How to fix a Muscle Imbalance in the Neck and Shoulders

Hi, and welcome back.

In this video, we are going to talk about the upper extremities of posture deviation that some of us can have.

Now, if you are a truck driver, computer programer, or even a CEO of a major corporation, we all work on computers or work with our hands in front of us. A lot of the symptoms of this are if we get tightness right through our shoulders. Which a lot of us do and it keeps massage therapy in business. We also get headaches or tight neck muscles.

If you are working on a computer, your hands are probably in front of you and you are hunched over your desk all day long working on the computer. Or if you are driving a truck or working in a bakery; whatever profession you do, even school work now on the computer, or writing it out, or reading; they are always in front of you.

Now, that is a problem. We can still work and still be productive in society, go to school, and have a handle on our muscle imbalances at the same time. You just need to understand what it is.

There are two things that are happening to us. The first thing is our chest muscle, our pectoralis major and minor muscles. They do two actions. It brings our arm across our body this way and it pronates our arm like that.

Those are the two actions of our chest muscles. So, when you are in front of a computer all day long and you are typing away, your chest muscle is in a shortened position all day long.

Like the example of the bicep and tricep, when the bicep is overworked it can’t extend all the way. Well, the same thing happens from all the computer work, truck driving, factory work, dentistry, or whatever you do. It doesn’t matter. A lot of us have that forward hand motion because we work with our hands.

The side effect is, because it brings our arm across our body and pronates our arm, when we are done, we don’t have a squared shoulder posture. Our chest is tight and it pulls our shoulder forward and we pronate our arm.

Remember, the chest muscle does two things. It brings our arm across our body and it pronates the arm. So, when we are walking around, go and look in the mirror and see if your palms are facing behind you – I mentioned this in the article too – chances are, you’ve got an upper posture deviation where your chest is too tight. It should be like this where your palms are perfectly pointing right to the side of you, and it should be happening naturally without you thinking about it.

If you have to consciously go like this, yeah, I turned my palms, but I didn’t fix the problem in my chest. So, just by consciously thinking about your posture and moving your hands like that all day long, that didn’t do anything to what is going on up here.

So, when you do this test, make sure you don’t ruin it. Just look in the mirror and see whether you are like this or like this, or somewhere in between.

The second thing that happens; our lat muscles: If you lift up your arm and you see your armpit, you have a muscle in the front. That is your chest muscle. That is the tight muscle we just talked about.

The muscle in the back is your lat muscle. You have seen people in the gym do a lat pull down. Well, if you haven’t, and if you are not used to working out, our lat muscle does all our pulling action.

Imagine starting a chainsaw or a lawnmower. You are pulling. That is your lat muscle right back through here. So, this is the extension. This is the contraction because we pull the bar down. When you are on the computer it is in a shortened position.

What happens is, when that becomes too tight and you get up from the desk, your shoulder dips down forward like that. Now, you put two together. Your chest muscle comes across this way, so it pronates your arm, and then your shoulder dips forward.

So now, you are tight through here, but you are not going to walk around like this, kind of hunched forward. You are going to lift your head up and walk around like this, you don’t even know you have a problem.

Now, I feel tightness all the way through here, just by getting myself into that position. That is a problem for a lot of Americans. It will even cause your shoulder to hurt.

For those of you who are going to the gym and you are trying to work out, and you have this shoulder funk going on, you are trying to do some chest presses or pushups and it is just not feeling well, chances are your chest is too tight and your lats are too tight and it is causing some grinding in that shoulder joint.

So, we need to fix that upper posture balance prior to exercising. That is why I work on muscle imbalances with all of my clients prior to lifting really heavy.

Now, how do we solve this? For every muscle there is an opposite muscle. For every bicep there is a tricep. Well, the chest muscle happens to have an opposite muscle in the back.

So, in between our shoulder blades are our rhomboid muscles. See how I pinched my shoulder blades in the back? Those muscles bring the shoulder blades together. When we have that deviation because of all the keyboard work, we didn’t work our back muscles nearly enough throughout the day.

