source of my osteopath's stretching exercises that seem to be working so well for me. If you want to stretch along with your weightlifting, I suggest you consider buying a copy of "Stretching" by Bob Anderson and Jean Anderson (the paperback is $11.53 on amazon.com. The usual disclaimers apply: I'm not affiliated with the authors, publishers, etc. in any way). My osteopath has me doing a routine very much like the "Everyday Stretches" on p. 108, supplemented with some stretches for my pectorals and lower back/hips, which are still very tight, but progressing nicely. I do the stretches after lifting, as recommended for increasing flexibility. I'll also mention that my osteopath's philosophy is to align the ends (head/neck and legs/hips) so the body will help adjust everything in between. He believes that proper orthotics and perhaps heel lifts to even the height of the hips are critical, so I'll suggest (strongly) once again that you find a good osteopath as soon as you can.

Good luck and keep us posted on your progress!
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