The new challenge – to improve posture

The New Challenge

Following on from the running challenge I set myself earlier this year, I’ve now set myself a six-week upper body challenge, to improve posture. I’m actually halfway through the six weeks, so I thought it was high time I write about it!
The exercises I’ve given myself are low intensity with the focus on correct set-up and positioning. There are eight in total but I wanted to talk about one in particular as I find it quite challenging and would be interested to hear other people’s experience with it.

I am aiming to complete 30 repetitions of each of the eight exercises, once a day, for at least five days of the week if not more. I’ll keep you updated with how I get along.

The shoulder W-exercise

The set-up (see photo below):

  • Gently squeeze the shoulder blades together
  • Chin tucked in
  • Holding the theraband at hip height initially, move the hands out and away from each other so this increases the tension on the band
Once set-up – keep the tension between shoulder blades and with the theraband


  • Raise and lower the arms to shoulder height.
Improve posture
Starting position – squeeze shoulder blades and pull theraband so there’s tension there
Improve posture
Keep everything on tension and raise the arms up to shoulder height
Sounds easy? Try it and find out…and then let me know!

What not do to..

Below is a suggestion of what not to do…rounded shoulder and head forwards. Watch out for setting yourself up correctly. Mirrors can help with feedback or have someone watch your set-up and give verbal feedback. Photos and videos using phones can be helpful too.
Improve posture
Poor position of shoulder and head too far forwards

When teaching this in the clinic setting I tend to find the shoulder blade squeeze eases when the arms start to raise up. This I find is one of the hard parts to the exercise, yet one of the reasons to continue doing the exercise. If the shoulder blade muscles switch off that easily it’s telling us that they’re weak and likely not doing the job they should do (keeping the shoulder blades together and so keeping us in a more upright position).
For myself, it wasn’t the muscles not working around the shoulder blades that was an issue, I actually found I was using muscles that didn’t need to work. The muscles at the front of my neck seemed to be overworking, quite a lot it seemed. Which means I’m activating my neck muscles to help me lift and lower my arms?!
I also found that my shoulders raised up (as if I was shrugging them) the higher my arms were raised.
If I had continued, despite getting increased neck muscle and shoulder activation, I would be reinforcing a poor movement pattern and building on the neck and shoulder muscles (which I don’t want). The reason for doing the exercise is to target the muscles in between the shoulder blades. This helps strengthen the back of the shoulder, keeping me upright (which I do want)
So, what to do…?

The Solution:

It’s always better to do fewer repetitions of quality exercises than lots of repetitions. Sometimes you may need to adapt the exercise to ensure you’ve kept the quality. 
Using the exercise above as an example, I adapted it by not raising my arms up too high and stopped moving when I noticed an increase in activity of my neck muscles or noticed my shoulders raising – standing in front of a mirror helped with this. Any alterations in muscle activity indicated that I was starting to compensate. That was my cue to stop and return to the start position. Performing the exercise in this way, I have progressed from hardly moving my arms at all to being able to raise them up to my shoulder height.

Images courtesy of E.Arshamian, Physiotherapist and owner/director of Fortitude Physiotherapy