I know you are not working out during the day. You are focused on work tasks, but there are things we can do to counteract that. So, we have to stretch the chest muscle and work the rhomboids in the back in order to equal out that imbalance. And then over time, without you even thinking about it, your posture will be better. Your shoulders will be feeling better. And you can lift that 1000 pound chest press before you know it.

I know that sounds kind of funny and extreme, but apparently now there is a guy in California, an 85 year old man, who lifted 620 pounds dead lift right off the floor. Now, that is inspirational. I can even do that; so good job to him. That just goes to show you that anybody can do this stuff.

So now, the lats. For those of you who have been in the gym and you have seen that lat pull down machine… Now, what is this range of motion representing? What is the opposite range? It is when you push upwards. You pull down. You push up. If you had a weight in your hand you would be working your shoulder muscles.

Our deltoids, our shoulder muscles, are the opposite muscles to our lat muscles. When we are working all day, our shoulder muscles are in a lengthened position and they are not being worked at all unless you have to stack boxes on top of a storage shelve someplace. Then we might be working our shoulders.

But, if we are just at a computer desk or working at a factory with our hands in front of us, chances are we are not getting enough shoulder work in our loves. That lat muscles pulls that shoulder down. So, by stretching out our lat muscles, working out our shoulders, in a proper range of motion, mind you, just by…

You might see some shoulder press machines in the gym that are connected to a lever and you can go like this. But, notice my range of motion. I am going from here to here. I am not going from here to here; all the way up.

Remember the bicep example going from here to here? Yeah, I can do a bicep curl from here to here, but I am not able to extend all the way. Or I am able to do a tricep extension out to there, but I am not able to extend all the way.

Same thing. Those machines won’t help those shoulders go the full range of motion, not like a free weight or not like the specific muscle balance training exercises that I have in other videos that we are going to have for you to do to fix this.

You really have to stretch out the lats, work those shoulder muscles in a proper range of motion, stretch out the chest, work the rhomboids in the back, and bring those shoulders up there. Now I took a lot of that stress off.

I want to talk about headaches a little bit and neck stiffness. There is a reason why we are sore through here, for people who are. When your chest muscle is tight it brings that shoulder forward, and then your shoulder dips down forward because your lat is tight.

Then you feel the stretch out through here. It feels tight. Then you want to get a massage, but two hours later you feel that tightness again. It is because it is tight, but it is not tight like you think it is.

It is stretched like a drum. You can massage a snare drum all you want, but it is still going to be a snare drum and it is not going to loosen up. What you have to do is give it slack.

And because all these muscles are tight and that is your problem and chronic area, you have to know what is going on. It is because your chest muscle and your lat muscle are creating the tightness through here.

It is not because this needs massaged. You need to loosen up the chest muscles and your lats that are causing that. What is the cause of the problem? Not where is the pain, where is the cause so we can have a solution to it?

So, when we loosen up the chest muscles, again, our lat muscles – I repeat myself so you guys can understand – strengthen up the shoulders, strengthen up the back, when we release that, now these muscles all just relax, and now they are instantly feeling better on me.

I don’t need to go into that masseuse, even though a massage is great and I am not against it at all. I actually recommend it. It feels a lot better, and that is going to give you a permanent fix as opposed as just a temperamental fix, because you have got to solve the problems.

So, that is upper extremities and that is a brief description of how we can fix that. We are going to go into exercises later based on your specific needs in order to solve that through what I call form rolling, which is a self-myofascial release, which we will talk about later – the different formal exercises and the different exercises to target the shoulders and the rhomboids in order for you to get those results happening.

Our next video is going to talk about lower back pain and the Lumbo-Pelvic-Hip Complex, which is our hips and middle extremities, and how we can solve that.


23 comments… add one

  • I want to thank you sincerely. I have recently started an exercise class last week,
    to tone and lose inches. The next morning after my class, I was a wakened by this muscle under the left shoulder blade. Nothing I have been trying to do for pain is helping. Could you please tell me what exercise, or advice that will help this problem I have.

