Solve Slouching: How to prevent a Kyphotic Posture

Solve Slouching: How to prevent a Kyphotic Posture


Rounded shoulders are seemingly everywhere in the general population. Some people may not consider this an issue when they are younger, but there are many problems postural kyphosis can cause or exacerbate if you do not fix kyphosis of the upper back in the long term. A few of these issues may be as severe as causing trouble breathing [The effect of body position on pulmonary function: a systematic review | BMC Pulmonary Medicine | Full Text (], limiting shoulder range of motion, and even causing more negative responses to stress [Do slumped and upright postures affect stress responses? A randomized trial - PubMed (]. In this article we will discuss what a kyphosis is, some common approaches many use to try and fix kyphosis, how it can affect your confidence levels, and finally, if can kyphosis be prevented or reversed.


What is postural kyphosis, and which weak muscles lead to one?

A postural kyphosis is when the upper back has an exaggerated curvature to the front of the body leading the shoulders to round, and the ribcage to tilt forward. The muscles in the upper abdomen and pecs are usually shortened when this occurs. On the opposite side of the body in the upper back, there is usually a lengthening of the erectors (muscles alongside the spine) in the upper back and lower trapezius muscles. The weakness is typically present in the longer muscles, but there is an even deeper problem that most people miss when they try to fix their kyphosis.



Common approaches to try and fix kyphosis

Some of the most common approaches to address a postural kyphosis are:

  • Stretching the pecs, lats and upper abdominal muscles
  • Exercises for the upper back (Y’s, T’s, W’s, Supermans, Prone Cobras)
  • Posture braces

Stretching the pecs and the upper abs may seem like a good place to begin trying to fix kyphosis, but what is overlooked in this attempt is the fact that other muscles should be engaging in our body to create the stretch. Other key components missing from stretching are the timing of how long stretches are held and the elastic recoil that leads to more effortless power when we use our muscles effectively in our daily lives.

By prioritizing specific muscular activations that support joints during the stretching of our muscles, we can improve our body’s ability to recoil and avoid causing imbalances from static stretching. A great example of how we need to coordinate muscular tension to create a stretch and then recoil is throwing.

In order to throw without causing injury, there needs to be tension dispersed across the entire body. Another great benefit about moving more correctly is that we can get to the root of what causes a postural kyphosis in the first place. In the throwing sequence just before the object you throw begins to move forward, there first needs to be muscular tension across the back of the body to support the stretch happening across the front of the torso in the wind up phase. The more coordinated and properly sequenced this is done, the more propulsive and sustainable the movement pattern will be. Although it may not be as clear when walking or doing more common tasks throughout the day like picking up a laundry basket, the same principles of coordinated muscle activations, stretch, and recoil need to be present in order to make our movements as safe, efficient, and sustainable as possible.

When searching for ways kyphosis can be prevented or reversed, another approach many come across are exercises to strengthen the upper back. Again some of the intuitive theories on how to address postural kyphosis may have some value, but the precision of how the techniques are applied will be what is most valuable when the outcome you desire is to fix kyphosis for the long term. Most exercises done with the intention of improving fitness or strength with sloppy technique can reinforce poor posture, but even executed with perfect technique, most workouts are not accounting for fundamental variables related to moving better and they won’t help you prevent a dysfunction like kyphosis.

Pre-existing imbalances in the body need to be targeted when firing the body’s muscles in a way that challenges one’s preset patterns of movement. Many traditional exercises like the barbell squat, deadlift, and back squat have limited ability to help you reorient your body for balanced movement because of the way they load the body. Exercises and machines that do not allow you to replicate forces you would use in standing, walking, running, or throwing can reinforce poor posture or imbalances in our bodies.

If you are precise enough with the way you load and position the body during corrective exercises to recreate forces that relate to standing, walking, running and throwing, you can create a more efficient pattern of how the body carries itself by connecting muscular activations between the lower and upper body. This will also allow you to create the stretch in the shortened muscles while simultaneously strengthening the weaker muscles that are allowing the upper back to round forward. Although what most methods unfortunately attempt to do, is isolate muscles without accounting for how they should work together in a pattern like throwing, or lifting a laundry basket. The way we disperse tension across all of our muscles, or fail to, is one of the most critical variables to master in order to avoid injury and causing further imbalance.

Results by Functional Patterns Practitioner: Jose Manuel Rodriguez

For the Functional Patterns method to get results that can reverse kyphosis as pictured, the way the muscles around the legs and pelvis relate to the upper body needs to be accounted for as well. The body works as an integrated system, so in order to avoid shifting imbalance from one area to another, we must take all the other parts into account when trying to address a specific issue. Most of the time, it is actually the way everything else relates to what seems like the problem area that needs to be addressed in order to make progress on an imbalance.

The final method many people may use to try and fix kyphosis are posture braces. These have the same problems as stretching and sloppy exercise technique combined. The reason being that the resistance placed on the body by a brace typically creates the opposite of the intended reaction. You may have felt the tendency to round your shoulders after using a heavy back-pack for a period of time. The same type of tension the straps of a backpack place on you can cause you to roll the shoulders forward to support it, making it similar to what many posture braces do but without the functionality of it being a bag as well. It is much wiser to use precise corrective exercises that activate the weaker muscles rather than provide these muscles in the upper back another reason to be weak and overly lengthened.

Kyphosis, the confidence killer

Humans have some of the most complex verbal communication of any species we know of; however, even with the variability of our language, most of our communication is non-verbal. In this study Power posing: brief nonverbal displays affect neuroendocrine levels and risk tolerance - PubMed ( the postures people held for even 1 minute of time were shown to increase testosterone and reduce stress hormones like cortisol when the position they were asked to hold was a more open posture.

The exact opposite effects were also seen for closed off and contracted postures like postural kyphosis. We may not give it a direct thought most of the time, but we are constantly using nonverbal cues from others' posture when communicating and even giving off many of our own. If we wish to present the most confident and capable version of ourselves, it seems like improving our posture is one of the most effective ways to do just that.


Can Kyphosis be reversed?

As previously noted, when it comes to the question of if kyphosis can be prevented or reversed, Functional Patterns has got your back. Using precise techniques with training oriented around improving how humans stand, walk, run, and throw we are able to reduce imbalances in all parts of the body. What may seem like a localized problem for the upper back is usually a deeper issue that includes how some of the large structures like the hips relate to the ribs and spine. For a hands on analysis of your own posture and feedback on how to specifically target compensations in your body without causing more imbalance, check out our practitioner map FP Practitioners | Train Intentionally, Not Habitually for the closest FP Practitioner near you. Many of our practitioners are also offering virtual training if an in person visit is not currently possible.


  1. The effect of body position on pulmonary function: a systematic review | BMC Pulmonary Medicine | Full Text (
  2. Do slumped and upright postures affect stress responses? A randomized trial - PubMed (
  3. Power posing: brief nonverbal displays affect neuroendocrine levels and risk tolerance - PubMed (
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