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If you are looking to fix your forward head posture then you are in the right place.
In this guide I share my secret routine of keeping my posture intact (even with all that sitting and computer work).
It’s based on a smart combination of releasing and activating exercises that are very easy to build into your daily routine.
Forward Head Posture
Unlike many people think, forward head posture isn’t just about your neck muscles.
In fact, it can easily start all the way down from tight hips!
It’s important to understand that your body is an interconnected chain of muscles, ligaments, fascia and other connective tissue.
This is why very often conventional exercises like neck stretches and chin tucks don’t really work…or better put – really don’t work.
I covered Vladimir Janda’s (he was a prolific neurologist and physiotherapist) upper cross syndrome in my core exercises for posture article and it applies to forward head posture just as much.
As you can see from this common and highly predictable pattern, a forward head posture has the following characteristics which all need to be addressed together.
- Pectoralis minor muscles in your chest are tight. This brings your shoulders forward resulting in a rounded shoulders posture.
- Muscles at the back of your neck and shoulder trapezius muscles are also tight. This contributes to painful neck pain (from osteochondrosis) and headaches.
In essence, your tight overused muscles are pushing you into forward head posture while the muscles that need to be balancing out that push are dormant (this happens when they are not used frequently).
That applies to:
- Rhomboids, your back muscles that are sitting in your upper back. They are responsible for pulling your shoulder blades together so if you are not using them you end up with that upper back hump (thoracic hyperkyphosis to be specific).
- Neck flexors that are muscles located in your throat area.
Fixing Forward Head Posture In X Simple Steps
Now that we identified what’s the problem, let’s talk solution!
Here is a set of exercises you need to perform twice a day for the first 4 weeks.
Exercise 1: Pectoralis Minor Release & Stretch
Releasing a muscle by using a significant enough amount of pressure acts as a way to tell that muscle that it needs to relax.
In other words, you are trying to overload it with a stimulus (pressure is a stimulus) so that it becomes overwhelmed and just “gives up” by completely relaxing.
Once that happens (and you release that muscle), you will need to stretch it.
So for releasing the pec minor I like to just lie down on my back and use some sort of a stick (or a theracane) to press down into the area where my pec minors are located.
I start feeling muscles twitching almost immediately but sometimes it can take 2-3 minutes to even things out on one side.
Remember to work along the muscle as well moving the stick around the initial pressure point.
Another variation of this release comes from working the same spot with a massage/tennis/lacrosse ball.
You’d instead lie on your belly with the ball stuck in about the same area while moving your arm up and down.
Now that’s done, it’s time to further stretch your pecs.
All you need is 60-90 seconds per side – here is what it looks like.
By the way, you can definitely think about getting a posture corrector that would literally pull you into a healthy posture.
Right, got it stretched out? Good!
Now to the next side.
Exercise 2: Thoracic Spine Mobilization
Upper back (aka thoracic spine) contributes to forward head posture so we need to fix it.
I highly recommend you get a quality foam roller for this exercise…if you don’t have one for now, skip to the next exercise but get the foam roller so you are ready next time!
Now you need to lie down on your back and place the roller right under your thoracic spine (upper back).
First, foam roll both sides of your upper back – they need to be mobile and flexible.
I recommend 7-10 reps per side.
Next – we are going to work to diminish that upper back hump by extending our upper back backward and flexing it forward.
Here is what it looks like.
Again, I recommend doing 7-10 reps of this opener.
- Make sure you are working your upper back instead of actually bending your lower back (this is a very common mistake)
- Breathe! It’s really important that you inhale and exhale generously – that alone really helps to mobilize those tight muscles between your ribs
Exercise 3: Thoracic Spine Opener
I love this opener because it’s just sooooo enoyable!
All you need is a towel that you would roll together.
Make sure it’s not too thick – you need to be comfortable while lying down (doing nothing 😀 ).
Once you got the towel rolled, put it on the floor right under your spine (it will go between your shoulder blades) and just lie down on it just like this.
As your upper back is now extended you will feel pretty awesome right away!
You will notice how, all of a sudden, you are able to inhale so much more air while being so much more relaxed!
The goal of this opener is to help your muscles “sink in” into this new (or long forgotten?) healthy posture so I would spend in this position 3-5 minutes but…you can go for longer – it’s good for you. 😉
Exercise 4: Rhomboids Work
Time to activate the muscles that will pull your thoracic spine back – it’s time to work on those rhomboids!
Here is the exercise that I like a lot because it’s simple enough to start and, when you progress, it’s quite easy to make it hard. 😀
- Lie down on your belly and put your arms apart
- Externally rotate your shoulders so that your thumbs are pointing upwards
- Take your arms off the floor while keeping your thumbs pointing upwards
- Do 10 reps with 5 second holds in the raised position
Notice that I am a little uneven – it’s important to look for those imbalances (in my case, my right dominant side pec is tighter so my right arm is trying to go higher because it’s easier that way).
Also pay attention to upper traps – they shouldn’t engage when you do these raises!
Exercise 5: Neck Wall Segmentations
I have no idea how to actually call this exercise but I learned it at a seminar by Ido Portal when he arrived to Dublin in 2013.
You’d stand close to the wall with your back facing it.
While you are at it, you slowly lean back and touch the wall with the back of your head and gradually, vertebra by vertebra, make the wall contact with the rest of your spine.
You would then return into a starting position (also going vertebra by vertebra) and repeat the same thing for 7-10 reps.
This move allows to free up muscles in the back of your neck while activating the ones in your throat area – exactly what you’d want to do with the forward head posture.
It’s also a lot better to work on them dynamically instead of using any static stretches or two dimensional movements like chin tucks.
Exercise 6: Serratus Wall Slides
Another hugely important set of muscles that helps to maintain a healthy posture and takes an active part in helping you to develop a forward head posture – serratus anterior.
Before we start doing the exercise I suggest you use the foam roller once again and go over both of your serratus aneriors.
Between 5 and 7 reps is all it would take.
After that stand facing the wall and assume a position as if you were down on the floor performing a standard ab plank.
Next – while holding that position – make sure you are actually rounding your back.
It is a position you would need to maintain during the duration of the exercise.
You would then slide your elbows up the wall (with your arms still being on the wall too) trying to extend them and then return in the starting position.
Here is what it looks like.
Take a note of how it goes for both sides because sometimes there is an imbalance (it’s usually on the same side as your tighter pec, which is usually on a dominant side).
Exercise 7: Dynamic Neck Stabilizers
Last but not least…
A simple but very effective exercise that I learned from a Russian doctor (or maybe a physio – I don’t really remember).
You would assume a neutral neck position (after all the previous exercises that should be almost automatic).
Then you would start performing very subtle dynamic neck moves starting from the up/down pattern first.
You’d then switch to the left/right pattern and do the same thing.
If you suffer from osteochondritis-induced neck pain, this exercise will help you in no time!
Here is how it looks like.
Fixing forward head posture requires quite a lot of stimuli to begin with.
This is why I recommend from starting doing these exercises 2 times per day for the first 3 weeks.
After that you can maintain your progress with just one single “workout”.
Just one more point about perseverance and “sticking to it”.
These exercises are simple and literally take 10 minutes to do but…you have to do them because they work!