    I am trying the exercises you do on your videos for the shoulders.
    Thank you for having a website to assist people like me.
    Tanks again, Cheryl from beautiful NM

    • Jeff Gordon Parker

      Hi Cheryl,

      Your very welcome! I am glad to help. I just sent you an email with a link to one of my videos that I think will help you out. Please let me know if that helps.

      Cheers,

      Jeff

      • Stephen

        Hi, I just saw that your replied to this person about the pain underneath the shoulder blade. You then sent her a link to another video to help with that. I have the exact same problem and would appreciate direction to the same video.
        Thanks

  • Hi Jeff,

    I want to thank you not tank you, “lol.” Since I started the exercises you referred to me, I can feel some tension release in my left shoulder. When you explain how the muscles work together, I know how I hurt myself. I am so embarrassed, that I can not even lift five pound weights. By watching your videos my son is thinking how he muscles work when you are on the computer, standing, and lifting.
    Thanks again Jeff, you are such a kind person to share your talents with people like me.

    Sincerely, Cheryl

  • ming

    hello, great videos!! Finally I”m starting to understand the body mechanics! I’m looking for the video on the shoulder and rhomboid strenghtening exercises but can’t seem to find them!! thanks.

  • Hi Ming,

    You can see a good rhomboid exercise here:
    http://muscle-balance-training.com/blog/46/cobra/

    Cheers!

    ~ Jeff

    • Jason

      Hello Jeff,
      I was wondering if you could help with my musculoskeletal dysfunction. I am a 34 year old desk jockey and having daily issues with my upper extremities for the last 6 months. There is constant tension in the neck, upper traps and shoulders.
      I stopped side sleeping a few weeks ago as I was waking up in morning with extremely tight and sore shoulders. As mentioned in your video I am tight in the chest pec major & minor and also the subscapularis. I have had regular deep tissue muscle therapy to break up the adhesions and have also been power training, in particular dead lifts and squats over the last 12 months. Whilst I have had significant improvement to my lower back from a previous injury, the issues with my upper back, shoulders and neck are driving me mad.
      Hope you can help
      Regards

  • jim stanecki

    Jeff, I have a serious neck problem that I know is the result of poor posture. I have been working on it for 2 years and the sciatic issue has left me but my neck persists. Problem occured from having my right arm in a sling for several months back 15 years ago. From that point on I stood literally at a 45 degree angle for the next 15 yrs. After visiting doc’s for the last 4 years I figured it out by looking at past photos. Anyway, my shoulders still roll forward slightly and my head drops down, forward and to the right becuase of the past posture issue. I have been working at it hard for 2 years. While it is better it is still not where it needs to be. Any advice as to a specific exercise routine would be most helpful and I will find a way to buy you a nice dinner.

    • Zac

      I have the same issue I think My left shoulder was in a sling for about 6 months about 12 years ago and my shoulder is too far forward. Did you ever find a way to fix your problem and maybe mine too?

  • carol gibson

    Thank you! I couldn’t figure out what I was doing to cause this.

  • Great Video to understand what is muscle imbalance. Thanking you …. Jeff!!!

  • k aquino

    very informative and helpful! great vid! thanks

  • Lood

    Jeff,
    I have the tight neck muscle and it has been a year or more and I just can not solve. I just watched your video and you are spot on exactly my posture. How do I solve this and what can I do to prevent this?
    Thanks for your help.
    Lood

  • I have gone to the doctor for my back problem and nothing came from the couple of weeks of physical therapy. After a workout I felt numbness in my back around the rhomboid area and later realized my right scapula would pop out more than my left, it is almost as if my right rhomboid is loose. I stopped working chest and back to give it a break for 6 month. I have started up again and push ups over 40 reps begin to hurt and overhead press is almost painful. I do not know what to do.

  • Mario

    HI Jeff, I have been told by my doctor that I have Kyphosis and we were debating whether I should have a corrective surgery or not but we decided not to because it was not severe enough and I am only 20 years old. I believe after watching your videos that the roundness is in my shoulders and the hump that has developed is due to a severe muscles imbalance. I also have tight hip flexors. What are some exercises I can do to fix this 2 issues and how often should I do them? I’m getting really self conscious about the way I look and want to be able to fix it without surgery if possible and before it gets worse. Thanks so much for helping people like me out.

  • Mario

    HI Jeff, I have been told by my doctor that I have Kyphosis and we were debating whether I should have a corrective surgery or not but we decided not to because it was not severe enough and I am only 20 years old. I believe after watching your videos that the roundness is in my shoulders and the hump that has developed is due to a severe muscles imbalance. I also have tight hip flexors. What are some exercises I can do to fix this 2 issues and how often should I do them? I\’m getting really self conscious about the way I look and want to be able to fix it without surgery if possible and before it gets worse. Thanks so much for helping people like me out.

  • James

    Hi Jeff,
    I have been having a lot of soreness around my left shoulder blade area especially in the morning when I wake up. I use a back massager to try and loosen it up which does help but only gets me by until the next morning. I went to a chiropractor a month ago and he said I had a pinched nerve in my upper back and gave me a sheet with exercises to do daily which hasn’t seemed to help much. He also did at least 14 treatments of back popping and neck twisting. All it seems to do was empty my wallet. I also get these small knots on the left side about a hand length below my arm pit. This article seems like it relates to my issue since I do work on a computer from 8-5 and was wondering if I could get your input as to where to start. I also have been lifting again. I try to shoot between 8-12 reps so that I am not lifting to heavy and was wondering if I should stop lifting all together until my soreness improves. Thanks for your help.

  • Darin

    Hey Jeff,

    I’m a 29 year old guy and I was diagnosed with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome about 5 years ago. My life has been pretty miserable since then. I’ve had 1st rib resections on my left and right side, and I’ve been to at least 5 physiacal therapists, physiatrists, etc. All with no luck. I really can’t do anything that I used to be able to do, like play tennis, play guitar, and lift weights. I have a desk job that is very taxing mentally (a lot of statistical analyses), and I definitely fall into the “desk posture” constantly without even realizing it. In all my years of searching for answers, your video was probably the most straightforward explanation of where (and hopefully why) I’m in pain. I will give these exercise the old college try, and if I get my life back, you can expect a check in the mail :)

  • Andre

    Sounds like me except my issue is not the top of the shoulder… It’s the right neck area upper neck middle maybe and shoots down my back blade muscle. Feels tight and tingles thumb sometimes into my right back arm. Ugh

    Just had a deep tissue massage helped somewhat she said its my tight chest muscle maybe but she’s unsure. Had a MRI last week in the neck area and I was told theirs nothing? HELP

  • Naveed Memon

    Hi Jeff,

    I am so glad that I found your website, I have been trying to find out something like that for ages to fix my imbalance muscle problem.
    Please help me fix my problem explained below:
    My right Trapezius, chest and Ab muscles are balanced with left side muscles.
    Right Trap is lower than left Trap, right chest is lower than left chest and my right AB muscle is higher than my left AB muscle. I am happy to send you pics if you want.
    Please kindly help me to balance my muscles.
    Your help, advice will be appreciated.

  • patricia

    Hi i this is the best explanation I have ever seen of cross syndrome but I was wondering what specific exercises I should do to correct my posture. What is a specific rhomboid, deltoid exercise. Also, do chest presses stretch the chest or make it even tighter great video thanks so much sincerely, patricia

  • Shelly

    Where can Infind the exercises to fix this imbalance of forward shoulders and head?

  • laresa

    Hi got into car accident 16th of Sep did a ctscan showed I have a protrusion in c6and c7 and a bulge l4 l5 l5 s1 disc was given bengendresic got a couple massage and 6 weeks later I started with pain in right knee andspasm in left back and shoulder wen to see a spine specialists who told me I have muscle imbalance and I need therapy m not sure if I should get a trainer or just do her therapyor both please give me advise on this

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